I have recently been copied in to a couple of issues that some of my customers have had with BT plc. When I say BT plc, I mean the legal entity that is company 1800000, called British Telecommunications plc.
BT plc practice a form of corporate schizophrenia where they pretend to be more than one legal entity. Worrying this madness has spread to other organisations, notably the Ombudsman service that provide ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) for BT plc.
One complaint was against the BT Retail department of BT plc where an order caused another line to be broken, and the matter went to ADR. They case concluded with confirming "BT Retail sent the details correctly to Openreach", and basically that Openreach screwed up meaning case closed as ADR does not cover Openreach!
The other case is where The Ombudsman Service would not even take a case where Openreach were blocking a number port but would not tell anyone why, i.e. what "mismatch" existed, and BT Retail said there was no mismatch. They said they do not cover Openreach.
In one case, even though admitting that he (i.e. Openreach) is company 1800000, he kept insisting that Openreach was not a communications provider (a clear lie) and to contact his communications provider (which is company 1800000 and hence who my customer was talking to!).
This is, of course, nonsense. Openreach is BT plc; The contract these customers have is with BT plc; The failure is by BT plc; The dispute is with BT plc; The ADR scheme covers BT plc. This needs sorting.
So the question to OFCOM really is whether this sort of stupidity pretend different companies is actually allowed. Can a company pretend that its different departments are different and hence pass the buck, blame another department, and get out of any liability even under ADR by doing so - a sort of internal force majeure. Is that actually valid?
If it is, then BT sort of get away with this crap, shame, but it also presumably means that A&A can tell CISAS that only our "sales department" are covered by ADR as only they sell to the public, and all other departments are not covered by ADR. This could greatly mitigate risk of any future ADR cases and allow us (unethically?) to "pass the buck" internally between departments with no liability.
If it is not, then can OFCOM please ensure that ADR schemes know that they represent a "legal entity" as a whole and not just parts of it, and that BT plc cannot blame itself for its own failings and get away with it!
Do courts agree with this lunacy?
In the mean time I have suggested, not as formal legal advice, just friendly advice, to both customers that they simply go for a county court claim against British Telecommunications plc, company 1800000. If someone from "BT Retail" turns up and says he cannot speak for "Openreach", then great, they can ask the judge for summary judgement as the defendant has not turned up. If someone from "Openreach" turns up and insists there is no contract the judge can be shown the contract with company 1800000, and again make a summary judgement as the defendant is claiming not to be the party to the contract! If both "BT Retail" and "Openreach" turn up, then one of them gets to take the blame for the error and again the judge makes a judgement against British Telecommunications plc company 1800000. I really doubt a judge would accept corporate schizophrenia as a defence or find it at all amusing.