One of the mods from this forum emailed me back to say that the mobile billing dept were investigating and to let him know how we get on.
Some days later, a "My Account Manager" rang us. We went through the whole thing again. She totally refused to entertain the idea that we had not received any bills for the service over the five year period. We pointed out, yet again, that we would have raised this matter with them years ago if we'd been getting bills (and so been aware of it ourselves). Yet again, no meaningful reply to this other than that we owed them the money.
We asked her to send us some evidence that we owed them any money at all. After much faffing about, she offered us half the money back as the records over 3 year old were "archived". Could she give us any info on our supposed usage over non-archived period then? No, there wasn't any. We declined the offer of "going-halvies" on what they say we owe them. We again asked her to either send us some evidence or stop harassing us.
We kept receiving the bills demanding the full £2295.86. As of today we have over seventy of them.
About a week later, we got a letter from her saying:
blah blah ....
As discussed previously I have tried to establish details of the calls made on the mobile service between the periods of 2006-2009 but I am unable to retrieve this information with it being such a lengthy period of time since the usage had been billed.
As this information is archived after 3 years we are unable to retrieve this information.
I therefore have to advise you that my original offer of the refund of rental from 2009-2012 when the service was cancelled would be the maximum that we could offer you.
.... blah blah
So, no records. No evidence whatsoever (including the initial contract we are supposed to have made with them) that we owe them anything at all. And yet they feel they can demand over £1000 from us for nothing at all.
We've spent the last couple of weeks pondering and worrying over what to do next.
Today, we recieved a "Final Demand" (in big red writing) from Wescot Credit Services Ltd (a debt collection agency) for £2869.83. Nearly £600 more than even BT were demanding. We rang them, told them the debt was disputed and also asked what the extra 600 was for. They said it was nothing to do with them - BT had given them the figure.
We rang BT and asked to speak to a manager in billing dept. We were passed to someone in sales (not even a manager). We got bounced around for a further two hours to a variety of people - none of whom were able to do anything other than pass us to someone else. Finally hung up after drone had us on hold over 25 minutes.
Tried again and got through to someone in billing. She was shocked to hear of the 70+ bills we've had in the last few months. Even more shocked that a DCA had become involved in a disputed claim. But could shed no light on why any of this was happening (including the sudden £600 hike in demand). She did however say that she would contact the DCA and tell them to lay off for the moment, and would forward all the info to the Complaints Review Service.
So, that's where we are up to now. The moral of the story so far seems to be that if you find yourself short of cash, just start billing random people for whatever amount you fancy - no need for any evidence of contracts, goods or services used ect. Bully them hard enough and at least some are likely to be intimidated into paying.
Will be emailing a link to this thread to BTs CEOs and a number of consumer groups, watchdogs etc as really don't see why we should have all this stress imposed on us.
It seems to me that the original argument is being overtaken by the quite astonishing balls-up that BT have made in dealing with it. Your intention to broadcast this is quite understandable, and there are plenty of choices. This is the kind of story that the Maill on Sunday Personal Finance section likes to get its teeth into; maybe worth considering as they are just embarking on their annual Wooden Spoon awards exercise for poor customer service. Hope whatever you do gets the issue resolved.
It seems to me that this is a simple matter of contract law.
They offered to provide a service, you rejected the service by returning the phones to them; they claimed the money any way, you found out subsequently they were taking the money and have taken steps to recover it. They now feel you owe them the money you have recovered.
Whilst I appreciate that you are trying to fix this by appealing to a Manager I think you are pitching too low down the complaints process as this sort of thing is not run off the mill and needs someone who is sued to standing back and doing "the right thing".
I have a few questions that might break the log jam (1) Can BT confirm if the phones were received back (2) can BT confirm when, if ever, the phones were used?
To sort it out I suggest that you try the following:
- give the MODS a chance to review and sort it; they seem very good at thinking outside of the box which is what is needed here
- if this fails put your complaint in writing in a rant free way with as much accurate information as possible
- failing that drop into your local solicitor and ask if they do free short consultations and ask them for their opinion.
pottyperson: I agree this has all got ridiculously out of hand. Your suggestion of the Mail Finance thing is excellent and we will certainly contact them if necessary - thanks very much. On friday night I did send out a load of emails but only within BT so far - seemed only fair to give them a few days to look into it. We got an email back yesterday morning from someone on their "team" saying we would be contacted by monday and that they would remain with us until the matter is resolved so, hopefully, we won't need to involve anyone else.
Tim: Hi, thanks for your thoughts/advice. Some free (or at least reasonably-priced) legal advice is a good idea if it comes to it - many thanks. As you see, we have now attempted to pitch it right to the top. Not that we haven't tried going higher before - every time we got as far as someone who couldn't/wouldn't do anything useful, we asked to speak to someone above them who could/would. This invariably led to either an outright refusal or promises that this would happen at a later date... all of which were broken.
We are still amazed and upset that a DCA has become involved in this - particularly as no warning or even notification of this was given us from BT. As for the extra £600, apparently as a "fine" for trying to get our own money back... words fail me.
Another blow came yesterday in the form of 5 more bills from BT, each demanding £2295.86. So how much do we supposedly "owe"? To who - both?
And what damage has been done to my mothers credit rating?
Well, hopefully this is now in the hands of people who will actually treat _us_ as people and not some sort of deadly enemy to be repelled/attacked via all means possible.
PS just to add that Tim, your questions 1 & 2 are among those we've been asking from the start...
If a debt recovery firm has been involved then I would advise them that this sum is in currently in dispute and suggest you then seek legal advice.
If the bill is in your mother's name then yes it will affect her credit rating, but if you seek legal advice and prove to be in the right you can get BT to clear any black marks against her name.
I know this as many years ago I purchased something via a catalogue over extended term. I was paying more than I should but the catalogue sent my account to debt agency even though I was paying. When I spoke to them they realised I was correct and it was their paper-work that was wrong, and I made them remove the black marks from my credit rating and apologise.
I know this is a customer to customer forum and their are mods that frequent the board, but in all honesty I think you really need to start looking at legal advice before it gets worse than it already is...
I would also say to put your complaint in writing to their Durham office and send it next day special delivery (not recorded). It might cost a few quid but you know they will have received it.
walkerx: Well, we will certainly need any damage to be repaired - including the removal of any reference to my mother from the DCAs systems as what I've read of the company involved is not encouraging.
Can i ask how you know that your rating was fixed properly - ie, what actual proof did you receive?
You suggest writing to the Durham office and getting legal advice. I'm sorry, I wasn't very clear in my last post when I said I'd sent out emails "within BT". I was referring to a post I made before that, meaning that I'd emailed the CEOs, chairpeople, dept heads, legal dept etc... about 13 of them altogether. I gave a brief description of situation and requested they read this thread for more detail. Got an email back next day saying someone would contact us by Monday and they actually did (basically just saying Hi and that they - ELC - are now looking into it).
So, seems only reasonable to give them some time to get this whole mess fixed.
I agree that we probably should have sought legal advice before now but even free advice seems likely to lead to paid-for services and we're reluctant to allow this matter to cost us any more than it already has - hours and hours on phone, days waiting in for calls that don't come, all the worry/stress and now this **bleep** DCA on our case (it is rumoured that they have now been called off but no real idea yet what this actually means).
Don't get me wrong - I'm quite prepared to strip naked, paint myself blue and occupy a prominent spot in their head office if it comes to it... let alone moving on the suggestions you and others have kindly given us. But still have a little hope left that BT will, as Tim says, "do the right thing".