Here is a specific example, which is just typical.
Last November (yes, that is a year ago), we reported a fault. BT sent two engineers. The engineer did an "uplift of network for ADSL", which means they changed the wiring in BTs network (moved to another pair).
BT billed us!
As normal, where BT have done work to fix the fault on their side of the network we dispute the charges. We sent the dispute and withheld the charges.
In total, they charged £245, which is two lots of £50 "End user wiring module", one £50 "End user equipment module", and £95 "base" module.
This is odd for a start. If they did the "End user wiring module", then how could they charge to do it a second time a few days later unless the first guy did not do it right? In fact, the fact BT did not charge the "base module" for the second engineer which means they agree it was a BT fault already, as it is only free if there is a BT fault and they find it. That means they should not have gone on to do wiring and equipment modules anyway. The charges make no sense in the first place!
Anyway, it did not bother us. We had disputed and withheld payment (as per contact terms) so we did not need to do anything. As we have explained to BT many times, we are happy for a charge to just stay in dispute until written off under the 6 year Limitations Act.
Two months ago they started chasing asking why the bill from November 2011 was underpaid. We explained, again, and sent details of the disputes, again.
Last month (11 months after the fault) they credited us £209. Odd, given we disputed £245. There was no explanation of this discrepancy. There were several disputes and many were under credited by some random small amount.
They threatened that they would send a "formal breach of contract notice" if we did not pay the balances of these various disputes (including the £36 difference in this case). We pointed out they had incorrectly failed to credit the full amount of these agreed disputes.
They then agreed to credit a further £1. Actually they say they are "waiving" the £1 as if it is some good will gesture on their part rather than a cock up. This leave £35 which they say is "valid" and is for a co-op call.
We queried that, pointing out we did not ask for a co-op call (we have no record of a call, as it happens). We are told that in August 2012 there was a change in policy in BT allowing engineers to decide to make co-op calls and for which we have to pay.
Hang on? That dubious change of policy, for which we have no record of any notice or agreement on our part, is 7 months after the fault. So how is that relevant.
And hang on? We were not charged for a co-op call. We were charged for two equipment modules, a wiring module and a base module. They are clearly itemised on the bill, and different prices to a co-op call, so no ambiguity. So, what co-op call?
So we go back, explaining that the charges for this are not valid, again, and we are just told "Please check the previous attachment where we have already explained the Engineer actions and the reason for the charges. We have fully investigated for each and every circuits, mentioned in the attached excel sheet and have added our findings." [sic], and no attachment either but previous one just says "Charge of £35 is valid" and "Engineer made co-op call".
That's it! They have told us they are valid. End of story!
Well sorry, but no! The charges are still in dispute as far as we are concerned. We have advised BT that the charges are not valid. We have offered to provide a Special Billing Investigation where we would extract the XML orders and confirmations to prove the case. We have offered to consider any actual evidence BT have to support their position. All we have so far is an assertion from them that the charge is valid. We assert it is not. So, in the mean time, still in dispute, and still withheld.
How is it that they think this is sensible?
As a BT shareholder myself I have to ask why it is sensible to pay someone to wind up customers like this. It must cost time and effort and gets nobody anywhere. I may have to go to the shareholder's meeting and ask. Yes, I am a shareholder in BT Group plc (sole owner of British Telecommunications plc) as I have one 5p share.
P.S. I have emailed Ian Livingstone asking about this now.