Questions of Cash: BT's fine print can lead to some unpleasant surprises

 

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Q. We recently moved to a property converted from a shop to residential dwelling. We needed a landline and BT agreed on 23 March 2014 to install one for us on the day we moved, 2 May. Our account was in the name of my wife, so the new line would be in her name.

The installation did not happen as the engineer could not find the property and went home. It was eventually installed on 10 July – 69 days later – and we claimed compensation for additional costs involved for us to use our pay-as-you-go mobile phones. BT agreed, via its "actual financial loss" scheme, to pay a small amount per day and then, via the ombudsman, £50 compensation.

It also agreed to pay £135 for my wife's use of her mobile, but refused my £95 claim as I was not the account holder. It also would not pay for us travelling to a library to use the internet, the cost of postage, or fees to get evidence from our phone providers, so all in all we are out of pocket to the tune of about £250.

Be warned about BT's small print in case you ever want to make a claim. RM, Somerset.

A. BT said: "We have apologised for the shortfall in customer service and for the inconvenience this matter has caused. We are disappointed when we cannot reach an agreement with a customer, but we follow the Ofcom- prescribed process to ensure the customer can refer the matter to the ombudsman. We always abide by the ombudsman's conclusions. This case went to the ombudsman and the proposals were agreed by [the reader's wife] and BT."

BT also said: "We have made a payment for £135 in full and final settlement of the claim, which was credited against [the reader's wife's] account. This was a gesture of goodwill because although we were provided with evidence of mobile phone usage, the breakdown did not show evidence of top-ups. We could not refund the cost of [the reader's] mobile usage, as our customer service guarantee scheme only covers the account holder's mobile phone. We also said we were unable to refund the cost of postage for providing us with the documents."

Q. We took out a BT promotional contract at £20 per month, which ends in June this year. BT has now informed us that the contract fee has increased to £21.25. The small increase is not a problem, but the idea that it can change the price mid-contract is appalling. I had understood that a contract could not be changed and if, for example, we were to end the contract early, we would be liable to pay a fee. But it seems BT can just increase an agreed contracted amount when it suits them.

I have spoken to BT representatives and was told that all providers had increased charges and there was nothing it could do. I was also told we had been informed – not to my knowledge – of this change and given the chance to end the contract with no charge. We would then have had to move to a more expensive contract anyway. MF, Mold.

A. Changes to agreed contract prices are a frequent gripe of Questions of Cash correspondents. BT argues that it is justified by the detailed terms and conditions in the contract.

A spokesman explained that some prices changed on 1 December. "We wrote to all customers with details of the changes. We started to do this at the end of August last year. Customers can leave without penalty charges when we put up prices and they should contact us within 30 days."

BT also pointed out that customers could save money by paying for their line rental for a year upfront.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But we'll do our best to help if you have a financial dilemma. Email us at: questionsofcash@independent.co.uk

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