Simon Read: That's right, BT, they'd rather pay for a free service


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The Independent Online

I'm pretty angry to have to return to the subject of BT yet again this week. But my postbag is just getting larger with complaints from readers who have been misled or misinformed by the telecoms giant.

First I should apologise to those of you to whom I have yet to respond. I have read all your tales of woe and have been left speechless by how long many of you have had to spend on the phone or in online chats with BT staff to get things sorted out.

To remind those not affected, BT customers with a 12-month contract can get Caller Display free, but only if they sign up for a 12-month offer. If they don't sign up for it, they're charged.

In other words, BT seems to assume that if you don't sign up for the offer, you'd prefer to pay for the service, at £1.75 a month. That's bonkers and can only be, it seems, a way for BT to boost its profits. After all, who in their right would want to pay for something they can have for free?

Reader Peter Christian makes a good point: "I cannot understand why they want to bother with the hassle of issuing letters and taking calls from customers every 12 months, given that a letter usually costs a large organisation about £28 and answering a phone call somewhere between £10 and £25. All that to gain an income of £21 – it looks a bit stupid on their part to me!"

BT's staff seem as confused as their customers. Bryan Cadman, another reader, reports: "Despite BT agreeing that the Caller Display charge was wrong, they have not been active in giving my money back. So I used the BT complaints procedure and made a formal complaint on 12 February. This week I chased a response using the Live Chat option, and one hour 20 minutes later, I got agreement that the money that I was overcharged would be returned to my bank account.

"However, the person I spoke to knew nothing of the complaints I had made."

Ad this was Kate Phillipson's experience yesterday: "I spent a good deal of Thursday on the phone to BT trying to get a refund of Caller Display – to no avail. They are now telling me that Simon Read has 'got it all wrong'."

Kate, I can assure you I'm not wrong. A BT spokesperson assured me: "If a customer is charged and contacts us to renew their free offer, we'll refund the charges from the first bill they appear on."

twitter: @simonnread

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