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BT Phone Book Digs Heels in Over Back-Billing

Just last month we reported on a situation which emerged where BT Phone Book has back-billed companies for phone book entries for up to six years! Invoices have been issued to Channel suppliers with partner bases, many of whom were not even aware they were included in the service and were certainly not expecting a bill for five years of services. Services were meant to be billed through Openreach contracts leaving some providers with bills in the tens of thousands of pounds!

Today, the FCS released a letter to its members after it has spent the last 6 weeks meeting with members and BT in order to resolve the issue.

On Friday 24 November, there was a call between the FCS working group for Special Phone Book Entries, BT Phone Books, BT Revenue Assurance and Openreach.

In a letter to members Catherine Gerosa, Head of Regulatory Affairs for FCS wrote:

“The purpose of the call was to hear BT’s position following the meeting that was held on 19 October where we set out the reasons why we did not accept the decision to back-bill for 6 years for entries that BT had discovered they had failed to bill for via your Openreach bill.

Disappointingly, the offer from BT was to reduce the back billing period to 3 years, with a suggestion of getting an independent party to consider the situation if FCS members were not happy with the offer. We have formally confirmed to BT Phone Books:

-We reject the offer of a back billing period of 3 years
-We maintain that there should be no back billing for unbilled entries, following the process agreed on the previous two occasions
-We are happy for the issue to be referred to an independent third party (at no cost to members)
-We expect invoices for unbilled entries that are due for collection in January to be suspended until the outcome of the independent review is known

BT did not confirm on the call that they would suspend the invoices: their stance is that customers have been benefiting from these services and therefore should pay for them.”

Unfortunately there is little understanding from BT even though they have not issued a trigger for providers to bill customers. Many customers will have moved on in the last six years which will leave providers in a predicament… how do you bill someone that isn’t a customer?

A BT spokesperson stated “We’re sorry for the issues that some communications providers have experienced with our billing system for Special Phone Book Entries.

“Systems issues meant that some communications providers were not charged for Special Phone Book Entries that appeared in the phone book.

“We’ve proactively contacted the communications providers affected to advise them of the issue and are reviewing our processes to prevent this from happening again.

“We are working with the Federation of Communication Services to agree how we can best work with their members to resolve this matter.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine