Fringe Box



Opinion: If Telephone Bills Bring You Down Read On…

Published on: 9 Feb, 2013
Updated on: 9 Feb, 2013

BT BillBy Martin Giles

Our telephone bill arrived this week.  I opened it with resignation. £174.

I am always surprised at how much it is and rushed to see where we have been profligate with our calls. In fact, it was clear that we hadn’t been,  it was simply that when all the elements were added up: line rental; call minder; broadband; and call charges, they were approaching £200 for the quarter.

“Oh well,’ I thought,” Just cough up I suppose.” Like most these days, our family is heavily dependent on our phone and internet connections. Well perhaps dependent is too strong, we would survive without them, I suppose, but we do rely on them and it is hard to imagine life without them now. Our sons, 19 and 17, can’t even remember life without the internet, in the same way that I cannot remember life without television.

But then I thought, “Hang on, different suppliers are advertising cheap rates for these services all the time.” I started reading the enclosed brochure and better deals seemed to be on offer, even from BT, so I rang them up.

Opinion Logo 2“Let me look at your usage profile,” said the friendly and helpful BT employee, ‘Laura’. “Oh I see that you have separate internet and telephone contracts!”

I felt foolish. How could I have made such an obvious error? Well because, I suppose, no one had actually explained to me that it was more expensive and I felt I had more valuable things to do with my time than read BT brochures. Obviously I was wrong. It had been an expensive error.

Within minutes Laura was telling me that with the new bundle she had put together I would save £33 a quarter and get free evening calls and even faster line speed. “That’s great!” I said.

Obviously, I would never make a good poker player. A split second too late I realised that I should have said, “Are you sure that is the very best you can do? I am sure I have seen adverts from other suppliers with better offers than that.”

But it was too late, and instead I was thanking Laura as if she was giving me the money personally.

So perhaps there are still better deals to be had out there but at least our household will be paying £130 a year less because of just one fairly short phone call.

Perhaps it is just unrealistic nostalgia to think that there was a time when pricing structures were simpler and fairer, that different customers were not charged different prices for the same service.

Somehow though I still feel uncomfortable that companies behave like this. Trying it on with us until we challenge them, then quickly conceding, leaving us smugly thinking that we have achieved a good deal and that we are paying less than others who have not been as bright as we have been.

And somehow it seems worse that it is BT, a company I grew up with, spawned from the GPO, that had the crown as its badge and was a national institution more than a commercial company, that has done this.

I suppose it is just me and I am being too sentimental – or do you feel that too?

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