When you have only 1 choice of ISP and they know it, getting them to do anything for you or treat you fairly can be incredibly difficult.
Since about 3 months ago, my already slow but stable internet connection started to fail spectacularly. If I did not receive timeout errors when I loaded a webpage, I could be waiting 10 minutes before being able to read anything on that website.
It is semi-usable for about 10 minutes a day, and works for extremely low bandwidth operations such as instant messaging. Sometimes.
I had started to hear from my neighbours and nearby family that they were suffering in a similar way from this drop in stability. So on December 7th, I lodged a complaint with BT.
The conversations that ensued initially followed a pattern approximately as follows:
Me: I am experiencing an extremely slow or unusable internet service.
BT: Sorry to hear it, what sort of speeds are you getting?
Me: I haven’t any specific numbers, but webpages almost never load.
BT (assertion no.1): This is due to using wireless devices, please try using a wired device.
Me: Incorrect, I have the same problem on my desktop which is wired straight in to the router.
BT (assertion no.2): We have tested your line and are reporting 576 kbps downstream.
Me: That would be OK if the connection was stable. But it is not based on my experience using it. This affects the average speed to be much less than what you are asserting.
BT: Please do a speed test on the wired device with no other devices connected to the network and we will call you back.
As you can see, there are assertions going on and not a whole lot of listening. I agreed to do the tests over the space of 6 days and collate that information. The tests were started late at night to give them a best case scenario for the results. Here is what I got.
Day 3: The connection was not stable enough to begin the test, so we score a zero.
Day 4: The connection was not stable enough to begin the test, so we score a zero.
Day 5: The connection was not stable enough to begin the test, so we score a zero.
Day 6: The connection was not stable enough to begin the test, so we score a zero.
So, collating the data I interpolated the following information:
The average speed across 6 days is calculated by the sum of the averages for each day divided by the number of days.
This looks like so:
=207+231+0+0+0+0 / 6
Since their advertised speed is 512 kbps, I calculated the quality of their service as a percentage of the advertised service:
=73 / 512
BT offer their standard broadband at £20 per calendar month.
14% of £20 is £2.80
I thought I would be fair and attempt to seek an amendment to the subscription of the broadband service of £5 per month unless the problem was fixed.
Other information I interpolated from this data is that the upstream speed had low variance (meaning it was stable) and the downstream speed had huge variance (indicating instability).
To understand this for yourself, look at the images above and notice the orange (upload) line does not go up and down very much, and the blue line (download) is all over the place.
Anyway, having done this I awaited the call back from the complaints department. The following simplified exchange happens over the period of several (10 or more) phonecalls.
BT: How did you get on with the tests?
Me: Explains the situation as I have done above here.
BT: Did you use a wired device or a wireless device?
Me: Wired for the tests, but I also did tests on wireless devices yielding similar results. My local network is not the problem, clearly.
BT: Your line speed only supports 512 kbps so that is slow
Me: That is not the issue, the issue is clearly with stability, as I have explained from the tests you asked me to complete.
BT: We are testing your line and getting 512 kbps downstream.
Me: Your tests are for speed, not stability. I have explained the problem.
BT: We will not be able to fix the problem at this stage as there is no fault on your line, so there is no point in sending an engineer.
Me: So, as a customer in the UK I am protected by the consumer rights act, which states that if a service or goods are faulty, do not work as expected, or are not as described, I am entitled to repair, replacement or refund. Which option would BT like to go ahead with?
BT: We are offering you a good will gesture of £2.
Me: That’s not good enough, a one off payment of £2 reflects neither the time I have wasted with this nor does it reflect a fair remit for the drop in service quality.
BT: We are offering you a good will gesture of £10.
Me: Again, not good enough. Since you are unable to fix the problem, I am looking for a drop in subscription price to reflect service quality until the problem is fixed at least.
BT moves me from the complaints department to the products and services department.
BT: We can offer you a discount of £8 a month meaning you pay £12 a month.
Me: Considering the amount of time put in on my part, and the level of service being provided, I still do not feel like that is a fair compromise on your part.
BT: What would you be willing to pay for the subscription at this point?
Me: Based on my calculations I am receiving 14% of the advertised service at time of sale, which is £2.80, but I am willing to compromise somewhat and pay as much as £5 per month for the service. I am also willing to overlook the 9 hours of my personal time so far that you have used up, which at my market value would be £135.00
BT: I need to speak with my manager about this, please hold the line?
Me: Holds the line for 15 minutes which is fine since I am not paying for the call.
BT: I have spoken with my manager and he thinks it is fair, so we are going to reduce your subscription down to £5 a month for 12 months, and also authorise the £10 good will gesture made by the complaints department.
Me: Thank you, that is satisfactory.
What is not mentioned enough here is that I had to repeat myself while explaining the problem more than 15 times in the 5 weeks during the various phone calls. It’s enough to drive the calmest of people to distraction as you realise that they are leading you in circles hoping that you give up and they do not have to recompense you. Which so I hear, happens all too often, as customers lose hope of being treated fairly by BT. The number of times they rattled off irrelevant and previously answered questions as if they completely ignored my previous answers is maddening.
The operation of BT in this widespread problem has been catastrophically appalling, and I struggle to think of a more frustrating and subversive way that you could disrespect and displease your paying customers.
I should not have had to argue like I did to be given the remit I was given, nor should anyone going through this nonsense situation.
If I had another choice of ISP I would not be able to jump ship quick enough.
If you are having service issues and your ISP is not responding appropriately, remember as a consumer in the UK you have several rights which must be honoured by law. I urge people not to give up and to push for an outcome that reflects justice.
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I had to call BT back because they forgot to reduce my subscription to the £5 a month that they had promised they would do. Here is a recording that outlines the gist of my complaint, and of them agreeing to do this rebate:
The number he gave me to the services department was 0800800150.
The call eventually went well and ended on a positive note, however…
A month later I receive my BT bill, and I am still paying £12 a month for broadband instead of £5 a month. So I would have to contact BT AGAIN! I still stand by how annoyed I was at this point - Totally beyond ridiculous. I began my new complaint enquiry through the live chat:
A phone call follows where things fortunately get sorted out relatively quickly: