It's with a quite bitter taste in my mouth that I find myself having to register on here and leave my extremely annoyed comments regarding a £99 engineer callout charge which arrived giftwrapped inside this months bill today in my elderly mothers mailbox.
My mother has been retired for several years and without going into great detail, every couple of pound makes a difference to her standard of living month to month, so you can imagine her utter shock today when she had just shy of £100 added to her monthly bill for an engineer callout to repair what I can only refer to as having been a broadband connection unfitting of the word broadband.
The only family my mother has are myself and my brother, both of us live in other countries due to our work and as such my mother relies on her internet connection to keep in contact with us both.
For months I had been told by my mum that links to photos that I sent her didn't work, that pages were taking forever to load (if at all) and that at least 2-3 times a day the internet would be unreachable (i.e. router GUI would show up explaining that no connection was available).
I managed to remote desktop into my mums PC from China where I'm currently stationed with my work as Key Customer Satisfaction Manager for a large international company and was astounded to see that her broadband speed was stumbling along at 0.23Mb/sec download and 0.02Mb/sec upload speed. From previous trips home to my mums in the past I know that 4-6Mb/sec was what the line would normally be capable of.
With this information to hand it made my mind up to take some vacation from work and I booked flights to head from China to Scotland to assist my mum in sorting this mess out as she was understandably getting very upset at it all and getting nowhere with the call centre personnel.
On Saturday 31st August I arrived in Glasgow and double checked the connection speed, once again it dribbled back around 5mins after starting the speedtest at the same low values as I had received when I has remote desktoped in from China (0.23Mb/sec download and 0.02Mb/sec upload). I immediately checked that the mains socket and extension socket had filters installed etc (the sockets have been in the same configuration as long as I can remember - approx 35 years), and then got my mum to call the call centre, explain the situation and have the BT representative speak directly to me on the issue.
With me holding the post of manager for key customer satisfaction within my company I can understand that there are hoops to be jumped through when such an issue initially comes up and after I confirmed that the sockets were original LJ2's, explained that the connection was extremely slow and would intermittently drop off a number of times per day, initial line tests were conducted with me on the phone for ~10mins, the conclusion was that more tests would need to be run to determine where the issue lay and we would receive a call back within a few hours.
The return call came back later on Saturday afternoon, once again inconclusive, at which stage I asked what else could be done remotely, after some discussion back and forth I was asked to unplug the extension socket and to allow them to run more tests overnight and that we would receive a call on Sunday (1st Sept) around noon with the results. At 8am on Sunday (1st Sept) we were awakened by an automated message from Bt that we would receive a call around noon, as annoying as it was to be wakened up by an automated message we laughed about it as we hoped that everything would be resolved come noon time.
The Sunday noon phonecall came and went, unfortunately without the desired response, again the tests were inconclusive and we were asked to wait another 24hrs for further testing to be carried out. At this point as you can imagine I wanted more information and asked them to verify the logs for dropoffs on the line, when the speed had been capped to the lowly 0.23Mb/sec and why no-one ever looked into this previously if the line was creating such an error log, after all my mum was being charged for a broadband connection every month even though the line had been capped by yourselves at what I regard as a speed unfitting of the name broadband. Needless to say I didn't really get any useful information from the representative over the phone on these topics other than them confirming that during the previous 14 days logfiles that they could see it showed a number of drops on the line each day.
With Monday (2nd Sept) noon creeping up I ran a speedtest on the line in the hope that there would be signs of an improvement, not so, it was actually topping out at 0.19Mb/sec download speed on 4 back to back tests. The phone call from the call centre confirmed once again that the tests were inconclusive and that they wanted to run another 24hrs of tests. By this time I felt that this had gone on too long without any signs of improvement and suggested that an engineer be sent out to look into the issue directly onsite at my mums house as I would only be in Glasgow until the coming Friday (6th Sept) before having to return to China with work.
The engineers visit was arranged for Thursday 5th Sept and as I can understand we were informed that if said engineer found that the line had been tampered with or suffered any damage caused by us that we would then be liable for a £99 callout charge. Knowing that there was absolutely no way that my mum had even looked in the direction of the socket until my arrival in town I knew that this would not be the case and agreed to this condition.
Thursday 5th Sept rolled around and your engineer arrived and ran his series of diagnostic tests on the line, determined that the line speed was definitely capped, he also found that the line was mistakenly set to high speed rather than low speed which it should have been set to due to the distance from the exchange etc, and after removing the speed cap remotely from the exchange we were able to achieve 6.35Mb/sec download and 0.68Mb/sec upload speeds on the line.
During the engineer visit we even joked about the fact that the call centre employee had asked my mum if she had tampered with the line, and that there was NO way that she would even think to do such a thing, let alone work out how to do so!
The engineer commented that he would swap the old master socket for a new one (NTE5) as the existing one was outdated now. Before he swapped the socket out I questioned him as to whether this would then involve my mum receiving a £99 charge, to which his answer was a definitive no. Upon completion of the work I asked if there was any paperwork to sign, especially as there had been installation of new hardware (in the form of the new NTE5 socket) and I was informed that there was nothing to sign on my side to accept the work was carried out and that everything was now ok.
This brings me back to today, I received an email from my mum in the early hours of the morning here in China (5am) with a copy of her latest bill attached, complete with a £99 addition for "Engineer Home Improvement Service Charge".
Now, as I have mentioned already, there had been zero tampering with the master socket, the engineer confirmed that the replacing of the old socket with a newer version would not result in a service change, yet now we're in the situation that my mum has been requested to pay said charge. Upon calling the call centre today to explain all of the above my mum was actually asked if she would like to take part in an automated customer satisfaction survey which we both feel was rather ironic considering the circumstances.
I find it wholly unacceptable that this £99 charge is being pursued and trust that someone can look into this matter further and resolve this issue by removing the payment without it having to go any further. I honestly feel that this is nothing short of a slap in the face, when if anything my mum should be the person being compensated for a substandard broadband connection over the previous months.
Please contact me to provide the relevant account info to look into this matter.
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Thanks Paddy, info now sent over to you.
This morning I awoke in China to an email from my mum saying that BT had called her Monday evening UK time, I was initially optimistic that this would herald some good news, until I started reading the email text.
The first person she spoke to (Irish female) explained that she had my email explaining the whole problem and that she would put my mum through to the department that would deal with the issue. Around 10mins later a woman (Lucy) came on and went through the reason for the charges etc, at which point my mum asked her if she had my email to which she replied "no", which would mean she was founding her side of the conversation on no information? My mum mentioned that she would rather they deal with me via email as I dealt with the situation, this didn't draw any reaction.
She told my mum that the wiring was old and that the socket wasn't a BT socket (IT WAS!). This master socket has been there since the house was built and wired up over 35 years ago, has never been moved or messed with, and only ever had one extension socket wired to one of the upstairs bedrooms back in the early days too. My mum mentioned that we had moved away from BT for a few years and then returned (We moved to one of the cable suppliers when they came out, Telewest? I think, but this meant a new socket and wiring which is still on the wall entirely seperate to the BT master socket). For the last 12-13 years my mum has been back with BT for phone and internet.
Lucy remained adamant that the callout was chargeable as the wiring was old (again I have to add that the wiring in question is the wiring from the outside world into the back of the master socket) and the socket was not a BT one and was replaced (it was a BT socket, as mentioned already).
My input/question at this stage > Surely the wiring coming into the house up to and including the BT master socket is part of the "rental agreement"? Without such being the case, how could you possibly hook up to the BT phone line?
My mum restated the claim that the broadband had been inferior for months without anyone bothering to look into it, yet her monthly charge was taken without the blink of an eye. Lucy once again blamed the wiring, my mum asked how the wiring from outside the house to the socket is her issue? Lucy wasn't willing to give on this topic, and the conversation was going nowhere.
Eventually after my mum explained that she was not willing to accept this argument, Lucy informed her that she could have someone from the review dept call her tomorrow (Tuesday). My mum once again asked that they contact me directly, or at least email me with their side of the story for me to stay involved (as I am the one who dealt with the whole situation at my mums when the line was being tested, and again when the engineer was onsite, I know the FACTS, my mum had little involvement).
My mum once again asked Lucy why she didn't have my email with all the story/facts to reference, and after a few minutes she said that the person who transferred my mum through to her would have it, and then all of a sudden said she now had it but that nothing changed!
In my email I state the socket is a BT socket, I explain the conversations with the call centre, with the call-out engineer, yet the BT representative states that nothing in there changes the situation? Seriously?
Now I have an extremely agitated mum back in Scotland, thousands of miles away from me here in China and for all intents and purposes it would appear that the BT team will only deal with her, which she and I have repeatedly asked not to be the case, my mum has no technical experience and as mentioned already I dealt with the whole situation when back in Scotland specifically to resolve this issue, and right now it looks to me like BT are trying to make an easy target out of my mum.
Now my mum will be enduring a restless nights sleep worrying about todays phone call with the review dept and the £100 which is looking more and more like being removed from her account in the coming days...
I'm in the position where I'm having to list all the technical items and hope that my mum can explain them to the person who will call her tomorrow:-
1) Original socket in question is the master socket, in place since the house was built 35+ years ago.
2) Master socket was a BT socket - an LJ2 - this was confirmed with the call centre team during my initial call on Sat 31st August.
3) One extension socket exists, this was wired up when the house was new too. This extension line had it's normal phone hooked up to it during the initial tests on 31st August and the phone on that extension socket was then left unplugged for the remainder of the time the remote testing was being carried out, only being reinstalled on the Tuesday prior to the Thursday when the engineer was onsite at my mums house.
4) After testing the line, removing the speed cap remotely from the exchange and retesting the line, even with the original socket the line appeared to work ok and passed the tests being run, the socket was purely changed out as the original one was very old.
5) Call-out engineer was asked by me to confirm if the socket change would incur a callout charge, he said NO, only at this stage did I give him the ok to remove the existing socket from the wall and carry out the replacement with the new socket.
6) With reference to "wiring faults", I'm a fully qualified electrical engineer with 20+ years experience working hands on in the semiconductor industry and I can unequivocally confirm that the call-out engineer made no alterations to any wiring, other than to add a short extension to the original wiring due to the lack of reach it had prior to fitting the new socket. There was no removal of any damaged wiring carried out, purely a short extension fitted to make it easier for him to install the new socket.
The email you sent to us is still in our queue, the call your mum received was from another department following on from a different email that had been sent to them.
All of our emails are dealt in turn and we'll get back to you as soon as we can, I’m sorry for any confusion caused and for the problems you've been having with this.
Many thanks for taking the time to reply Stephanie.
Just a short note to the customer service team who just called my mum and confirmed that the callout charge will not be going ahead and will be removed from her biill.
Very much appreciated, and at least now she has £100 of my hard earned in her bank account to cover some extra winter time heating 😉