Feature: So why are so many paying for sub-standard service?

Infinity and beyond is a tough ask for Moray cunsumers

WHILE BT ARE dismissing calls from rivals that they should be broken up by making promises of across-the-board improvements in service, in Moray at least the telecommunications provider it seems has few friends.

On Monday, insideMoray called on local BT Broadband customers to let us know their views on the service they have received several years after the launch of their Superfast roll-out in Moray and the Highlands and Islands.

Many did so – and while a few were happy to be receiving the promised speeds, 96% of those who responded remained distinctly unhappy.

The reaction mirrors complaints made last month by rivals Sky, Vodafone and Talk Talk, who wrote a joint letter to the Financial Times calling on BT to be split up because they were providing a “substandard” broadband service.

In their letter they called for “radical reform”, asking regulator Ofcom to seek a full investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority on BT who were also charged by their rivals of providing a “poor quality of customer service and difficulties in enforcing the existing regulatory regime”.

Moray Experience

Reacting to insideMoray’s appeal for the experiences of Moray consumers, Mosstowie resident Alan Affleck wrote: “I find more frustrating the way that BT speaks about ‘average download speed’ in an area, as the average speed bears no resemblance to actual speeds. Those living close to the exchange have a superfast speed while those living a bit away have a pitiful speed.

“I’m served by the exchange in Alves – it’s not even a direct link as an engineer cheerfully told me the line heads towards Forres from Alves then doubles back towards Mosstowie. I am fortunate if I get 1Mbps – I think the Alves exchange has been upgraded but that makes no difference to me because of the distance between me and the exchange.”

Elusive street cabinets
Elusive street cabinets

Alan added that he had contacted Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who are working with BT on the Superfast roll-out in the Highlands, but was told there were “no plans” to put in place a box between Alves and Elgin that would greatly speed things up in the area.

Another customer served by the same exchange, Dawn Slinger, had a similar experience: “It’s very comical that BT think my speed is good and very irritating that I pay the same amount monthly that someone on broadband up to four times faster is paying.”

Meanwhile on Elgin resident who did not wish to be named also wondered why it was BT could charge the same monthly fee for services that vary widely in quality: “I get a maximum 20mb download, which is fine, but only a 2mb upload. A friend a few doors away gets 34mb download and 7mb upload – but pays exactly the same each month.

“Why is BT allowed to do that? When you are supplied with Gas and Electricity you pay according to what you can use – not on what the company tells you is available!”

Overstretched Capacity?

A major issue cited by many Moray residents is capacity. Kenny Martin wrote: “I have actually today had to cancel my BT services as I am moving 300yards to a new home – but it does not come with superfast broadband much to my dismay.

“I was told that it was down to Openreach and that the exchange had reached its ‘customer capacity’ for Superfast broadband.”

Mulben customer Iain Lax has had enough: “We’ve ended up cancelling our BT Broadband, as they have steadfastly refused to upgrade the local exchange.

“Unfortunately the Scottish Government have no control over BT, so when BT said it was too difficult to do anything, and handed Holyrood the excess contracted money back, that was it. We now pay £42 per month for a capped service over the mobile net.”

The complaints kept on coming with many more pointing to the poor service when they are faced with problems – calls to overseas staff who could do little to actually help with issues being the most common grumble.

Clearly the issues in Moray are mirrored in other parts of the UK, with BT’s response to the Financial Times letter including a promise that in future they would “increase on-time customer installations” and they “aim to improve customer service with text progress updates and engineer’s mobile phone numbers” among the actions they plan to take.

For many in Moray, it would be enough just to get what they are paying for and, when they are not, at least be treated like a customer and not a commodity.

Keep your emails on the service you are getting from BT coming to editor@insidemoray.scot – these will be collated and passed on to Moray’s MP and MSP in the hope that they are at least aware that this is a very real issue in our communities.