Friday, January 11, 2008

British Telecom and Evil Sales Tactics

Not a Haskell post, just a rant about how evil British Telecom (BT) are.

When I got home this Christmas I was welcomed with a router sitting near the computer, and asked to "install it". This perplexed me - when I left my parents left I had already set up broadband, with a wireless router, and it was all working perfectly. I chose to go with BT for my parents, because BT should be the simplest choice - they already have a BT bill, and a BT line, so adding a broadband should be simple. Also, if anything goes wrong, then it has to be a problem with BT.

The package I signed my parents up to came with a really rubbish little USB modem, which I replaced with a nice wireless router with 4 wired ports from Ebuyer. It also had a 20Gb/month limit, with warnings if we went over the limit. Based on talking to my brother (who still lives at home, and is the largest internet user), I suspect we transfer around 15Gb/month.

However, while I was away at Uni, someone from BT phoned up the house. Unfortunately, my Dad answered. My Dad is not qualified to deal with computers. If he wants to "visit" a website he writes down the address on a post-it note and places it near the computer, to be printed out. The person on the end of the phone told my Dad that in we could upgrade our package, making it 4 times faster and £6/month cheaper, and not changing anything else. He agreed, and entered into an 18 month contract with this new plan.

As part of this new plan, we got a wireless router, which is currently sitting in a cupboard somewhere (its inferior to the £40 one from ebuyer in every way). We also got upgraded from 2Mb/s to 8Mb/s, a "significant increase in speed". However, in practice, that makes absolutely no difference. I tried explaining this to people at BT, and they resolutely claimed it was 4 times faster. The real kick in the teeth though is that this new package is limited to 8Gb/month, and any additional usage is charged. This is particularly dangerous: if for example a trojan ends up on the machine, it could run up expensive bills. An 8Gb limit is most definitely not "the same" as our original plan, which was chosen based on what we actually needed.

Over Christmas I had the fun job of trying to sort this out. I rang up BT several times, spent a lot of time listening to bad music and got repeatedly transferred between departments. If the largest telecom company in Britain can't run a call centre, who can? If someone lies to you while selling broadband do you want complaints, broadband, or sales? The answer turned out to be broadband technical support. In the end, after explaining what happened, I got told that they would review the sales call and check if the person selling the contract had lied.

A week later, they phoned back and admitted that we had been completely missold the package. We are now back on the 20Gb/month quota, with a £3/month cost reduction. I had originally chosen to go with BT to keep things "simple". Had I realised that actually trying to get through to anyone sensible was a nightmare, and that they would phone up my parents and lie to them, I would have chosen differently! It's too much effort to change now, but I strongly recommend that anyone else chooses an alternative provider. BT is not cheapest, does not provide the best service, and is not the simplest. There is absolutely no reason to go with BT.

My personal choice of internet provider is Eclipse. If you do choose to go with them, and use the referral code "NMITCHELL" I get some money off my bill, but I strongly recommend them even if you don't use that code. Compared to my parents, I pay half the cost. I have a limit of 20Gb/month, but only counting between 6pm and midnight - sensibly encouraging people to perform massive downloads at off-peak times. If I go over the quota, I get a few warnings, then they start throttling the service, never charging me money or cutting me off. Of course, at such a large quota active only at certain times, it would be a challenge to exceed it. The email support is fantastic, and the web interface is excellent - while setting up an account you get hourly updates on each aspect. I was able to transfer my broadband from one house to another, on a laptop I borrowed for 2 minutes, while in Germany. It isn't the absolute cheapest, but for only a few extra pounds per month, you get a superb service.

1 comment:

Magnus said...

Thanks for the tip on eclipse. Our 12-month contract is about to run out so I've begun looking around for a cheaper replacement (2Mbs, unlimited DL, £20/month). Eclipse looks better than anything I've looked at so far. I'll make sure to remember the code as well :-)