Helen Martin: To Infinity and beyond a joke

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IF you are one of the three in four families who don’t get the broadband speed you were promised, I apologise. But when I read that statistic I laughed to think that was all some people had to complain about.

Let me take you back a couple of months when we had been reasonably happy with our TV, phone and broadband package from BT for about six or seven years. One day a letter arrived to say the movie package was ending but for the same money customers would get Netflix. All we had to do was phone.

I did so, was assured that the Sky Sports channels would still be available for Himself, and was sent a YouView box a few days later.

Before we installed it, Sky Sports and BT Sport disappeared on the old box. Now I could bore you rigid by reporting each of the next 25 phone calls, the efforts to follow instructions from Delhi that might reset the box, the call telling us to go ahead and install the new box, then rip it out again . . . but cutting to the chase, it turned out we don’t live in an “Infinity” area so the new box was never going to work anyway. We had been mis-sold, and nor could they restore the sports channels (we’d long since abandoned the movie plan) on the old box. Why? Because they had changed the way they deliver extra channels – only through Infinity, which hadn’t been installed in our area.

After the complaint had gone grindingly slowly through the BT system, and a day before I would have been entitled to set the Ombudsman on them, they called me to admit they couldn’t provide us with a TV service at all. Case closed. Boxes sent back. That was when I rang them back asking for an accurate quote on what remained . . . telephone line rental, calls and broadband. I’ll spare you the next eight phone calls, but suffice to say each time I was given a different price ranging from £50 to £43 a month. They couldn’t agree a price but, even if they had, it was at least twice the going rate of the competition.

I put in another complaint. Apparently you have to do this so they don’t penalise you for walking out on your contract. Once again, when they had just one more day to respond, I got an e-mail asking me to call the complaints manager back as soon as possible within set hours. Unfortunately, it kept going to her voicemail bearing a message she had left the previous weekend.

As luck would have it, a Sky salesman happened to call, and offered us the TV package including all Sky Sports channels, the box and new dish, phone line rental, calls package and broadband for £38.

At that point I rang BT’s cancellation team. An earnest young man told me he couldn’t understand what his colleagues had told me because the price I should have been given was £32!

I told him we were leaving, adding that I didn’t believe we had ever agreed a new contract for phone and broadband anyway, and asked who I could complain to in BT about the complaints department. The man thought this was very funny but eventually admitted there was no-one. Apparently only God is above the complaints team. And so much for Infinity.

The punchline to all this is that we later discovered our upstairs neighbour, who simply didn’t bother responding to that initial letter, still has his old BT Vision box and still gets all his sports channels . . . although who knows at what cost?

FIRMS NEED TOUGH LOVE

Instead of whining about the cost of benefits, why don’t the Tories toughen up against employers who don’t pay enough? Driving wages up would save in-work benefits, yield more in tax and encourage the long-term unemployed to work. If a company can only afford to operate by paying its staff derisory wages, it isn’t viable.

Put brakes on licence fee tax

THERE’S nothing wrong with the BBC paying Chris Evans £1 million a year to take over from Jeremy Clarkson. Top Gear’s a top seller that makes millions. The obscenity is hitting families who have to use food banks with a TV Licence “tax”.

Cor blimey! It’s Jeremy who’s talking sense

SO Labour chiefs thought they were in trouble before the BBC Newsnight debate? I’d love to have been a fly on the wall at party HQ following the broadcast.

Jeremy Corbyn, regarded by some as the far-left joke candidate, wiped the floor with Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, to rapturous applause from the audience.

And there’s the nub of their problem. Party members, MPs and the whole Labour machine are headed along one route, just a degree or two removed from the Tories, and oblivious to the fact that most of the public and Jeremy Corbyn, not to mention the SNP, are all headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve had my fill of bottle claims

THE Scottish Grocers Federation is at odds with Zero Waste Scotland’s plans to introduce a deposit return on bottles and cans. It says convenience stores can’t cope with the work. Funny how, in the days before supermarkets existed at all and when wee shops were always busy, we all managed perfectly well returning lemonade bottles, milk bottles and jam jars.