Thursday, 5 June 2014

BT charging for fixing a fault

It seems BT are officially charging money for fixing a fault in the BT network.

If there is a fault, and an engineer goes out, fails to find or fix the fault so that another engineer is needed - even if that second engineer does find and fix the fault and confirms it is a fault in the BT network, BT will still charge for the first (arguably incompetent) engineer visit. The charge is a lot of money - more than most ISPs will make on the broadband line in a year, possibly several years.

[update] I should point out that the charge for one such engineer visit is actually more than it would cost us to get a brand new phone line installed with broadband.

This is, of course, in my opinion, totally unreasonable and unfair in every respect. We could not pass on this in our customer contracts (not that we would want to) as it would fall foul of unfair contract terms legislation. Sadly, in a commercial contract with BT, it is tough!

At the end of the day this means we ultimately have to absorb the extra cost and ultimately pass this on to customers in our pricing.

[update] one may argue that if not us doing that, BT would have to absorb the cost and increase overall prices - but in that case BT have a commercial incentive to fix faults first time. Currently they have a commercial incentive to deploy incompetent engineers.

This is not the first case of apparently unethical charging by BT, at least in my opinion.

We currently have an ongoing battle where BT will charge two ISPs for the same service for the same time. An FTTC line has a 12 month term, arguably because BT plc t/a Openreach charge BT plc t/a BT Wholesale a 12 month minimum term. But if migrating an FTTC from one BT Wholesale ISP to another during that 12 months, which is purely a billing exercise by BT Wholesale and does not involve Openreach they will charge the old ISP for the remainder of the 12 month period and charge the new ISP for the same period, as well as restarting the 12 month term. This is clearly just charging money because they can, and not based on charges they have to pay suppliers or costs in any way. This is also clearly anticompetitive in that when it is BT plc t/a BT Retail that is the ISP that is stitched up by paying this arbitrary extra charge to BT plc t/a BT Wholesale, it has no impact on my BT Group plc shares.

Sadly, telcos like BT don't have to be ethical or fair, do they? If you are a BT Group plc shareholder and don't agree, please tell the board.

42 comments:

  1. I would refuse to pay on the grounds that the first engineer didn't actually do the job they are invoicing for (find the fault).

    Charging someone for fault-finding work is fair enough when the work is complete, but charging whether or not you actually bother to do the job seems bonkers.

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    1. We are trying, and not winning. May even go to court!

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    2. If they're allowed to charge for incompetent engineers, are you allowed to insist they only use competent ones on your faults? If not, they're probably in the wrong here.

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    3. Wouldn't both competent engineers then get a little overworked?

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  2. One question I'd ask is what is the contract wording? Does it say something like "you'll be charged unless the fault is on the BT network" or "you'll be charged unless the engineer finds a fault on the BT network"? In the former case you wouldn't be liable since the fault is provably on the BT network (by BT's admission) even if the first engineer didn't find it.

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    1. Says they will charge for each engineer visit closed as right when tested or no fault found.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. The relevant question being: do you have grounds for action against the first engineer's employer on the grounds that a "competent engineer" would have found the fault, as evidenced by the second engineer finding it.

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  3. What if they find a fault, fix that, but then don't fix/refuse to fix the overall fault without sending another engineer out? (Yes - this has just happened to me...)

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    1. It's not uncommon for them to charge you anyhow... or charge you again. Leaving you to fight them.

      Hell we've even been charged when they've sent an engineer who WAS given access but the job was "tricky" so he "went to his van", never came back and we got billed for abortive visit because "we refused access" - despite us pointing out that was a lie, and pointing out we even have CCTV of said engineer in the comms room, they REFUSED to back down because they believed the engineer.

      Even CCTV isn't enough for BT aka BT plc

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    2. Indeed, basically what out solicitor has just said to us now. So looks like a letter from the solicitor picking a couple of clear cut cases to take up... We'll soon see.

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    3. Sorry, I was replying to (and deleted in error) "If you have solid evidence then these are the cases you have to dispute to the point of court action. The in-house solicitor who gets confronted with even the threat of an un-winnable case is in a position to make more fur fly than you ever can. "

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  4. Do not even get me started on this.

    This week:

    (a) Tuesday, go to setup routers on a line migrated over 2-3 months previous. We were aware that before we migrated it there had been a problem with no sync. The 2-3 months delay was due to unrelated factors.

    (b) Connect router to first line which was a new provide - all is good

    (c) Connect another router to second line - the migrated one, and no sync (not unexpected)

    (d) Perform test socket test - no change

    (e) Change filter - no change

    (f) Take filter and router from first line (eg proven working) - no change

    Perform tests "no fault in BTW" network it declares.

    Nothing left end user could possibly do. Must be BT side fault. Log fault, "needs SFI visit, chargeable if fault not in BTW - £140). Agree since we know it cannot possibly be end user.

    Visit booked for today AM.

    Yesterday ... suddenly notice circuit has logged in, strange because it hadn't been working before migration even when it was BT Retail "home hub" router service.

    Cancel SFI visit because I noticed in time.

    We know how this goes, because it isn't the first time - you log fault, agree to SFI, fault magically clears just before engineer visit is booked but always after you've agreed SFI, then SFI engineer rocks up, declares it working and charges you, despite it BLATANTLY being fixed by BT plc.

    Not the first time, and it won't be the last time that this happens and if you're not sharp you'd have been charged.

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    1. I find it hard to believe that a large and government regulated company like BT is allowed to get away with that kind of crappy behaviour. It should be illegal.

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  5. Then of course we have the other issue:

    (a) customer has fibre service, was never good, at 12mbit/s

    (b) House next-door (different drop wire and from recent events seems different 100-pair bundle) has 35mbit/s broadband

    (c) On 6th May, service becomes less reliable than usual (never great to begin with) and fails entirely.

    (d) Various diagnostics inconclusive, but as fibre failure is before customer network, so is within BT's responsibility.

    (e) Faults raised, no fault found by BT (because line has been intermittent and was up at the moment they tested)

    (f) 2-3 so called engineer visits which achieve nothing

    (g) A bit later, the PSTN service entirely fails as well, so no service whatsoever

    (h) More hassle (because of course BT plc's divisions don't work together supposedly for equivalence of access but in reality to profiteer from faults in my view - at least that's how it feels), as additional fault means broadband fault is now deemed to be due to PSTN

    (I) Service ends up being declared (eventually, days later) as a "common fault")

    (j) WEEKS later, BT plc advise they'll fix by 29th May, and sure enough on 29th at around 1pm, the PSTN service now "works" (still crap quality but has a dial tone again)

    (k) broadband service (fibre remember) now has just 6meg sync

    (l) Broadband side says "no fault" because it's "working" (at half the rate before the fault). PSTN side says "no fault" because the PSTN is working (although still noisy and no doubt contributing to the fibre issue since it's actually copper of course)

    (m) Customer now has a service so poor it's pretty much the speed of the old DSL service they had, and a shoddy PSTN service.

    ...and BT plc won't do anything about it for the end user, or the CP via any of it's numerous divisions.

    I'd *LOVE* to move the business elsewhere but I can't because of course there is no other reasonable potential option.

    I can PAY for an SFI visit of course if I want, but obviously they'll just turn up, determine the line is up ("right when tested") and bugger off leaving us with a bill for £140 and the customer with a pathetic excuse for a phone and broadband service.

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    1. At present people still use phone lines and numbers but increasingly it is phone line just for broadband - at which point it is the crazy situation that a brand new install phone line and DSL is actually cheaper than just one SFI visit.

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    2. Indeed - and this is something we're about to do with one customer - because we're sick of them not fixing the current line.

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    3. That contrast is particularly bizarre - in essence, BT are claiming it's easier to install a whole new line than to fix the existing one?! Absurd, considering a valid repair strategy would be to replace the existing line and assign the existing number to the new one!

      Indeed, with unbundled PSTN operators it might actually make sense to handle faults that way, as long as the minimum contract terms don't get in the way: nice and easy for them to get the replacement line set up with the old line's number. Harder with WLR3 presumably, you can't just swap numbers between lines can you?

      (Meanwhile, I think I'd rather like to get a Broadband Boost job booked on my grandfather's TalkTalk line at home - but TalkTalk use that name for something unrelated.)

      Interestingly, Openreach say the introduction of Broadband Boost raised first-visit resolutions to 94% from 45% and reduced repeat visits from 26% to under 5% - which would seem to suggest that previously, about 29% of faults went unresolved entirely!

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    4. We have had cases where migrating to TT fixed a fault, and where upgrading to FTTC fixed a fault. The problem is that those don't even have the "final" engineer saying he found a BT issue to use as an argument. If installing a new line solves the issue that is pretty much proof it has to have been a BT fault, but they won't see it like that sadly.

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    5. WLR3 renumbers are possible, but actually add noticeably to the cost! Annoyingly you can't get DSL on an aux working line, else we'd get a second line installed on same number, get DSL working, and cease the first line. An LLU operator would have a slightly easier job, yes. And oddly PSTN lines from Openreach don't have a minimum term!

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  6. So the worse they train their engineers and the more they hire lower skill level engineers (and so pay less wages) - the more money they can charge?
    Wow! Just wow...

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    1. This is exactly what our solicitor just said. They have created a system where there is financial incentive for failure to find and fix faults.

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  7. Presumably an SFI will get an engineer out quicker than a new install though?

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    1. Will you get 2 or 3 SFI quicker than a new install, as it seems the average of visit needed to get someone competent....?

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    2. I think I averaged almost two per week until I/A&A tracked the fault to a segment of the BT Wholesale core network ending 50 miles away ... about half of those turning up without even telling me or A&A beforehand! (Purely by luck, on days I was working from home anyway - otherwise, presumably there would then be missed-visit charges to fight as well...)

      What is really needed is to start with an agreement of what the fault is - for example, "01632 960000 has no dial tone at NTE5 test socket", "ADSL service on 01632 960000 is corrupting packets larger than 960 bytes". Then, they either A, admit, confirm and fix it, B, justify not doing so, or C, prove that the fault was someone else's fault (bad customer router, ISP issue, whatever).

      The idea of failing to deliver a working service, then failing to fix it, and charging for that failure, is ludicrous - but then, so is the asymmetry of charging customers when the customer isn't available as agreed, but not offering compensation when BT/Openreach themselves fail to attend/install as contracted. High time Ofcom did something about that.

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  8. So if an engineer turns up, doesn't fix a fault and goes away because he has, say, a hospital appointment - do you get charged for the second engineer?

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  9. With regards to the double line charging, could you setup a non-profit holding company which purchases all connections and commits to the 12 months with BT Wholesale. Then the switch between ISPs happens in the holding company and BTW are none the wiser :D

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    1. Well, yes, but would then have so few customers that migrating between customers would not be common. The nice thing is BTW are big enough that migration could, if they were sensible, not have this extra cost, which makes it easier for customers as ISPs would not have to hold them to term either. This has to be something OFCOM should be prompting - indeed, why not convince Openreach not to hold to term when migrating between wholesale providers so all migrates would be easier?

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    2. Yes - the logical arrangement would be for Openreach to transfer the remaining contract term to the acquiring provider. So, if I were one month into the year on my office line* I could just migrate to A&A with an eleven month term remaining.

      (* Sky transferred it from Be, without reconciling "residential ISP only, so we don't do VAT receipts" with "this is a business/pro ISP we just bought, of course lots of the customers are businesses and need VAT receipts". Relevant here in fact: the move of ADSL from Be to Sky took place six weeks before FTTC activation, so avoiding Sky would have meant two changes of ISP/service, rather than just changing to FTTC after the bulk migration.)

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    3. I understood OFCOM was introducing new regulations to deal with this: http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/6469-switching-between-fttc-services-to-become-cheaper.html

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    4. If you read that, it says the 12 month term still applies and does not require wholesale to mirror the existing openreach terms let alone mirror a reduced charge for migrates.

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    5. It's not how I read it - I'm quite possibly being dense, but eg from the Ofcom release (http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2014/05/plans-to-ensure-quality-of-service-in-repairs-and-installations/) the following text seems fairly explicit re Wholesale:

      "Also, where an existing superfast customer switches to a different supplier, the minimum length of the wholesale contract between BT and the new supplier would reduce from a year to one month. This gives flexibility for telecoms providers to offer shorter retail contracts."

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    6. Interesting. That is not the way around I would have expected it - previous supplier held to 12 months I assume, but new supplier only one month? Interesting.

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    7. It makes sense to me - the initial 12 month contract is supposed to be to recoup the installation costs; once a line is installed and paid off, there's no justification for that minimum term any more. The £11 charge for changing the routing/billing seemed more than enough, but a further 12 month term as well!? For a BTW-BTW migration, there really is no excuse there.

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  10. Funny enough, I have a line fault at the moment (sorry, I'm not A&A). No dial tone but (slower) DSL sync. Had this once before - problem in the road between exchange and my property. This time tests have come back as customer property fault - visit required. My master socket is the 2nd PSTN in the house and was installed using a 2nd pair on an EXTENSION socket of the 1st PSTN, Therefore I can almost guarantee it's going to be blamed on an internal wiring issue, even though the other PSTN is fine and this one has no internal wiring - the master NTE5 is the only one on that line. Acquaintance that works for BT Openreach (but not on PSTN sadly) agrees that it's probably BT-side fault but contractors are a rule unto themselves (as we know!),

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  11. Works has one at the moment there's almost no point in fighting.. Both lines of an Office::1 link become unstable overnight.

    If BT had any competence it'd be easy.. show them the graphs from AA, they look at it, go fix the lines (dodgy connection somewhere I guess).

    What would *actually* happen. Engineer turns up during the day, declares 'right when tested' and charges.

    It's quite depressing, really.

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    1. I hope my staff are doing everything possible to sort these lines for you, Tony, in spite of the challenges of working with BT.

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  12. "We currently have an ongoing battle where BT will charge two ISPs for the same service for the same time"

    I think this is the basis for your failure to understand.

    BT might charge the ISPs, but the ISPs charge the customers the same!

    Sky doesn't care that it gets charged for 11 months remaining on a 12 month contract, the customer pays.

    And if a new customer is moving _to_ Sky, brilliant! Sky has an excuse to get them to sign a new 12 month contract.

    Why is any of this a detriment to Sky? Why would they try and get BT to change it?

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    1. This is not in the interests of the customer, basically. They get stuck with 12 months with an ISP which they would not have to, even if keeping the service and moving to a new ISP. My issues are (a) bad for customer, and (b) a rip off by BTW who have no justification for the charge other than because they can.

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    2. Oh I totally agree.

      I just meant that there's nothing in it for most ISPs to fight this, so you'll probably be fighting solo.

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