British customer service: Can it get any worse?

It’s been almost four months since arriving in England. We moved into a flat on the 30th of August. Can I get something as fundamental as a working phone line in that time? No that’s apparently too much to ask for. I’ve received some poor customer in my day but BT takes the cake.

It took me weeks just to get through to someone at BT to order the line. Once I got through they argued that there were no phone lines to the property. The property has a number of working lines. Then they argued that the previous tenants hadn’t cancelled their account. The previous tenants were long gone and had in fact cancelled their account weeks if not months before. Finally the line started working almost by accident it seems. Our ability to make and receive calls would come and go but at least the line could support an Internet connect through Virgin Media using DSL.

Yesterday the Internet connection no longer worked. I originally appreciated Virgin’s customer service but it seems that extends only as long as you are trying to become a customer and ceases once you’re signed up. No one from Virgin will help me without me first calling a special number with a per-minute charge. I figured its probably a BT problem anyway since the Internet connection relies on a working phone line so I called BT. I eventually got through to someone at BT only to be informed that the phone number I quoted is not active and they have no record of me ever opening an account.

So now we have no telephone and no Internet connection and I have to start all over again. Four months down the road.

Is this really the kind of service British folks put up with? Canada isn’t perfect but it was never this bad.

End of rant.



  • No, in general, that isn't the kind of service we put up with. Waiting weeks to speak to someone at BT seems somwhat ridiculous; I've had to contact them before about a faulty line and got through immediately, with the engineer coming out the next day....

  • You have my sympathies when it comes to BT. After moving house it took as with you, a number of days to get through, then just over a month to get a phone line working (which was fully installed and in 'emergency calls only' mode, it just needed someone at an exchange probably to flick a bit).
    After that our ISP Be ( got ADSL2+ configured, router delivered and perfect service running in just five days which was faster than they promised.
    BT are quite useless and quite incompetent. If I could I'd never do business with them again, the pain of surfing via a mobile phone as a modem is too great. :/

  • In the last 8 or so years of being with Telewest (now Virgin Media) the service I have had is pretty decent, set top boxes have been replaced pretty quick and the internet I have never had a problem with (touch wood).

    As for BT I did enquire about a land line about a year ago for a flat I was staying in and it had all the BT fixtures etc already installed but they were telling me that in order to flick a switch on their side if would cost me over £100 to get the landline activated again which for me was crazy so I just got a contract mobile phone!

    From the sounds of it you just spoke to a few stupid people on the other end of the support line.

    I hope you get it resolved as I know how frustrating it can be to get "set-up".

  • Welcome to England Kenny. And welcome to the 'BT experience' :(

  • Sorry to say your experience isn't abnormal. I've heard nothing but horror stories about BT.

  • Having just experienced one long running phone problem + now another disconnection for no apparent reason other than we share a building with someone with the same provider (Virgin) it seems that a big part of the problem must be attributable to poorly written software. That and poor training of staff to use the software. We were bounced around through different departments many times who either (a) said that they could see the problem but weren't able to do anything about it and would transfer us to some one who could or (b) said they would sort it out and ring us back (ho, ho, ho). Venting aside, we eventuially got hold of someone who after a week of effort managed to sort us out. Now we're experiencing a similar problem, he's going to look into it today.

    As for BT though, don't get me started - we used to get cut off by them on a regular basis until we said never again.

  • I had nearly the exact same experience moving to the US, even without the benefit of the government-style bureaucracy of BT. They even put a credit limit on my account due to a lack of credit history.

    I think the conclusion should be: phone companies are basically evil.

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