BT accused of being incomprehensible

Hard-to-understand bills and special offers could be misleading customers

British Telecommunications (quote: BT) finds itself in more trouble Thursday -- this time with the Plain English Campaign, which accuses the telco of being incomprehensible.

The Plain English Campaign has been inundated with complaints about BT, its baffling billing system and hard-to-understand discount schemes. It is not the first time customers have questioned BT's complex set of prices. At a select committee grilling in December, MPs pleaded with managing director Sir Peter Bonfield to simplify bills.

Spokesman for the Plain English Campaign John Lister believes BT is one of the worst offenders. "We were sent a straightforward letter with the most baffling set of footnotes we have ever seen," he says. "Particularly bills seem to be causing a lot of confusion. It is often a case of take away the number you first thought and add your granny's age. It is completely baffling and BT seems to get confused with the structure themselves," he says.

As well as complaints about bills and the structure of BT's various payment schemes, customers have also complained about intrusive phone calls. "You get called -- normally during Coronation Street or EastEnders -- and say yes to something you don't want just to get rid of them," says Lister. One woman complained that she had been put on the Home Highway scheme when she didn't even own a PC.

For its part, BT claims "anyone can take small print and take the mickey out of it". It insists that schemes like BT Together are designed to simplify price structures rather than confuse but admits the schemes can be hard to understand. "It does take a bit of thought to work out which one is best for you," says a spokesman.

He claims the telco is working towards "greater clarity on bills" but defends its right to phone up customers. "We have no wish to phone up customers who don't want to hear from us and if the majority found it intrusive we wouldn't do it," he says. "It is to help guide customers."

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