Friday, 26 December 2014

BT hate site?

A few years ago the A&A status pages were called a "BT hate site" by someone in BT. A lot of the comment about BT moved from the A&A status pages to this, my personal blog. I have to wonder what they say about my blog now.

At Christmas we have several days off, and several days with minimal staff, and so some orders or faults fall to me as the last resort, and so I get involved directly with BT.

Sadly, this almost always ends badly. I am told by my sales staff that this latest fiasco is typical and they have this sort of thing all of the time.

But just to get this in perspective we have a case here of one simple FTTC order for a customer which simply is not happening, but the tale of incompetence after incompetence is just staggering. It is quite worrying that this apparently happens a lot and I think we are going to have to tackle it. I suspect the only answer will be to charge BT for extra work and deduct from what we pay until it ends up in front of a judge. But, let's assume, for one moment, that there is a way to get this properly fixed without going to that level. I'd like to work with BT to help them understand the issues and take steps to fix them.

This one order was a simple one. It is a phone line and FTTC simultaneous provide (i.e. one job to put in the phone line and FTTC) for a customer. The address has a "gold" address key, so is a location BT know, and have wiring to and so there is do confusion or doubt about the address itself.

  • On the day before the appointment, it was magically cancelled due to what BT say was an error in a robotic activity?! We got it reappointed for the afternoon.
  • BT managed to lose the connection to the FTTC order in the process, which means that it would have to be re-appointed for later!
  • BT turned up at the wrong address, so closed off the order as no access.
  • BT tried to blame us, even though we sent the right full address and the BT gold address key for the order (both phone line and FTTC side). The engineer notes from BT confirmed it was the wrong address that he visited, as did the customer who got called by the engineer at the time, but the engineer would not go to the right address when told.
  • BT insisted that we would have to cancel and re-order. I.e. they screwed up, and that was it - tough, we have to do work to fix their cock up
  • BT insisted that they could not cancel and re-order "for us" as OFCOM do not allow that.
  • BT then decided that they could do something, and took over a day to say that they cannot actually get the address fixed so we would have to cancel and re-order.
  • BT then decided they could cancel the order "for us" and did so.
  • BT then decided they could not issue a new order for FTTC because it was not available at the exchange. Indeed, the exchange did not even have a planned date for FTTC to be available!
  • I had to send BT screen shots of BTs checker showing it was available not only on the exchange but the specific cabinet which they agreed was the one in question
  • A day passes, and eventually BT place the order for the FTTC
  • BT then come back and say the order is cancelled as there are outstanding orders on the line. They say they cannot see any outstanding orders, but can be check. WTF, they are BT plc, and they do not know why BT plc cancelled the order.
  • "The manual provide order is AUTO_ABORTED with reason: 'An open, stop or cease order is in progress for the same line identifier-Installation DN, however there is no such open cease orders found in systems. I have raised this issue with suppliers back end team for further investigation." (to be clear, by suppliers, this person who represents British Telecommunications plc company 1800000 means British Telecommunications plc company 1800000).
  • Two more days pass with no update or resolution
  • Now BT say that the PSTN order is not closed off - well, yes, we know that, and we told them that at the start and at several times during this process, but they are saying we have to contact the PSTN provider, which is them, to fix that first, even though this is a simultaneous provision. So all the work and emails over the last 5 days have been totally and utterly pointless. We are back to them saying we have to cancel and re-order the whole lot.
  • 5th Jan, a PSTN line finally goes in
  • 6th Jan BT say they cannot install FTTC on it, but hope to fix that soon!
  • I'll extend this as we know, but this is taking days and days of our work.
  • We have not got as far as the billing being wrong - that will come later.
The fact that BT are genuinely this incompetent is really worrying, and as a BT shareholder I think I need to be asking questions about this. The fact that when they make a simple mistake the simply will not do anything to actually fix it is just crazy. We are not buying lottery tickets here - it is not "Oh well, that order did not work, feel free to try again next time". Apart from costing ISPs/teclos time, as well as causing end users hassle and confusion, this has to be costing BT a lot of money. Doing the job right first time is the way to save money and keep customers happy.


Dear BT,

We need to talk.

You are totally incompetent, and this needs changing.

What can we do to help you sort this out?

Would billing you for every time you screw up help matters?

We're starting a forum for people that buy from BT so that we can get lots of ISPs learning the same lessons and doing the same things to try and get things in BT fixed. We have a few members already. I hope that will help you.



[This was not how I planned to launch WBBF, but there you go. Other long suffering ISPs, please sign up on]


  1. Nice to see an attempt at something constructive happening - good luck.

  2. I had similar "fun" on my office line 6-7 years ago, as BT Retail customers at the time. Somewhere along the line, BT had auto-incorrected the address by inserting a 1 before the street name, then matching that new street address to the name of the building next door and inserting that as a new line. The bills still reached us OK - the "street" is a small technology park, and we know the company next door - so it wasn't a big deal at the time.

    Then we changed tariffs with BT: a "cease and reprovide". Of course, they screwed it up, and we lost dialtone. BT Business Faults responded "oh, it's gone dead because there's a cease on the line! It's right here in black and white, cease and ... oh. Whoops. That shouldn't have happened."

    So, they started trying to fix it. Step 1: raise a new Provide to reinstate the existing line - except the address was wrong, so an Openreach engineer was sent to the wrong building, having been assigned a pair on the wrong DP because of that...

  3. BT have this problem because they still think as a Gov based company. As long as they can blame the system noone takes any responsibility or sees that problems are resolved. Any individual you deal with is just looking for the easiest way to pass the buck because your situation doesn't fit their usual script. The only way i've ever been able to get things resolved by them is through snippets of insider info and persuading people to bend their process, this should not be neccesary.

    Any decent company has someone to follow problems through from start to finish and make sure they are rectified (and important to fix broken processes that don't lead to resolutions!)

    1. Got nothing to do with it being a former gov based company... In my experience any large company is exactly the same.

  4. I guess any monopoly will behave the same way?

  5. I was with BT retail for broadband (fttc) a year or so ago. It took 2 months after the install and the intervention of their "data integrity team" for them to accept that I was a customer and for them to bill me. When I left, they carried on billing me for nearly 3 months, they refused to accept or migrated away, and it was only when I threatened ADR that they then sent it to data integrity again and cancelled the bills. That was nearly a year ago, and I still have access to BT FON and I still have BT Sport on sky.

    1. We cancelled BT Infinity for Business over 2.5 years ago... and we've still got access to the BT Wifi service. I'm not complaining about their inefficiencies now ;)

  6. I see complaints like the one you reference all the time on, it seems quite common for basic admin or engineer mistakes to create a chain reaction of cock-ups in their system that can spiral out of control. The result can sometimes be some users being left waiting weeks or even months longer than expected for a working service, all because Openreach couldn't get a basic aspect correct even when prompted.

    But of course we must balance this against the majority of work that goes without a single hitch. Never the less that old phrase, "there's still room for improvement", often comes to mind.

    1. Indeed. When things go wrong (and I know they can) they need to fix them, but what happens is you end up with a mess that takes longer than a new install would take!

    2. At least the forum will help ISPs realise "it's not just me": on an online service I was using I was having problem with a routine issue (happens once a year) and thought it was just me. Somebody else mentioned it on their forums and loads of us then realised, "no, it's not me that is causing the issue - it is actually a fault of the service" and we got a better idea of how many people were affected and how common it was. Within 48 hours, the MD of the company started emailing people and putting things right at the root...

    3. This seems to be the same for many large companies - most stuff goes right, but the "we must always follow procedure" requirement they employ fails completely because they never seem to have a procedure for "we royally screwed up".

      (Currently in dispute with Npower - their debt collection team have told me "oh yes we can see we've screwed up but there's nothing anyone in this department is allowed to do that would prevent us raising legal action against you for refusing to pay the bills we shouldn't have sent you..." Ombudsman has ordered them to stop taking the piss by Christmas Eve, which they have also failed to do).

  7. Ah yes, the great BT won't fix errors they make in a timely manner problem. Yes, I like probably everyone else dealing with them have had this issue...

    Such as:

    - Turning up on-site, then once they see the job looks tricky, disappearing to "get something", but never coming back. Later finding the job has now been changed to an abortive visit charge "access to premises refused", and asked to reappoint and accept charges - a 2-3 week delay. To this day, BT plc still refuse to accept CCTV evidence of the engineer ON and IN the premises that there was no refusal, and of course meant my time being wasted on-site twice to ensure they could get access.

    - Turning up, despite being paid expedited fees and deciding that they can only install 'n' lines which is less than requested. It would be OK if it was just the ones where insufficient spare pairs already existed, but no, it was a game of doing one line at a time, over a few weeks, still less than the available capacity, then 4 weeks after this finally saying they'll do the two lines that they did have capacity for that were still outstanding, then 6 weeks later deciding they'll charge £700 for excess construction to install the remaining 2 that did actually need new cabling running. Then refusing to accept that they could do FTTP, after setting a date, despite having had an engineer turn up and do the first phase survey and agree all was well, failing the second date and setting up a first visit again to survey despite having done the survey. Then shift that date to the new year despite being 12 weeks since the order was placed for an FTTP install that is actually damn easy since it requires barely any work for once.

    - Breaking multiple circuits at once - in one location, on one exchange. Getting some back in service without logging fault, then taking DAYS to resolve the rest despite being part of the same (non-admitted!) BT fault. Then leaving one so that it is still not resolved and blaming the customer equipment despite the faults all happening at once, and the broken line having had 3 engineer repair visits with no result since the fault is not the customer end.

    - Turning up and installing NTE5's in the green cabinets down the road, and never even attempting to visit the customer premises - then playing a game where BT insist the line is in the premises even though nobody has been there and no existing lines could have been re-activated etc.

    - Having to pay for new lines to be installed because they won't fix faults - so getting a new line installed is easier because they actually treat the failure which will immediately exist as "early life failure" and actually turn up to fix, or just finding a new line is fine and migrating to that and ceasing the old (all of course incurring costs to us all because BT won't fix the fault that exists in the first place - actually making BT money!)

    - Having to pay for internal lift and shifts to known good cables because BT refuse outright to fix faults on lines that are intermittent - so paying BT MORE than the cost of a new line in order to get a fixed and working line again.

    - Not even attempting to fix a dead line for 22 days, despite having all the care packages offered and failing to explain even why, let alone fix. Offering £8 compensation. Of course having to play the game where the FTTC is considered "working" even though the line it depends on being broken so they refuse to compensate for the loss of that service or even refund the cost of the non-provided service that ultimately we have to rely on them providing anyway.

    - Installing a line that then fails 3 days later because they did not actually document the lines existance, so the pairs were taken for someone else, the b being expected to agree to the potential for an SFI charge when the BT diagnostics agree it's a BT issue.

    ...sound familiar?!

  8. as someone earlier said it is a mentality of a nationalised institution. They have obviously not yet realised that they have competitors, how long does it take?
    Obviously its easier to quit bT than suffer their incompetance.

  9. Nah, it's not just nationalised institutions. Until recently I worked for a large multinational B2B services company (until my contract got lost and I was TUPEd) and the mentality was much the same; even down to prefering churn to stable customer relationships because those made more money...