This is not a huge surprise to us or anyone. I am sure it is easily done, and I am sure contractors have insurance for such things (probably comes under their public liability insurance if nothing else).
Obviously if you accidentally damage someone else's property you have a liability to pay for that damage. That is simple enough.
But no, it seems BT plc have some very strange ideas about this.
Let's be clear, the damage resulted in BT plc failing to meet its obligation to provide a working service to its customer, us. This was, of course, not their fault, it was because of damage caused by someone. Arguably BT plc should compensate us for their failure, and include that in their losses that they claim from the party that caused the damage. The damage wasn't our fault, or BT plc's, and so in the long run neither of us should be out of pocket.
Fortunately for BT plc this instance was not one of vandalism, it is a case where they can clearly identify exactly who caused the damage - so recovering costs for the damage should be simple. Had it been vandalism then they would lose out as they would have to fix the network at their cost. I am sure they have insurance for that.
So, with me so far? A contractor accidentally broke a cable, BT fixed it.
But hang on! We get a bill from BT for fixing the cable!!!
Obviously we dispute it, but BT say that because the contractor was working for the end user who is our customer, we have to pay for the repair.
Basically, no way - we are refusing to pay on principle, and threatening to sue BT if they don't refund us.
I mean, imagine if the contractors second cousin twice removed had crashed his car in to the phone exchange and caused £100,000 worth of damage - would we be expected to pay for that?
If *we* cause damage, then of course we have to pay for it.
If our customer causes damage, then our customer has to pay for it, but we are not bailiffs or debt collectors for BT plc, and we would not pay BT and then collect for our customer. That is mad.
If someone that works for one of our customers causes damage then this is even more removed and nonsensical that we should be involved in any way.
One wonders what would have happened if the contractors were not working for our customer, but for their neighbour or some such. Would we get a bill from BT still? Or would the neighbours telco get a bill from BT?
We'll see what they say - or we'll have a fun day in court.
Actually, look at it another way. This is a contractor accidentally damaging equipment and the bill going to their customer's phone provider. Now, if ever we had damage done to any equipment by a contractor working for someone, and the person they worked for happened to be a BT customer (i.e. had a BT line), that presumably means, by BT's logic, we could send the bill for repair to BT plc. Wow, what a wonderful scheme.
Update: BT quote a "policy":
Damage to Openreach network up to and including the NTE where it has been caused by the EU or agent working on behalf of the EU is chargeable via TRCs. This is also the case with any damage caused by the CPs or their agent. Openreach engineers will replace the standard faceplate to the NTE where it has become faulty as a result of an unknown cause and not damage, without a charge. If however, a non-standard faceplate has been fitted, which is found to be faulty, Openreach will raise the relevant TRCs for its replacement with a standard Openreach faceplate. Openreach shall also replace the NTE face plate where damaged by lightning, fire and flood beyond the CP/EU’s reasonable control (as set out in the preceding sections) with a standard Openreach face plate without a charge. For example this applies when an EU cuts down the dropwire or lead in whilst trimming creeper growing on wall, or when a builder cuts a wire whilst carrying out building alterations or when a tree surgeon damages a wire or needs a wire lowering whilst felling a tree within the EU’s curtilage.
We have asked where this fits in terms of actual contract terms. We have also pointed out that whilst tis says that damage repair is chargeable, it does not say that the CP is the one charged. The idea of charging the EU or their agent TRCs for repair for the damage caused is fine, and would be the default in case of tort or criminal damage. We're waiting for answers on that and the definition of "End User".