I wanted to make a few telephone calls tonight. Nothing that couldn't wait, so I wanted them to be free. Last Friday evening I signed up for a 12 month BT contract in exchange for free weekend and evening calls. A year long commitment isn't a problem - I've just taken a 12 month broadband contract with O2 so I need a BT line. In fact the two contracts being in sync will be an advantage if I want to change providers in the future.
So have BT actioned my new calling plan with free evening calls? I dial 150. Big mistake. After many menus, press 1, press 2, etc I appear to be talking to an offshore call centre. After 15 minutes I am assured my new calling plan has been in force since Monday. I am sceptical about this. I have an online BT account and in the recent calls tab I can see a call from Monday evening lasting 16 minutes billed at 27p. If I was on the new plan the call would be free.
My call is transferred to e-billing. After much delay, and constant reference to my 'broadband' by an operator who is working on auto-pilot in the wrong department I am informed they only have a verified bill until the end of March. So I have more information about my account than BT? Yes, apparently.
I ask for my call to be transferred to a manager. 'I have been told my evenng calls have been free since monday, but my account shows you are charging for them.'
'We can refund the 27p' offers the manager. I explain he is missing the point.
BT has been heavily criticised for its latest marketing wheeze - free weekend calls, but a 2000% cost increase for evening calls. You can avoid this by signing a contract for 12 months. But their operators can't tell you with any confidence when the contract is effective.
If I make 60 minute calls tonight will they be free, or cost 90p each? I have no idea and neither does BT.
I aksed the manager to have someone from customer care call me - because I planned to complain to Ofcom. When asked for the spelling of his name he hung up.
BT has decided to extract more spend from its customers - but (like British Gas) will probably learn the hard way that more value can come at great cost - fewer customers.
UPDATE 10th April 07.45 hrs. I was so frustrated after writing the above post that I copied and pasted it as an email to BT's chief executive Ben Verwaayen. To my surprise he personally replied at 07.45 this morning to say:
"I will ask our high level complaints team to look into this
Don't hold your breath, but I'll keep you posted.