Billing Ethics

This is all about a very small amount of money, but I presume it’s repeated across millions of bills now popping through the door or (in my case) into my in tray. It’s the phone bill from British Telecom; that once rare, then indispensable and now somewhat redundant nationalised carrier of chat, rumour and – via the miracle of orthogonal frequency division multiplexing – cute pictures of kittens. It’s gone up.

Well, no biggie, I hear you cry. Stuff does that. Prices go up and rain comes down. It’s all a little bit British, like the Telecom. But gentle reader, read on…

There’s a old thing called “Paying it forward“, and BT employ its polar opposite of “charging it forward”. Each bill comes out charging you for the calls you made in the recent billing period, and for the line rental to come in the next. Sp when you pay your bill or, as most of us probably do now, allow BT to extract the cash from your bank account through Direct Debit, you are paying for the line rental ahead of you. With me so far?

IMG_0352So back in November 2013 I paid for my BT Bill which included my Unlimited Anytime Plan from 13th November 2013 to 12th February 2014. That’s what I did. I paid for it. It would seem therefore that the service was mine through agreed contract.

Then, today, I got my new BT Bill. In it, they have refunded what I paid in advance, and then recharged the period at the new higher rate which began during my already paid for time, at 4th January 2014. That’s pretty much like being charged a bit extra today by the sweetshop owner for the bar of chocolate I bought last week, but haven’t actually got around to eating yet. I know, I know, the likelihood of me not eating the chocolate immediately does tarnish the analogy a little. But it feels like a scam all the same.

IMG_0350The difference is an additional £1.12 – a munificent amount I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s probably cost you nearly that much to read this far at minimum wage. However, according to Wikipedia BT have 28 Million exchange lines in the UK, so this private company has just managed to [ahem] extract more than thirty million quid from the fluff-lined pockets of austerity Britain.

The sharper eyed amongst you will also note that for the first time and without reasonable notice (well, I didn’t see it) they’ve gone and stung me an additional £7.51 for Caller Display from 4th January; a service which was included in my previous bill. Now it’s called BT Privacy at Home, so that obviously makes it alright…

Overall then, my BT bill before additional calls has gone from £61.80 t0 £69.66, something close to a 13% hike.

If you still buy your phone line from BT, see if I’m right and you are also being stung on the quiet. Feel free to comment here and share it about a bit. I probably won’t do much more than rant about it, but if any tame commercial lawyers who understand these things care to tell me why I’m bleating without due regard for contract terms and conditions, do pipe up. And yes, I know… I’m still with BT. But I’m kind of locked in as I am still part of the GTPS (and indeed the bill is reclaimable). Why should that make a difference?

IMG_0353Just for fun, here’s an old Type 706 telephone from the 1960’s with Priority Calling button. Perhaps one of the most comfortable telephones ever, and apparently going on eBay for about £35… Takes you back, eh? Now if you’re still going all warm and cuddly about the pic, here’s a link for telecom anoraks. Love it!


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