Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 29/7/2005Oh, naughty BT. "Free phone calls for a year!

Wednesday 29/7/2005

Oh, naughty BT. "Free phone calls for a year!" for those on BT Broadband — neglecting to mention that if you're on the 1GB per month capped service, you can use all that up in three hours. Then you get to pay more. Oddly, "Three free hours of phone calls a month, and then you have to pay extra for all your Web access too!" never quite made it past the review stage of the advertising campaign.

Now, BT's said sorry and it won't do it again — well, it made a very feeble excuse which we won't embarrass it by quoting — but there's a curious echo here of yet another bad deal, BT Fusion. That too looked quite good if you accepted BT's headline numbers, but broke down if you peered further in. A mobile at landline rates? Yes, if you use it as a landline — but they're not particularly good landline rates, and some things are screamingly more expensive.

The connection between the two is that the offending advert was a direct mailing to BT Broadband customers, and BT Fusion will be sold only by direct marketing to those selfsame BT Broadband customers. At the launch Ian Livingston, CEO of BT Retail, was asked why Fusion was not being made more widely available. BT had spent so much on developing it, he said, that it wanted to keep it to itself for the time being. In conversations afterwards, a more plausible explanation was forthcoming from some independent vendors — nobody else would touch it with a bargepole.

Which raises the suspicion that BT looks upon its broadband customers as a rather dull herd of cattle who'll make with the milk no matter how coarse the grass. That can't be true, of course, such patronising attitudes went out with the GPO and we're now in the time of the customer-centred, competitive, responsive BT. It keeps telling us so.

It's almost worth signing up to BT Broadband just to keep an eye on what else it's up to...

Oh, and a quick aside from the man's world of anti-virus software. Graeme "Too Busy To Scoop" Wearden was chatting to Sophos superstar Graham Cluley, who has previously graced the Diary because of his engagingly unguarded way with words. This time, the subject was safe: a discussion about the rising numbers of viruses out there. Nevertheless, a Sophos PR was on hand, just to make sure.

The conversation turned to gangs, these mysterious groups of people thought to be behind much of the online criminality these days. "How many gangs are there?" asked Wearden. "Don't really know," said Cluley. "It depends what you mean by a gang. Two people could be a gang. When I was at school, I used to have an invisible friend. We were a gang!"

Graeme said nothing. Even the PR seemed dumbstruck, but eventually the sight of him squirming in utter discomfort broke the spell and they all moved on. Swiftly.