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BT Total Option 1 and calls plan with rolling contract
Friday 06 March 2009 13:27:28 by Andrew Ferguson

Generally most of us accept 12 month contracts on broadband products and in return often get free broadband hardware. The rise of the value of the freebies which can be a laptop these days has seen contracts lengthen to 2 years in some cases. In a highly competitive market with new deals every few weeks, signing up to lengthy contracts can be risky as just like the stock market, performance of a provider now is no sure indicator to its future performance.

Update 18:30: To clarify things, we are discussing the Calls and Broadband packages which BT Retail has on its website here. The conditions on the page, are not clear as to whether the "Get Connected" option is a 18 month contract for both broadband and telephone, and whether the calls part is an automatic renewal. The conditions are clearer for the other two products "More Talk" and "Unlimited", which feature a 18 month contract at the top of the page, but the conditions reveal the calls part is on 12 month term with a rolling contract to a new 12 month term. If you are confused, then its a case of join the club.

BT’s rolling contract policy flies in the face of the majority of telecommunications providers’ renewals practices – where the default position at the end of a contract is that a customer becomes a free agent. This enables them to scour the market for the right deal for them and, if they wish, to change providers.

"We believe that rolling contracts are a sharp practice at any time, but particularly so in the current credit crunch and with given the riches available in the market," said Andrew Heaney from TalkTalk. "We would like to see these unfair rolling contracts stamped out and have already called upon Ofcom to take a firm line in this area."

Andrew Heaney continued: "BT cynically places the onus on its customers to cancel their contracts – simply because it knows that many of them will simply forget."

Jo Stockwell, 39, from south-west London, is a BT customer who's unhappy with the idea of rolling contracts: "I've been a BT customer since 2006 but my contract is coming to an end, so for the last 3 months I've been hassled by calls from them suggesting I move onto a rolling contract - apparently because I can save £3! I really wouldn't feel comfortable doing this as I don't like the idea of being tied in, and I think it makes it easier for companies to hike up their charges if they know you've got to stick with them. I'm seriously considering moving ISP and I'm doing some research into other alternatives at the moment."

TalkTalk Press Release

We would have covered this news earlier when TalkTalk sent out a press release highlighting the issue, but we have been trying to decipher the BT Retail website and terms and conditions, which do not appear to set out the terms of the rolling contract in an easy to find or clear manner.

BT Retail says that it contacts customers 30 days before the expiry date of the calls contract to let people know about the renewal and give them a chance to move provider if they want, but how many people will understand the implications until they try to take up what are increasingly attractive offers from competitors.

Should Ofcom and other consumer bodies act on this change? It is something that is not uncommon in the business sector, but consumers are never assumed to have as much contract term knowledge as a business. Ofcom exists to ensure a fair and open market, and should really investigate these new contract rules. BT Retail is risking putting off a lot of new sign-ups, since even if this rolling contract only applies to a subset of their products, many people will not want to take the risk.

By having an 18 month contract on one part of a bundle and a 12 month contract on another component it is asking for confusion and for the average consumer to take the path of least resistance and stay with BT. Bundling telephone and broadband can lead to savings for people, but evaluating the best package is difficult, for example with BT to get the £10.27 line rental you must pay by Direct Debit and take paper free billing, not using these adds £2.73 to the monthly bill. While caller display is free if you sign up to BT Privacy, if do not make a small number of chargeable calls you will get charged for caller display, which will cost £2.50 per month from 1st April.

Second Update, Saturday 7th March: The renewable contract is in relation to traditional PSTN calls packages, and while it was not clear from the website, when the renewal window is active you do have the option of keeping the calls package and no lengthy contract, but it will cost you more per month. As an example the evening and weekend calls package will cost you an extra £2.65 per month if you do not accept the renewed 12 month contract. BT has got back to us, and this is where this clarification comes from.


Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
"In return for free evening and weekend calls"

Right. There's a considerable benefit which is offered in exchange. That is, legally, going to cover the justification aspect.
Posted by haydnwalker over 8 years ago
I'm sorry but this is just plain wrong! How many customers are going to actively remember when their contract is due for renewal. How are BT contacting them? Perhaps in the middle of the day by phone when they aren't around? Who knows... OFCOM, get stuck in and sort this!
Posted by russianmonkey over 8 years ago
First off, this story is wholy incorrect.

The renewable contract option is on calling plans ONLY. This is not for broadband services which the story implies.

If BT send a letter out to say that you're going to be automatically renewed, then its up to you to stay with it or go elsewhere.
Posted by citizenx over 8 years ago
RM, it's still a rolling 12 month commitment for zilch. Don't give us that nonsense about it being for a calling plan, there is no cost in this to BT so forcing less savvy customers back into a contract is a disgrace.

Secondly, the presumption of most people is that once a commitment period has lapsed it will not renew unless they take out something which justifies it.

This should be made unlawful and BT should be prosecuted.

Posted by Sandgrounder over 8 years ago
The register says that this is for telephone contracts. Perhaps Andrew could clarify it with a link, perhaps, to a BT website.

I am not impressed either way - and would never have BT broadband for that reason.
Posted by ian72 over 8 years ago
I signed up to BT at my new place last May and they offered the free calls on a 12 month contract. I took it, no problem. So, expecting the letter in the next 6 weeks.
Question is, if you turn it down does that mean you have to find a different provider or that you just stop getting the free calls?
Posted by uklad77 over 8 years ago
BT have been doing a rolling 12 month contract for the Talk Plans for almost a year now! It has taken this long for people to notice?

The Broadband contracts are still 18 months - so you automatically end up with six months left to run on your phone service at the end
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
If someone can find the appropriate section to explain it to consumers on their website I'd be happy to read it, never found anything that made sense.

Just pages of grey text on a white background in a small font size.

If I've got it wrong, then will correct, but no-one has given anything definitive yet.
Posted by mishminx over 8 years ago
Generally most of us have been conditioned to accept 12 month contracts on broadband products...

There, I fixed it for you. :P
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Found the right page to read, and linked to it in an updated item. Oddly it looks like while two products are 18 month contract, the phone calls part of a bundle is a 12 month contract.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
I'm on the 12 month rolling contract as of two weeks ago. It was pretty obvious to me. I went to view my account and there was a link inviting me to get free weekend/evening calls. It quite clearly stated that it was a 12 month rolling contract and I'd get a reminder when the end drew near.

Didn't confuse me in the least.

I would've stayed with BT anyway so for me it's a perk.
Posted by zyborg47 over 8 years ago
Something needs to be done about it I think. I know BT is suppose to send you a letter or call you, but what happens if they don't and you decide that you want to move elsewhere?

OK, if BT is going to give you a package which is cheaper or offer something that their normal package don't offer, then I can understand they want a commitment from their customers, but they need to make sure their communications with their customers are in top order.

I am going for the Post office net month for home phone, mainly because they offer what I want, no contract and I can pay over at my post office.
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
Good service does not require a contract. All telecommunications products including broadband should not be allowed contracts longer than 30 days. Anything else especially rolling contracts are sinister.
Posted by uniquename over 8 years ago
What nobody seems to have distiguished bewteen in this is whether the discussion is about PSTN calling plans or the VOIP phone service.
Posted by Colin_London over 8 years ago
I think Talk Talk are fired up about this because they only offer an MPF LLU product (i.e. they take over the whole phone line, Voice + ADSL). The BT rolling voice contracts prevent Talk Talk from gaining new customers, because they do not have a product that can co-exist with the BT voice service.

I am with O2 & have a rolling BT 12-month contract for free evening calls. The rolling voice contract would stop me moving to Talk Talk except for a 3-week window each year (not that I want to!).

I suspect the majority of consumers don't appreciate the difference between MPF & SMPF LLU!
Posted by pcoventry76 over 8 years ago
BT have always done this. Why is it confusing?

Unless you call them before your 12 months is up then you are put on to another 12 month contract on the same conditions. I think it's a good thing.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
bosie - And dictating business methods is bad. You immediately do away with any form of cheap broadband and mobile contracts and companies will no longer be able to eat activation and other fees. Mobile phones won't be subsidised, etc.

Sinister? I think you word you want is "popular"
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Colin - Well yea, MPF providers should be forced to provide a full accounting of costs of moving to and most importantly from them. Most currently fail to mention those.
Posted by kamelion over 8 years ago
They haven't always done it. A while ago they offered all sorts if people would re-sign for 12 and 18 month contracts.
With the economy the way it is at the moment I can see why they want to tie down customers in order to guarantee income, but in my opinion it isn't to the benefit of customers who are also facing hard times and may have to move home or shop around for cheaper alternatives.
I would happily sign longer contracts if there were guaranteed service levels and they weren't so one sided
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
Dawn, I wouldn't call 18 or even 12 month contracts "popular". I have 2 mobile broadband accounts each on a 30 day plan with modems paid upfront. Exactly what is BT subsidising by rolling lengthy contracts? It should be a requirement that all these firms offer 30 day plans to provide the customer with choice, subsidy or no subsidy.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Bosie, "all telecommunications products" covers a very wide range of things. Also, you are looking to remove, not to add choice. There currently exist both one month and longer term products, you'd remove the longer term ones.

You're forcing some very specific business models onto industrys which operates at low margins. That will hinder inovation and reduce choices further.

Not everyone can afford to pay hundreds up-front.
Posted by alwall over 8 years ago
Co-incidentally, I recently signed up for the Evening and Weekend calls deal. The letter I received from BT make the T&Cs very clear. Even if, after 12 months, I opt to go onto a monthly contract, I will only pay an additional £2.64(inc Vat) per month. The letter states that BT will write to me (email is not mentioned) towards the end of the 12 months to give me the option of renewing or leaving the deal.
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
Dawn, I have no problem with choice subsidy versus no subsidy but I'm opposed to having only the latter, as with BT. Also I fail to see what innovation has been made with these subsidies, in the UK we're hardly leading the pack in this area - although granted we seem to be good at locking people into contracts they don't want.
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
doh silly me i just contradicted myself. What i meant to write is that I'm opposed to having no 30 day contracts on first sign up. Correct me if I'm wrong but BT requires at least 12 months before offering the 30 day option and it seems only if you remember to notify them when the lengthy one runs out? I have no objection to paying the extra £2.64 from the start if that means the contract is 30 day because I wouldn't want to wait 12 months to find out if the service is any good or to switch to a better product that just came on the market.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@alwall:/Exactly/. All this fuss over an entirely optional contract is daft IMO. If you don't like it, don't sign up to it. As long as BT send the reminder letter (and I for one feel sure that they will) then what's the problem?

All I see here is one company (Talk Talk) manging to stir up a whine-fest against BT. Tbh I think it's rather sad that TBB have chosen to jump on this bandwagon.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
bosie - Sorry, I don't see an "only". You have a choice of quite a few phone suppliers. If people truly want to avoid contracts, there are options. Most people chose to take the contracts, since they're cheaper.
Posted by tortoise7 over 8 years ago
I signed a 12 month contract with BT in exchange for free weekend and evening calls. That seemed reasonable to me. My year is just up and I have not renewed but have gone elsewhere. It was straightforward enough to let them know that I wasn't renewing and to move on. I don't see a problem with BT's practices.
Posted by airds over 8 years ago
A Wee bit off topic, but BT IS getting worse and IS totally incompendent. It took them SEVEN months to get me on their BT Basic scheme. Including four 'lost' application forms .... funny how they haven't lost any of their quaterly bills in 21 years at the same address, ain't it?

But ALL solved as soon as I had a OFCOM case number :-)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"A Wee bit off topic, but BT IS getting worse and IS totally incompendent."

That about sums it up and is a nice short version.
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