Monday, 5 November 2012

Yes, BT are serious

Just waiting for the briefing now, but after a long call on the matter BT are quite serious that:-
  1. Whilst investigating a fault, a BT engineer can call the customer (us) to discuss it if they deem it necessary. We no longer have an opt-out for that.
  2. Regardless of how the fault pans out, and even where it is undisputedly a BT fault that we reported, and was fixed by BT, the customer (us) will be charged £35+VAT for the "co-op call" the engineer made to us.
  3. We are required to provide a contact number for this purpose when booking the engineer.
This means they can charge us to fix a fault in a service we are buying from them and which is faulty.

This means that they charge us for them to ask us for our help regarding a fault.

I really find it hard to believe they have the balls to pull this one. They must realise that it is fundamentally wrong. Surely they realise that there are limits to how far they can push this crap.

I am giving them formal notice of our rates for consultancy for such calls tomorrow as an open contractual offer to them. We will talk to BT engineers to help them fix faults for a charge that we make to them.

Update: BT plc t/a BT Wholesale are disputing the policy change made by BT plc t/a Openreach, and as such will be crediting charges for co-op calls that were not request (on the following bill). Obviously we'll be disputing and withholding the charges anyway so they know why the bill was not paid in full (i.e. we are not lending them money for a money).

17 comments:

  1. This sounds like "We are allowed to charge you what we like, when we like and without giving a reason." - as such, it is obviously not good. Surely common sense will prevail and they will be forced to rethink this...

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  2. I'll be billing you £35+VAT for reading this post...

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    1. No smiley? Good luck with that!! :-)

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    2. It's sometimes a shame B2B contracts aren't offered the same statutory protection that consumers get as this would plainly be an unfair term - as it is gives rise to a charge unilaterally. However I see why that wouldn't work commercially. After there are theoretical benefits to such terms. It takes out the (cost of) dispute and allows the engineer to 'get on with his job'. Of course that's a radical over-simplification of the issue and in a sensible relationship you'd probably load your standard charges to account for this sort of thing without needing special charges, but I guess people demand transparency too.

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    3. Yes we need a BB2SME contract (Big Business to Small / Medium) - that way BT wouldn't be able to sh!t all over A&A like this.

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  3. You expect humour from BT? ;)

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  4. Presumably the phones BT engineers are provided with don't allow them to dial every possible number.

    What would happen if you gave them a number that BT engineers weren't able to call (say some very premium rate line or an Inmarsat number)?

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  5. Words fail me...

    My immediate reaction would be to give them a very expensive premium rate number which immediately puts the engineer in a queue; once you have racked up £35+VAT of premium rate charges courtesy of a call from a BT engineer (bonus points if you play the old plinky-plonky Greensleeves hold music that BTnet used to subject us to back in the early 2000s), the call would then get passed to an A&A staffer for action.

    If they complain about being given a premium rate number, merely state that as BT is trying to exploit a fault for commercial gain, A&A is merely recouping the cost of indulging BT's thirst for additional revenue in its' own 'special way'.

    Of course, one might argue that BT's recent change of stance on faults is extortion, plain and simple...

    If I were in your shoes, I'd let them charge me for just one call and then take it straight to small claims - win that claim - and then cite that win as precedent if you have to challenge any others in small claims.

    Methinks BT would get tired of having to pay the £35+VAT back as well as your court fees.

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  6. Surely this is getting to the point where you can produce a list of all their various stunts and file it with OFCOM. It's a blatant abuse of their monopoly position to impose contract terms.

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  7. I thought that a basic precept of contract law, was that both sides benefitted from it.

    That being the case, this has no benefit (in fact it's a detriment *and* they expect you to pay for it) so I think this would be unenforceable.

    IANAL though!

    Cheers, Howard

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  8. Revk, is this BT(Wholesale) or BT(Openreach) that is doing this? Have you emailed Liv Garfield or Ian Livingston about this? Time to get heavy with BT, as their system is fundamentally broken.

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    1. AFAIK BT plc t/a Openreach have changed policy to allow engineers to decide to make co-op calls with no opt-out and always charged if made, and then BT plc t/a BT Wholesale are briefing out that they will pass on this policy charge and charge to us.

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  9. Don't retaliate. This is what is called the "battle of the forms". By charging them in response you may be de facto accepting their contractual right to charge you. Just serve your notice, by registered or special post by their usual service means. If I was the BT person I would not accept service of a contractual dispute because I would not have the authority. Shoving things in my hand is passive aggressive and I don't stand for it.

    (Hapilly)Retired criminal solicitor.

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    1. Indeed, "battle of the forms" is one I know of. This is subtly different as we are not counter offering on a contract. We are simply offering a "service" they can choose to take or not, a telephone consultancy service, and one we advise them of the price and terms for in advance as, an open offer. They don't have to 'accept" the notice we gave, just be aware of the terms on which we offer the service (hence also sending rec del to registered office). Then, if they choose to call us for consultancy we can legitimately charge them. Validating their terms is another issue - we are not convinced they are valid anyway as they are a change to an existing contractual agreement which has restrictions on changes that can be made without agreement of the other party (us). However, even if their terms are valid, they are charging us less than we are charging them, so as long as our offer is also valid, we still win in the end :-)

      Ultimately we want them to back down. They sort of are, in that one bit of BT is now arguing with another bit of BT. We are making our position very clear, which may indeed give that bit of BT help in their argument. If their customers "won't stand for it" it may be useful.

      What always concerns me is that they don't seem to understand the limits here. It is fundamental to us that a supplier cannot charge us to fix the thing they are supplying. Basically, if they do not supply what was agreed, and don't fix it (at their cost), we sue them. But BT seem to think they can find more and more inventive and convoluted contractual means to attempt to charge us for fixing faults. This is the first time they have actually said they can charge even where there is no doubt whatsoever about whether a fault report if "valid". Previously they have accepted they cannot charge in such cases, only where they can suggest somehow that we acted incorrectly in diagnosing and reporting a fault.

      So, this is something, up with which we will not put.

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  10. It is a criminal offence to demand payment for goods or services which are unsolicited.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1971/30

    Be careful not to give them implicit permission to "provide" this service, when you define your own terms.

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