do they do it on purpose?

Email to BT on 4th March 2007

I have decided to pass this information on to you in narrative form rather than invest more telephone time recounting a growing saga to yet another series of call centres.

The story is 100% factual and, despite being written in a light hearted way, is serious. I am sure that you have ISO9000 and, without being too presumptuous, would suggest that you pass the information on to the relevant quality improvement team:

I am a computer programmer. This is something I have become by a gradual evolution; I started off as an engineer, slowly changed into a manager with interest in systems, ran my own textile business for a while then retired to work from home part time while the children were still at school. The area of programming I get most involved with is on-line database systems. And the point of telling you this is a) internet access is fundamentally important to my business b) I am quite familiar with the technicalities of broadband and solving problems to get kit working. I charge my time out at a paltry £30 per hour.

I have had normal, bottom of the range BT broadband for a few years now and it has been fine but last October I started doing some work for a client that meant I had to have a fixed IP address. The logical course of action was to ask BT and, yes this would be possible but I would need to upgrade my domestic account to Business Broadband. There was some expense involved in doing this (about £7 per month I think) but there were benefits in terms of bandwidth and download capacity so I took the plunge. The whole exercise was relatively painless only requiring two phone calls and a bit of time on line.

For the next few months I was blithely confident that because BT supplied the wires to the house, arranged the connection to the exchange, provided the original broadband and had upgraded it to the business package there could be no confusion or problems with the service. Sadly I was much mistaken.
In February a normal phone bill arrived and, although these are paid by direct debit, I took a few seconds to glance though it. Imagine my surprise when I saw that there was a charge and pre-payment for the basic broadband that I thought I had upgraded the previous October! Perhaps I had been given a static IP address without being charged for the business broadband upgrade? No, on checking the other bill I discovered that I was being charged for two broadband accounts on the same phone line at the same time.

Several hours later, after explaining my situation to four different people (billing, a person with fairly poor English, broadband then finally billing again) I was assured that there had been a mistake and I would be credited for the double charging. There was a slightly garbled comment right at the end that the original broadband account should have been cancelled with the contractual notice. However I reasoned that the powers that be, on checking my case would see that a) I hadn't cancelled my account but had upgraded it to one financially advantageous to BT and b) there had been a long notice period between me asking for the upgrade and when it actually took effect!

Soon afterwards a credit note arrived deducting £100 from my bill and I was happy that BT was back in control and fully understood my situation. Possibly a doubt flitted through the back of my mind when I noticed that the account reference that had been credited the £100 was my business broadband account not my domestic phone bill!

I was away until Wednesday afternoon last week but when I tried to access my emails I found there was no broadband connection. I was informed by my family that it seemed to have been playing up and stopped giving any access the day before (27th Feb, the day after the date on the credit note). I checked everything I could think of, filters, sockets, rebooted, re-installed drivers. As I implied above this kind of thing is my bread and butter so I was fairly efficient. Before long I was sure that the problem was either with the broadband on the phone line or with the modem. The modem was one that had been supplied when I originally installed broadband (it is a BT Voyager 105 USB type) and was probably getting to be quite old technology. The question could be settled by phoning BT but after my last experience I though I would check any on line information first. Luckily I had PAYG dial up accounts I could use to sort out emails and access the internet.

After determining that there was no wholesale problem with broadband in the area I resorted to 0845 6007020 and spoke to a very helpful chap. Hmm we've got your line set up for broadband and everything looks ok, have you tried swapping the filters, sockets, rebooting. Eventually he tried a test on the line and told me that there was some kind of difficulty and (after several periods on hold listening to the Beatles) he suggested that I ring off while he did some other test on the line.

After an hour or so when nobody had rung me back I rang the number again and spoke to someone different and went through the same lengthy description (slightly extended by my latest experience). Hmm, that's a bit odd it does look as though you should have broadband, it's all set up ok here. I will have to put you on hold while I test the line. After an even longer period of music the line was eventually dropped. No one phoned me back.

My conclusion then, as an engineer was: BT can’t find a problem at their end, I can use the phone line for normal voice or dialup modem, the DSL light doesn't come on on the modem, the modem diagnostic program says it can't detect a dial tone, the modem is getting a bit old. Therefore something has probably gone wrong with the modem. So I ordered a Phillips SNK5620 wireless router kit from CCL around £50, delivered on Saturday morning.

Following the instructions carefully I plug in the phone line and.. no light! The problem is now definitely with the broadband line. I phone 0845 6007020 and speak to a very helpful chap. Hmm we've got your line set up for broadband and everything looks ok, have you tried swapping the filters, sockets, rebooting. Eventually he tries a test on the line and tells me that there is some kind of difficulty and (after several periods on hold listening to the Beatles) he suggests that I ring off while he does a different test on the line.

This time I only give him five minutes before ringing 0845 6007020 again to speak to yet another very helpful chap. It's taking longer and longer to explain the situation to each person. Hmm he really should have given you a reference number so I could see what he had tried. Anyway we've got your line set up for broadband and everything looks ok, have you tried swapping the filters, sockets, rebooting No it's certainly not anything to do with your double billing and credit note. You'e still on our system as a business broadband customer. Eventually he tries a test on the line and tells me that there is some kind of difficulty and (after several periods on hold listening to the Beatles) he suggests that I ring off while he does a test on the line. I ask him to give me a reference number so I won't get into trouble when I phone back. He seems a little affronted but provides me with 3272206858.

Nobody phones me back so I ring the number again and speak to yet another person. This time I cut him short before he can go through the whole questioning sequence and tell him he can find everything he needs to know by following the reference number I have been given. However he seems to know a bit more about routers and broadband and asks me questions about which lights come on when and eventually suggests that I ring off and plug the line into the router and ring back on my mobile.

Now we are getting somewhere. After more tests and waiting I am told that there is definitely a fault with my broadband and the job will be passed over the relevant department to fix. I get a reference 3272411267. Either I can phone back on the 6007020 number and get an update on the progress of the job or I will just see the ADSL light come on on the router.

The light doesn't come on during the rest of Saturday, and it's not there on Sunday morning so I decide that I will phone through for an update.

Hmm there does look to be a problem on you line. More music. Hi, I'm the supervisor here. Can you hold on for a bit I need to make a phone call? More music. Sorry about this but it looks as if your broadband has been stopped. Yes it could be connected with the double billing and credit note mix up. I'm afraid we can't do anything now, you will have to talk to Order Management on Monday morning, they may put you on to Billing who may put you on to Provisions who are the people with the power to sort the problem out. Sadly I don't have a phone number or email for them.

So by my reckoning I have spent £50 on hard ware, £150 to £250 in time,£5 in dial up internet access and mobile phone usage and been without broadband for nearly a week. And I don't feel to be much closer to sorting the problem out!

So, no more waiting on the phone listening to piped music. You have all the information you can possibly need here in this email. I'm just going to wait for you to gear yourselves up and sort my problem out.

Having sent the above message to the most hopeful looking email address I could find and getting only an automated reply I couldn't stop myself ringing up to make sure the message had been received and action was being taken. I refused to part with more information than required by the Geneva Convention (i.e. broadband phone number) insisting that the lady followed up the information that BT must now possess. Possibly because of this refusal and my tedious way of insisting that shouldn't believe whatever bit of her system was reassuring her that the broadband connection was working perfectly, I had to listen to calming classical music for twenty minutes. However I was eventually rewarded with the news that her supervisor was on the case and my broadband would be returned with some urgency. Not possible at this stage to say when that would happen. Yes, someone would contact me when there was more information. No, not possible at this stage to say when that would happen either!

Oh well I will give them until close of business today and then start to stir things up.

1. Lodge a formal complaint with BT and claim my costs
2. Contact the Broadband Suppliers Trade Association and lodge a complaint
3. County Court claim.
4. Blogs.
5. Discussion Forums.

OK it's now 16:55 (Monday 5th March) and I've had no news from BT so I have just rung them and been told that my problem has been resolved and I will be re-connected.
In SEVEN days time!