News & Insight

Why you always have to check a BT bill extra carefully

Christian Nellemann

Have you been with BT for a long time? You might want to read this

Sometimes, BT’s ability to frustrate its customers surprises even me – someone who’s been fighting their monopoly over telecoms for 15 years.

This week, news has emerged revealing that many BT customers have been paying £3.90 a quarter for the past 20 years to rent their handsets. And yes, you read that correctly – renting phones for £16 a year that can now be bought for less than a fiver.

Renting a landline phone was common 20 years ago, but while everyone else has moved on, BT has just kept on charging – refusing to notify customers when they reach the end of their 12 or 24-month contracts. Unfortunately, it’s something that has affected older people in particular, who’ve failed to notice the ‘equipment’ charge on their bill.

When a company gets this big, it’s dangerous for customers

A lot of customers on this outdated contract have inevitably replaced their phones, and probably more than once, adding insult to injury. But the extent of this farcical problem shouldn’t surprise anyone – and it’s indicative of a far bigger issue.

BT is too big. It’s bloated, doing outdated business in an outdated way and failing to adapt to customer needs in the manner of its smaller rivals. Along with its subsidiary Openreach, it routinely fails its customers – not only with dishonest charges but through dire service.

The fact is, any business worth its salt would notice if it was charging its customers for something they didn’t need for 20 years. The 130,000 small businesses I work with can’t do things like that, because the satisfaction of their customers has a meaningful impact on their success. And herein lies the problem: BT is so big and invincible that it doesn’t matter whether it makes customers happy or not. BT doesn’t care if its customers are overcharged or underappreciated, because their own success will be unaffected either way.

And if the merger between BT and EE goes ahead as planned, and Openreach isn’t removed from its control, BT will get even bigger. And in this case, bigger will not mean better; it will mean much, much worse.