Some situations in the Channel seem nothing short ludicrous. This weekend Comms Business became aware that BT Phone Book has issued charges to several service providers (possibly hundreds) for listings they knew nothing about which have been back dated five years, in some cases even longer!
David Dungay, Editor of Comms Business, spoke to Clifford Norton, MD of Channel Telecom, this morning who said he has been issued with a £20,000 bill! “These charges have come out of nowhere and speaking to our customers they are completely unaware they even have listings in the BT Phone Book. They say they have signed contracts but we haven’t seen any and have been told we have to pay up.”
BT sprang the charges on several service providers in a letter which said “As part of our ongoing audit of our billing systems, the BT Phone Book team is writing to inform you that we have identified Special Phone Book Entries that have been incorrectly charged. Our audit has confirmed that you have not been billed for some Special Phone Book Entries. We are sorry for this issue.”
Norton stated, “Some of my customers have moved on, how can I bill them? Where does this leave my business and all the other SP’s out there? Also, I spoke to a small garage who has been given a bill of over £3,000 who simply can’t pay it. This could seriously impact his business or even cause him to go under, and for charges he knew nothing about. This is completely unfair.”
FCS has already put a working group together and has had an initial discussion with BT – which has resulted in them pushing the deadline for notification of a dispute back to 90 days. This group is due to meet with BT on October 19th.
For many, there will be a sense of déjà vu as in 2012 it was widely reported that the group responsible for BT Phone Book were planning to backdate charges that had been accumulated from up to five years earlier. At the time, the industry kicked back against this unfair system and full scale negotiations were launched. After much dispute, the matter was resolved under the agreement that charges would be backdated from twelve months only. This offering was paired with stern assurances from BT Phone Book that this situation would never arise again.
Currently Openreach has around 520 service providers it deals with and charges across the market could run into the millions. Are service providers liable for this debt? How many others out there have been given a bill who haven’t come forward? There are still many questions to be answered.
If this issue is impacting you we suggest you contact the FCS immediately for advice and join the discussion.
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