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My BT ordeal! TONY HAZELL negotiated a deal but they hiked the price

My BT ordeal! TONY HAZELL negotiated a deal but they hiked the price

When it comes to treating customers with complete disdain, I'd like to present the telecoms companies with this year's Oscar.Earlier this month, I spe

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When it comes to treating customers with complete disdain, I’d like to present the telecoms companies with this year’s Oscar.

Earlier this month, I spent a couple of hours negotiating a new two-year deal with BT.

Yet, just one week later, the firm sent an email telling me my bill will rise by more than 10 per cent at the end of March – less than two months into my contract.

Letters editor Tony Hazell was shocked when BT hiked his monthly bill by 10 per cent less than two months into his contract

Letters editor Tony Hazell was shocked when BT hiked his monthly bill by 10 per cent less than two months into his contract

Letters editor Tony Hazell was shocked when BT hiked his monthly bill by 10 per cent less than two months into his contract

It started with an absurdly uninformative letter. Some of my TV channels were going, apparently. But which?

Was I to be deprived of reruns of Escape To The Country, or would Mrs H lose her supply of blood-curdling whodunnits? The letter offered no clue. So, with a sinking heart, I plunged into the morass of trying to get sense from a telecoms company.

A couple of months ago, Money Mail produced an excellent piece showing the best broadband deals. 

But while telecoms companies will throw their coats in the mud to welcome new customers, they are rather less helpful to those of us who merely wish to maintain what we have or, heaven forfend, actually cut our bills.

Why is it that, to compare the full details of an offer, I must enter my full address? Only after starting an order can we discover vital things such as the cost of phone add-ons, extra TV channels and watching in high definition.

I can’t be the only one who fears that, just by researching and comparing, I could find that my phone, broadband and TV leap to another company.

These companies take us for mugs on their websites. BT’s offered me an upgrade to precisely the broadband speed I have now for £8 a month more. If I wanted the bells and whistles that should be part of a decent service, the price was even higher.

My monthly bill had been about £54 for decent 60-megabit broadband, all-day phone calls and BT’s top TV package. 

But this has crept up to about £60 and was threatening to rise to about £75 within a month.

As any savvy consumer knows, the only way to bag a half-decent deal is to phone and negotiate.

A colleague spent five hours trudging through Virgin Media’s website and speaking to operators. There was no option on the website for him, as a loyal customer, to switch to a cheaper deal.

He did better than me. When I checked out Virgin, I could get no farther than a page asking for my name and address, which merely triggered an email saying someone would get in touch when services were available.

That’s strange, because my neighbour has Virgin and we used to have it. Unless the cables were dug up in a fit of pique after we left the firm, switching us back on should have been simple.

While telecoms companies will throw their coats in the mud to welcome new customers, they are rather less helpful to those of us who merely wish to maintain what we have

While telecoms companies will throw their coats in the mud to welcome new customers, they are rather less helpful to those of us who merely wish to maintain what we have

While telecoms companies will throw their coats in the mud to welcome new customers, they are rather less helpful to those of us who merely wish to maintain what we have

Another neighbour recently had TalkTalk install a 150-megabit superfast broadband connection.

I hang my head in shame with my measly 60 megabits, for which BT charges me several pounds a month more.

I dabbled briefly with switching but the Champions League is coming up; football has helped me through lockdown, so ditching BT Sport would be like kicking myself in the shins.

When I phoned BT, the robotic switchboard options didn’t include: ‘If we’ve just sent you a letter about your TV which tells you nothing, please press 1.’

I tweeted and, after 24 hours, was offered a customer retention number. The line was answered admirably quickly by a UK call centre. Hallelujah!

Let the negotiations begin. Would I like a megafast broadband connection with lots of back-up if things went wrong for the same as I was paying now? Yes please!

Except this offer wasn’t all it seemed. The price was actually what I would be paying after all my current discounts drop off and didn’t include phone calls, which are currently included in my deal.

After much negotiation, we agreed that I would keep my existing broadband with a 60-megabit speed guarantee for £23.99 a month and take a phone package of 500 minutes for £5 a month.

Now to the TV mystery. BT has teamed up with Now TV to offer new packages that cost more and offer fewer channels. 

Apparently, this is simplification. I was told I would lose National Geographic and Eurosport, among others. As an athletics fan and wildlife enthusiast, these were important potential losses.

We decided I should ditch all the TV except BT Sport HD, which would initially cost £15 a month, rising to £21.50 after three months. But, if I phoned up regularly, I might retain the £15 price.

Two hours later, a confirmation email arrived which bore little resemblance to what I had just agreed. I had been allocated an unlimited call plan at £11.58 and there was no mention of the TV.

Two days later, I summoned the energy to call again. This time, I was greeted by a marvellous lady who corrected my contract to the £5 call plan.

And the TV mystery took another twist. She told me I could just keep to the plan I had after the contract ran out and would retain my channel line-up. I would only lose services if I agreed to a new TV contract.

So, after hours of research and phone calls, I would be paying £53.99 for more or less the same service that was costing me £53.98 a year ago.

All I could think was, what an utter waste of time this was for all concerned.

But then came BT’s thunderbolt. You might have thought that, if you had agreed to a two-year contract in February, your price might be maintained for at least a few months.

BT, though, has introduced a clause allowing it to raise prices by 3.9 per cent plus CPI (Consumer Price Index) every March 31.

So, a week after we’d agreed the contract, an email informed me it planned to slap £6 a month on my bill. 

My broadband charge will rise by £1.43 a month and unlimited phone calls by 52p – yes, the unwanted unlimited calls have popped back (they have since been removed again).

Max 4K TV, meanwhile, will go up by no less than 16 per cent, to £29.

Where is the telecoms regulator in all this? Fast asleep at its terminal, it seems.

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This post first appeared on Dailymail.co.uk

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