So today I’d like to tell you a story about my home broadband provider. They’re the same people who supply my mobile phone – EE. I chose them because they were, if I’m honest, cheap.
Things rapidly went downhill within months of choosing them for my home phone and fibre broadband because they put their prices up mid-contract. As this is a bit of a no-no they offered me the option of getting out of the contract. I was going to take it, but they offered me a discount on the monthly line-rental so I stayed.
Other than that, I’ve been relatively happy until last month, when we noticed that we were missing calls.
Now, I’m pretty familiar with the whole telephone line / LLU (Local Loop Unbundling) / FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) stuff as I used to work with an ISP. I’m also VERY familiar with BT Openreach – the company which fix faults on behalf of providers. They’re totally locked down and you can’t – as a customer – contact them directly. They feed back to the providers, but reports usually lack any real information and there’s never any contact between the engineers on the ground and the providers.
So, if a BT Openreach engineer was to turn up at my house and say, “Oh yeah, sorry about this, the fault is outside your property and you won’t be charged”, but THEN somehow a report comes back to the provider that is IS in the property and IS our fault (and chargeable), there’s pretty much nothing I can do as a customer.
Believe me I know, this has happened before. I’ve been charged onto my bill for an engineer visit I wasn’t even made aware of and I still had to pay.
Anyway. Many weeks ago I found that our home phone wasn’t ringing when people called it. However, knowing what I do, I assumed it was an internal issue. Wonky cables, extension leads and what-not. I unplugged everything and plugged in my phone directly to the master socket. however, after ringing it from my mobile it still didn’t ring – even though every other function did (I can make calls and, if I somehow answer at the right time, I can talk to people).
“Pah, perhaps it’s the phone”, thought I. So I went out and got another one. Same deal, even directly into the shiny BT faceplate that you get as a fibre customer.
So I called EE and quickly found that there isn’t actually an option for voice faults. There’s an option for “EETV faults” and another for “Mobile phone faults” plus one for “Home broadband faults” but not one for home telephone faults. I ended up going through the the automated system for “Home broadband faults” because that was as close as I could get.
The automated system asks for your home phone number, so I put that in, then I get put through to someone in India who asks me for my home phone number. Strange, a bad start, but I go through all the questions and they run a line test – it finds an “external fault” and they get BT Openreach working on it.
I left it a few days and called back. The rep on the “Home broadband” line tells me that they need to get an engineer out to my property to rectify the issue. I agree to this, we set a date and I book some time off work.
I call EE back, ask “What happened to the engineer” and was told that he’d been and “checked the line and all is now fine”. I told them this hadn’t happened, but – surprise, surprise – these are the “completely accurate” notes on the BT Openreach report.
So I tell them that my phone STILL doesn’t ring when someone calls, but then EE tell me that “another” engineer visit “could be chargeable” because the line had been signed off as working.
I tried to explain to the rep that an engineer hadn’t been and that it was impossible for him / her to have “checked” the line line properly as, well, nobody turned up. However, this logical reasoning didn’t seem to fully embed, and I was told again that it could be chargeable.
At this point I told them that I’d be raising a complaint, but I was about to go on holiday anyway, so I’d pick it up when I returned. This was some weeks ago now, but when I returned from holiday I found several voicemails from EE on my home phone about whether I’d like my “chargeable” engineer visit.
Yep, EE were trying to call me on the phone line that DOESN’T RING.
So I’ve chased it in recent days. I’ve emailed my complaint to them (there’s an online actual contact system, which I was surprised about) and they apologised, stating that this would be looked into and a fault would be re-opened (as apparently the other one had closed).
The next email told me that yes, there was definitely an external fault (presumably still the first one that BT had “fixed” magically) and it would be rectified “within 2-4 working days”.
6 working days later, no response. I contacted them by phone and was told that the fault had been “closed as we hadn’t heard back from you”. I asked them how they’d tried to contact me and, to my surprise, they admitted (after I asked a further three times) that they hadn’t actually bothered. At this point I gave up with the call-centre, as they started asking me to plug it into the master socket, which it had been ever since the fault was opened many weeks ago (and I’d told them I’d done several times).
I emailed, again raising a complaint, asking why they’d not chased it up and why they’d simply “assumed” that it was fixed.
EE then email back, stating that they’re unable to find any record of my initial complaint, but that – GUESS WHAT – there’s an “external fault” on our line.
Yep, I’m stuck in a loop.
1 – EE use BT systems to check line. It shows external fault
2 – BT Openreach lie and state that they’ve attended our property or rectified the fault at the exchange or some other rubbish
3 – Nobody at EE bothers to get in touch with us.
4 – I end up chasing, telling you that the fault still exists, then we go back to step 1 and the process loops around again while we wait another few weeks with a phone that doesn’t ring
Put simply, the fact that BT Openreach send very generic reports (lacking any real detail) to ISP’s and providers, which then go through out-sourced foreign call centres, means that I’m getting no further. What annoys me is that BT TESTS SHOW AN EXTERNAL FAULT. I know that providers have to use an online BT Openreach system to test these lines, so I’m annoyed that BT Openreach can sign off a line as “working” when their own systems clearly state otherwise.
It’s a good job BT aren’t responsible for any big networks or anything…