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what's the point of OTELO?

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a couple of years ago BT simply stopped sending a VAT receipt with my bill,

i.e. the extra sheet with my bill that shows the VAT amount which i am legally entitled to as it is for something costing more than £5 (as i understand it). i also need the VAT receipt so i can reclaim the VAT.

so i phoned them. "i'm sorry about that, ... i can see why that's happened as our system isn't set to send a VAT bill. you say that you have had VAT receipts in the past? i'll sort that out now ... it will only take a moment", they said. adding, "it will take a couple of weeks for the reprinted bill to arrive" - but it never did!. so i rang them again, "sorry about that" then the same. two more weeks, the following months bill arrived - without the VAT portion! and still no reprint of the first bill.

this continued without me ever receiving any VAT bills. as they always "claimed" they had no record of any previous requests to switch on the VAT element of the bill, or reprint any bills, i started to write to confirm each call i made but they still had no records of my problem the next time i rang and i never received even one reply. i wrote to their complaints department 3 or 4 times but got no reply!

so i wrote to OTELO. they insisted i wrote to the BT complaints department - even though i had told them i had already done so and they hadn't replied.

i presume that OTELO must have told BT complaints to reply to me because i received a nice letter that said all the right things but didn't actually do anything!

still no VAT receipts. more letters to OTELO who eventually seemed to accept what i was saying and they issued a "FINAL DECISION", "that BT would send me the missing VAT receipts". yes, i was willing to accept this ruling, as long as i got the receipts i needed.

but nothing happened.

i wrote more letters to BT, sending copies to OTELO.

occasionally they did send some bills in reply to my letters, however, some still had no VAT elements, some were for periods that i already had VAT receipts, i.e. before the problem had started, and a few, very few, were sometimes what i was missing. the longer it went on, the more bills they sent me, the more opportunities they had to be stupid by sending me bills they had already sent. originally it was simply all bills from date 1 to date 2 but, after they'd sent a few valid ones i had to keep telling them which ones i had and which i still needed. i spent significant amounts of time checking this (i have always kept all my VAT receipts in VAT quarter order so checking the missing bills was messy). i was also constantly writing to BT as OTELO didn't seem to be doing anything. OTELO even wrote to me saying that the matter was closed - even though the last letter they had from me was that there were still missing invoices.

eventually i did get all the missing VAT bills but it took over a year; it has cost me a lot of extra postage, stationery, etc and my time after they had issued their FINAL DECISION. surely, i argued, it is only reasonable that BT should have complied with the ruling without me incurring any further expenses and without one years delay. no they say, BT have complied and that's the end of it, adding "they have no punative powers".

is it any wonder that telecomms companies continue to treat customers so badly when the body that's supposed to help is such a pathetic waste of space.

please get rid of OTELO and replace it with a garden gnome or something that works!

long before this issue was resolved i moved to TalkTalk and i'm very happy there.


any suggestions about further actions i could take would be very welcomed.


copy sent to my MEP & MP.

Regards from sunny Notlob, Lancs UK


Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.

Lily Tomlin

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... ask HMRC...

actually, i did ask them when i first registered for VAT. i had bought something from a local supplier, when i asked for his VAT number (to write on the till receipt) he refused. he "couldn't give his vat number to just anyone". so i phoned my local vat office and, apparently, "they must issue a vat receipt for any item over £5 if requested".

however, they would not say anything further regarding what to do if someone refused except, "well, they have to do it".

i even wrote to the vat office but when they didn't reply i didn't want to upset them by pushing the issue.

however, i was audited by HMRC twice in the following two years and when some till receipts without vat numbers were disallowed i explained what had happened. again i was told that "they just have to". when i asked about them refusing he said "they can't". when i said "but they did", again i was told that they could not.

when i asked what i could do about it he said that "it was up to me" and refused to discuss further.

Regards from sunny Notlob, Lancs UK


Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.

Lily Tomlin

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OTELO? Waste of space, IMO. It's there to make the governemnt feel good.


As for the VAT bills - as a Taxible entity, you are entitled to have them on request, so failure to comply is quite serious, but there's nothing preventing you from writing BTs vat number on the bill and splitting the VAT yourself. R&C will accept this.


To protect yourself should there be an inspection - write to R&C stating you have called on BT to provide the VAT Invoices, and OTEL ordered them to, but nothing happened. Would they care to bring this to BT's attention? And keep a copy.


Having seen your latest posting, I had 2 audits in 5 years, and te accountant was quite sanguine about it. Utilities from large corporations were never a problem.

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cheers buzby.

i was hoping there was a way that would cost bt money ... and that millions would follow.

maybe, if it cost bt more money by them being morons, they would be forced to change.


"busby", any relation to bt? LOL

Regards from sunny Notlob, Lancs UK


Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.

Lily Tomlin

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Actually, BT had nothing to do with Buzby, he was a Post Office Telephones employee.


As for BT and VAT, if you remember when BT shares were first launched, as a VAT Registered person, I recieved a number of discount vouchers off BT's services, (I think they were £18 each). When I paid these in, BT took the £18 off the total bill, meaning I only got £16 something discounted off the bill, as the VAT element was included.


There followed a long battle, with both BT and C&E as the tax status of the voucher was never disclosed, I demanded my FULL £18, as I could reclaim the VAT anyway. Boy, they were not happy!

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The solace is the fact the Otelo charge BT to listen to the complaint, and it's not as costly as taking them to court.

If in doubt, contact a qualified insured legal professional (or my wife... she knows EVERYTHING)


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Therein lies the problem. Jist how 'independent' is it? I'd always be happier paying my money to the court and getting a fair hearing, not one in which an 'industry' arbitrator held sway.

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