The boss of a North-West news agency has won an apology and almost £500 in compensation from British Telecom over a series of bungles which left its journalists without phone lines for up to eight days.
Cavendish Press managing director Jon Harris fought a year long battle with the communications giant after it cut off his firm’s landlines without warning in August last year after the firm queried why it had been sent four duplicate bills.
Jon, who fears the disconnection may have cost the firm “many thousands of pounds” in lost business, eventually complained to the Communications Ombudsman over the issue.
In a written judgement this week, Ombudsman investigations officer Akalia Maclaurin said BT was a guilty of a ”shortfall in customer service” and ruled it should pay a total of £491.46.
In her letter to Jon, Miss Maclaurin said: ”I have found no evidence that BT followed its own Code of Practice when it cut your services off.
”I have found nothing to suggest you received a reminder with a final payment date and nothing to suggest you received either an automated call from BT requesting payment or a text message.
”I am of the opinion that it did not act fairly or reasonably in cutting you off so swiftly without even a final demand letter or restricting your services.
“Had it done either of these things you would have had an opportunity to be in contact with the correct department in BT to resolve your billing queries and I do not think it would have been necessary to disconnect your services.”
The Ombudsman ordered BT to refund a £91.84 payment Cavendish was wrongly forced to pay to get the phone lines working again, plus three months free line rental worth £299.62 and £100 as a ”goodwill gesture in the recognition of the shortfall in customer service.”
She had originally ordered BT to pay £250 as a goodwill gesture last March but the communications giant won a £150 cut in the award after it demanded a review which took a further four months.
Said Jon: “BT is supposed to be in the communications business but its communications skills in this sorry episode have been nothing short of a disgrace.
”At the time of the disconnection we were being inundated with emails from customers wondering why our phone lines weren’t working and some even thought we’d gone out of business.
”The amount of business we have lost due to this disconnection is incalculable not least because of the number of mobile phone calls which had to be made to BT and such like – and whilst I doubt 500 quid will cover it, I’ll be framing the apology letter from BT and put it on my wall.
”We are a small company which like many others are experiencing tough financial times and it is absolutely vital that telecommunications organisations like BT provide a proper service to their customers – not the amateur, shambolic one they provided in this case.
In its letter to Jon, Evonne Caslin of BT Ombudsman Investigations said: ”Please accept my apologies on behalf of BT for the customer service shortfalls.”
The Communications Ombudsman is funded by companies whose complaints it handles through a combination of subscription and case fees.