cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

brogden1
Dabbler
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-09-2008

Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Four weeks ago we were cut off by PlusNet due to being over credit limit:
Credit Limit: £70.00
Credit Used : £84.92
When I called their support line it turned out to be due to £74.25 worth of premium rate sex calls (one after the other) which had been incorrectly assigned to our bill. The first guy I spoke to was very helpful and when he found there had been several broadband disconnections during the period of the calls, he decided that it was a case of 'external intervention'. He agreed to reinstate the line and investigate. However, when the matter was picked up by staff on the next shift, they decided that my wife had made the calls. What followed was days of my time wasted trying to get PlusNet to look at the evidence:
1. I was at a meeting in London at the time of the calls (mid-week afternoon)
2. My wife could not get a dial tone at around the time of the calls
3. My wife and 2 year old and 5 year old daughters clearly would not have made calls to male oriented sex lines
4. One of the calls was connected 3 seconds after the previous ended (this fact advised by PN staff)
5. There broadband connection went down several times around the time (this fact advised by PN staff)
6. No computer equipment except the Netgear broadband modem/firewall/router was plugged in at the time of the calls as the room was being decorated, so that means it was not a malicious dialler.
7. We never have a fax/modem plugged in anyway, ditto 6 above.
Despite all this, PN have stone walled our correspondence and have refused to let me speak to a manager. I spent 1.5 hours on the phone to one supervisor who agreed that the evidence was 'compelling' that we had not made the calls but there was nothing he could do about it without 'conclusive proof'. I pointed out that any court would deal with this on the balance of probabilities, so why were PlusNet not giving us the benefit of the doubt and he said he was giving us the benefit of the doubt. Work that one out because I don't follow the logic of saying our case is very compelling (which clearly it is) and then refusing to do anything about it. This smacks of peer pressure from colleagues and so does the refusal to refer up the line to more senior management.
I wrote a letter to the Customer Services Director on the 11th August. This is in line with the PN complaints procedure and is necessary before I can take the case to independant arbitration, but I have never had a reply. Instead it was simply posted on the support system for the same support staff to deal with. I got a 2 liner from support staff saying there was nothing further to add.
I have reported the matter to Police who tried to contact PN to discuss the case but PN refused to give them any information without my username and password. The Policewoman described PN as 'totally unhelpful'. Despite that, PN have decided that they are now only prepared to change their decision if and when the Police finish their investigation and decide we did not make the calls. So by reporting the matter to the Police I have given PN another excuse to stonewall us and it is likely that the Police will not prceed with any investigation due to lack of help from PlusNet. A PN induced catch 22.
We have been with PN for 4 years for broadband at home and I also have business broadband with PN at the office. They have four more customers from me on the referal programme.
I am astonished at the way my wife and I have been treated. We have been without phone and broadband for a month and my mobile phone bill has £20 worth of calls to the PN support centre trying to resolve this. We also had relatives arrive from South Africa a couple of week ago and all their calls home had to be made on a mobile phone. All our calls for the last month are on our mobiles and this is obviously expensive.
This is even more astonishing when you consider that I have been with PN for a number of years and pay them more than £60 per month for business and home broadband. I only recently moved the phone to them because the broadband has been almost trouble free over that period.
I called last week and was told by a member of support staff that he would do his best to refer the matter up the line but that he could make no promises because it would have to go through his supervisor. I never heard back.
It is totally unacceptable to deny a customer access to the management team. I have been denied access by phone and by letter.
I am posting this in the hope that a more customer oriented member of PN staff will pick it up and refer it straight to a senior manager, or perhaps another customer will provide guidance on how we can get our phone and broadband back. Obviously I don't want to lose our phone number which we have had for years, so I am reluctant to have another line installed.
If anyone wants to see the support system postings then I will happily send them or post them on my web site.
Failing this, I will have to try to take the matter to alternative dispute resolution, but this may not be possible because despite my efforts and letter, PN senior management have not reviewed the case.
Or even better, perhaps PN will unwittingly issue a summons for unpaid charges so that it can be heard by a court.
52 REPLIES 52
glloyd
Rising Star
Posts: 1,670
Thanks: 20
Fixes: 1
Registered: ‎06-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

If they refuse to resolve your problem report it to OFCOM and take your custome elsewhere. To deny you a working phone is not acceptable.
itsme
Grafter
Posts: 5,924
Thanks: 3
Registered: ‎07-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

alanf
Aspiring Pro
Posts: 1,931
Thanks: 78
Fixes: 1
Registered: ‎17-10-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Quote from: glloyd
take your custome elsewhere.

The problem being that unless / until PN have a change of heart the disputed bill would have to be paid under protest before the line would be released to another supplier.
Plusnet charges £1.50 pm for Premium Rate Call Barring (not an advertised service but available on request) a facility that BT customers are offered free.
The only "good" part of this story is that the credit limit stopped the bill being much higher. If this had occurred during the period when it was taking PN weeks to confirm calls the disputed bill may have been much higher.
brogden1
Dabbler
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-09-2008

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Many thanks for the helpful replies. I have now submitted a formal complaint to Ofcom, although they do not investigate individual cases. So I now need to take this to ADR. Hopefully my submission will be accepted by the dispute resolution service, because although the matter has not been reviewed by PN senior management, I have tried my best to get it there, only to be stonewalled by junior staff.
alanf - my wife and I have considered paying off the bill and the rest of the contract so that we can go elsewhere but we are reluctant to pay it on principle. PlusNets method of handling this has clearly been designed to force me to pay by cutting me off. Clearly they could quite easily have set the disputed charges aside (which a supervisor originally agreed to do, but this decision was subsequently overridden by the supervisor on the next shift!) but they have chosen not to. Someone needs to challenge that practice. I wonder how many other customers have just paid for premium rate calls they didn't make due to being bullied or being embarrassed about the nature of the calls and so on. It's a PlusNet disgrace.
Rather than being angry (well I was very angry when they told me my wife must have made the calls) I am actually quite saddened because I have been with PN for 4 years with broadband and I moved the phone to them only a few months back because the broadband connection has been good (except when they accidentally deleted all the emails on their server a couple of years back). When a company you have grown to trust (and that you have recommended to many people) treats you in this way, you can't help but feel very let down. The cost of the disputed calls is not far off what I pay them every month in total for home broadband, business broadband at my office (I am Director of a web company and had PlusNet provide our business broadband due to reliability of the home broadband) and the phone contract. PlusNet actually have more to lose than I do, which is one of the bizarre things about the way they are treating me.
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Thanks: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Hi Brodgen1,
I've got a reply to you almost composed, but I just need to catch with some managers here before I actually post it.
brogden1
Dabbler
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-09-2008

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

For anyone else who needs it, you will find the PlusNet complaints procedure here:
http://www.plus.net/support/customer_service/contact_us/code_of_practice.shtml
However, when I wrote to the Customer Services Director as set out in PN code of practice, my letter was simply posted to support for a junior member of staff to reply with 'we have nothing further to add'.
So I have just been to http://www.cisas.org.uk/ to start ADR but find you are not able to start this process until 3 months has passed since your initial complaint to the company, or if you have a letter from the company stating that they agree the matter should go to ADR (e.g. if the company agrees the complaint will not be resolved inside the 3 months). Well since PN management have not seen my complaint, this is going to be difficult.
Oh, and I have now been automatically barred from the support system because my account is overdue. Good one. So my only method of communication is on this forum, hoping PlusNet management will pick this up, or by trying another letter and hoping it actually gets to the Customer Services Director.
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Thanks: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Hi Brogden1,
I'm afraid that we wouldn't be able to discuss your account with a member of the police, as they're essentially asking us to violate DPA and thus break the law.  We would only release details of your account should a court summons be made in the appropriate fashion.  I apologise if this felt like stonewalling, but we have to comply to DPA regulations, even when being asked for details from the police.
I can see that a member of the CSC has advised you that a RIPA form would need to be filled in and this link was given:
http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ripa/about-ripa/
Regarding the charging itself, I am extremely sorry that you have had to go through this saga.  However, this would be the same for any other telephony supplier - your phone line would not be reinstated (or rather the outbound call barring being removed) until the bill was paid.
Under no circumstances should you have been refused the right to escalate your call.  It should have been escalated either then, or a callback arranged for a later point in time.  I'll see what I can find out about that.  Looking at your ticket history, your ticket was escalated to one of the customer support centre managers, who duly responded to your ticket. Tickets 25897813, 25885596, 25858978, 25858555 have already been dealt with by a member of the management team.  I'm sorry that that did not meet with your satisfaction.
I've spoken to one of our senior managers here and he's going to have a look at your account after he comes out of a meeting and we'll get back to you then.
Thanks for your patience and again I'm very sorry for all of the hassle so far.
Editted: Typo on shouldn't, should have been should.
brogden1
Dabbler
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-09-2008

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

James,
DPA is the 2nd most used excuse for not doing anything (health & safety is no.1). Companies usually forget that the DPA is in place to protect me (your customer) and I have already given my express permission for PlusNet to provide any and all information that the Police request. A RIPA is unnecessary where I give my permission and it may cause the Police to abandon the investigation because there is a cost to them for issuing same. The investigating officer explained this to you but found the same as I - it fell on deaf ears.
If I take the time and trouble to write a letter to the Customer Services Director then that is who I expect a response from. At this stage, there are only two possible responses:
1. You have removed the disputed charges from my account and resinstated the line and broadband. We will discuss my costs and expenses when this has been done (I have £20 worth of mobile phone calls to your support centre just for starters).
2. You remain defiant in your existing handling of the matter and in which case I require a letter from you confirming that the matter has been reviewed by PlusNet Management and that you agree the matter can go to ADR at this stage.
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Thanks: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Hiya,
Quote
1. You have removed the disputed charges from my account and resinstated the line and broadband. We will discuss my costs and expenses when this has been done (I have £20 worth of mobile phone calls to your support centre just for starters).
2. You remain defiant in your existing handling of the matter and in which case I require a letter from you confirming that the matter has been reviewed by PlusNet Management and that you agree the matter can go to ADR at this stage.

This is why I've raised it with a senior manager here.  Ultimately it's not my call to make so I've asked someone else to look into this for you.
Please do bear in mind that the CSC staff are not lawyers.  They are instructed that a customer must pass DPA in order to discuss account details and they're only doing what they're told to do.  Even I don't know the minute ins and outs, but would always err on the safe side to avoid any future repurcussions.
brogden1
Dabbler
Posts: 15
Registered: ‎01-09-2008

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Quote
Please do bear in mind that the CSC staff are not lawyers.  They are instructed that a customer must pass DPA in order to discuss account details and they're only doing what they're told to do.  Even I don't know the minute ins and outs, but would always err on the safe side to avoid any future repurcussions.

Customers can rightly expect that CSC staff know enough about the subject matter to provide a service and this should include refering to someone with the relevant knowledge if it falls outside their own. You don't need to be a lawyer to use helpful common sense. Perhaps bear in mind that the Police Officer phoned me in exasperation and described PlusNet as 'totally unhelpful'. Is should not be beyond the wit of CSC staff to phone the Police back if they want to check identity and combined with my express permission the matter could have been resolved in minutes. What PlusNet CSC staff did was take the easy option and made life hard for the Police and me, the customer. The Police call was not even recorded on your system when I called CSC to find out why they had been so unhelpful to the Police, so you have no idea who the officer was or where she was from. Another indicator that you clearly have no interest in following this up - it's all up to me, your customer isn't it?

glloyd
Rising Star
Posts: 1,670
Thanks: 20
Fixes: 1
Registered: ‎06-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Quote from: Jameseh
Regarding the charging itself, I am extremely sorry that you have had to go through this saga.  However, this would be the same for any other telephony supplier - your phone line would not be reinstated (or rather the outbound call barring being removed) until the bill was paid.

This is not quite true. I had a dispute with BT over £300 worth of calls I did not make which lasted 9 months and at no time were my outgoing calls barred. In the case in question why was the braodband disconnected when it had nothing to do with the diusputed calls?
James
Grafter
Posts: 21,036
Thanks: 2
Registered: ‎04-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Because it's a single bill for broadband and home phone.
glloyd
Rising Star
Posts: 1,670
Thanks: 20
Fixes: 1
Registered: ‎06-04-2007

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Your giving a very good reason for people not to take BB and home phone in that case:(
Javert
Grafter
Posts: 241
Registered: ‎06-04-2008

Re: Premium Rate Numbers Incorrectly Assigned to Bill

Quote from: glloyd
In the case in question why was the braodband disconnected when it had nothing to do with the diusputed calls?

Quote from: Jameseh
Because it's a single bill for broadband and home phone.

Interesting!  I was looking forward to joining +Net for my home phone later next month after the contract my current BT “Plan” ends, so that I have the two services from one supplier on one bill.  However, from what I’ve read here combining the two services onto one bill can have hidden dangers.
Perhaps I won’t be leaving BT after all.