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Caveat Emptor: the BT tale...

BT Ireland- providing the worse telecoms "customer care" experience?

Part 2: Our second experience was with BT Ireland. We had been with them from 2008 until the switch mentioned above. At the time, we had received a low broadband speeds, which slowly deteriorated over a few months as more people in the Bray area subscribed to broadband and our signal strength dropped. After 6 months we needed to deal with their "Customer Care" team, and complained that we had been paying for 3mbps, was then receiving occasional 1mbps, but now the serviced had died entirely. We found that BT's attitude to their customers is one of the worse we have come across. They would generally refuse to consider the case, saying that they had done all they could, a refund for the poor service was not possible, and that it could not be taken any further. On one occasion we asked to speak to an agent's manager, and was refused. When we asked for the name of the person we were speaking to, we were told that they could give out their name if they wished, but they were choosing not to on this occasion!

It was only through ComReg that we received any assistance. They managed to get the BT Ireland Complaints Officer to call us. This helped to a certain extent, in that we had one individual to deal with, but unfortunately it also demonstrated to us just how poorly BT treat their customers. There were two parts to this: firstly we had to prove everything. This might not seem an unreasonable request, until you find yourself sending copies of BT's own bills to BT. BT would not look up any of the details themselves to assist us. When we said that we had been paying X amount for broadband in a particular month, they insisted on us producing the bills to prove it. Fortunately we had kept a copy of all material, but it was bizarre to have the BT Customer Complaints Officer asking to see his own companies' bills, and not sourcing this information ourselves. Secondly, we felt tactic and response was a very calculated strategy to wear down the customer, and hope that they would abandon their complaint.

We reached an eventual agreement, and BT agreed to refund the difference between the 3mbps and 1mbps broadband packages from the start of our account in 2008 through to the start of 2009, and to make sure that all broadband fees were refunded since the service died in early 2009. This amounted to a 30 euro rebate, the difference between the remaining bills for calls and this rebate amount.

After such a protracted battle to get them to agree to this, you can imagine or indignation when they then changed their minds in June. They then argued that we still owed them money, instead of the 30 euro rebate offered May. The reason given was that they miscalculated the original balance on the account. We naturally refused to pay but agreed to settle the case with the accounts being finally closed and no amount being paid. We lost our promised 30 euro rebate, but were finally rid of BT.

What annoys us most about BT is that they are fighting for business and hoping to appeal to customers to switch away from Eircom. Yet in all of the time we dealt with them, we found their staff to be obstructive, uninterested, and constantly changing. If you did find someone who was interested in looking into your case, you would normally find that they had left the company before this was resolved. You then had to try to pick up the pieces with a new staff member, and apparently had no records of your previous conversations, and no notes relating to your case. Back to square one again and again.

Normally we would see that these problems are due to individuals, poorly trained staff or the usual mix of people you would find in any call centre. However BT Ireland seem to be a different case. Their staff simply don't care, and if they do care, the quickly lose interest, whether through a lack of power to make any changes, or an unwillingness to ask the right questions from their colleagues.

If anyone does find themselves in a similar situation with BT Ireland, here is our advice:

1/ log everything!- take down notes of times of calls, dates, case ID numbers, the names of the people your speak to (first and surnames if you can get them!). Type this all out so your have it to hand
2/ gather all of your paperwork- bills, letters etc.
3/ send your case details to ComReg and get a ComReg case number
4/ contact us and we have no problem giving you the contact details of the BT Customer Complaints Officer
5/ be prepared to have to argue, even the most obvious points- the more proof you have the better it will be when doing this.
Good luck, and hang in there until you get what you are entitled to.

So in the end, who is good...

The one good experience we have had is with Vodafone. Their "At Home" service offers landline and broadband bundles, and one refreshing change compared to BT and Eircom is their helpful staff. It is too early to be definitive, but so far we have been impressed with their attitude and their landline service. We do not have broadband yet as we await the upgrade of our local exchange [see story here] to solve this issue, but we are happy with the switch and the help we have received.

Simon Spence/2009

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