Questions of Cash: Housebuyer told fast broadband was planned, but it never arrived


Q. I recently moved to the countryside and I was delighted to be told by BT Business that they could supply me with business broadband at 60MB. The sales lady told me that fibre optic was planned for the end of my road on 31 December 2012. As I work from home, this was a major factor in making the move to a rural area earlier this year. When we arrived, we found that the 60MB is actually 4Mb.

We have established that there never were plans for fibre optic in my area. BT is trying to sidestep its responsibility on the grounds of the plans having been only provisional. I asked for evidence that they ever existed, but I was told this was not possible as the "planning" was within the remit of a third party – Openreach. BT is hiding behind the fiction of a plan not being a promise. This is a clear case of mis-selling. I have been offered £50, but I want what I was offered and bought. If I cannot have it, I want proof that there really was a plan to put in fibre optic. MO, Hampshire.

A. This is a very important issue, and not just for you. The quality and speed of broadband connections is central to the operations of many businesses, including the self-employed. The quality of a broadband line may influence location decisions, for example where a self-employed person buys a home.

BT should consider whether it can do more in recognition of this by trying to provide a more accurate indication of whether individual properties will be eligible for high speed broadband to enable homebuyers and businesses to make informed location decisions. Home buyers in your situation might need to seek independent advice on the likelihood of a quality service being fitted.

Incidentally, although Openreach operates as a separate business unit servicing all telecoms providers, it is in fact a business within the BT Group.

BT's spokesman Yusuf King says: "[The reader's] line is connected to Tadley exchange. Tadley exchange has been enabled with fibre broadband. The roadside cabinet to which [the reader's] line is connected was upgraded for fibre broadband on 15 January 2013. Unfortunately, whilst [the reader's] exchange and cabinet have been enabled with fibre broadband, his premises are too far away from the cabinet for his specific line to support fibre broadband.

"BT Retail advisers offer advice on the likely broadband service and speed that may be achieved. The information given to [the reader] could only be based on his postcode as there was no working line in the premises. All such orders are subject to survey, and this is reiterated in BT's terms and conditions. We have reviewed the call recording in which [the reader] has the discussion with our business sales agent.

"The call recording shows that the agent does confirm that fibre for the exchange is planned for 31 December, that this is the intended and estimated date and that this can be delayed. The adviser at no point says that the fibre service will definitely be available to [the reader] on a particular date should he place an order for service at [his] premises. We have offered [the reader] £50 credit to his broadband account as a goodwill gesture.

"Openreach provides products and services to communication providers on an 'equivalent' basis. This obligation is embodied in the BT Undertakings given to the telecoms regulator Ofcom in September 2005. These undertakings state that Openreach will provide the same products and services to all of its customers on the basis of 'Equivalence of Inputs', which means – subject to some limited exceptions – at the same prices; using the same processes; to the same timescales. Openreach provides different service levels at different prices and service level guarantees, but these options are available to all communication providers, including BT Retail, TalkTalk, Sky, etc."

Q. I need financial advice. I have just quit my job and I make a lot of money online with Would you be able to advise me as I would like to start to diversify some of the money I am making. PW, by email.

A. We suspect this is a spoof email, but we gave you an opportunity to prove us wrong. We requested details of what type of online trading you were doing and in what way you were thinking about diversifying your investments. There was no reply. Moreover, the website you refer to is not functioning. It diverts to a different web address based in the United States, which refers to three easy ways to make money and offers a free video to explain these to anyone who provides an email address.

But when an email address is provided, an error message comes up, "mailing list not active". We are unclear about the point of sending a spoof email promoting a website that does not work. But there is an important issue related to this. Websites that offer easy money should be treated very carefully and are unlikely to deliver what they appear to offer. In some instances people are offered online "administrative" work involving the processing of cheques or cash through their bank accounts in return for a handling fee. This has on occasion then led to criminal charges for money laundering. It is also essential to remember that trading on eBay and other websites can generate tax liabilities.

HM Revenue & Customs is using one of its investigations units to tackle tax evasion resulting from undeclared profits from online trading. HMRC advises that the sale of unwanted items will not generally be taxable, unless you are trading or making a capital gain. The definition of "trading" is that you are buying for resale; making items for sale; trading on behalf of others for financial gain; providing a service for payment. If you fit the definition of trading you will be regarded as self-employed and will be liable for income, and possibly other, taxes.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at: