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Thought i'd have a go at challenging BT's new "Payment Processing Fee".

 

Had a very interesting letter through from BT today as I requested a reply in writing. Didn't want an Indian call centre phoning to respond.

 

http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c104/telso/josh/19.jpg

http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c104/telso/josh/20.jpg

 

The interesting parts I find is BT stating they have reduced line rental for non-direct debit customers by £3 a quarter. That's their perogative if they want to reduce another charge - but to claim it is to offset the payment processing fee is laughable. The £4.50 Payment processing fee is still in place.

 

They attempt to justify the charge because it costs more to accept a non-Direct Debit payment. Guess i'm gonna be asking for their actual cost.

 

The also continue to state that people are more likely to forget to pay or not pay if they are not signed up to the Direct Debit, and that this leaves bad debt of £100 million a year.

 

To me that sounds as if part of the fee is in place to indemnify the actions of others - which if everyone has been reading the contact law that reclaiming bank charges is based on constitutes an unfair term.

 

UNFAIR TERMS ACT 1977

 

5.4

1) A person dealing as a consumer cannont by reference to any contract term be made to indemnify another person (whether a party to the contract or not) in respect of liability that may be incurred by the other for negligence or breach of contract, except in so far as the contract terms satisfies the requirement of reasonableness.

 

UNFAIR TMERS IN CONTRACTS REGULATIONS 1999

 

Paragraph 8

An unfair term in a contract concluded with a consumer by a seller or supplier shall not be binding on the consumer.

 

Anymore idea's or comments as I fancy taking this one on.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Anyone have a link to BT's account Terms & Conditions?

 

I have a friend who runs a post office who will be able to tell me roughly how much the PO charges for paying a bill by cheque when using the bank giro credit system. Very much doubt it's £4.50, or even £1.50.

 

Gonna love writing a reply to their letter.

 

I would imagine that their payments department is highly automated, so equipment costs at their end would be relatively small.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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The local post office master earns 7p from each bank giro credit payment processed.... so think i've found my next fight.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Let me know what you all think, just sent this little baby to BT

 

--

Dear Sir/Madam

 

Thank you for your reply to my recent letter regarding the new "payment processing fee".

 

I note your comments about the fee not being a penalty charge however am aware that business customers are not having the charged levied on their bills. As such I would contest that residential customers are very much being penalised for not settling bills by the preferred method.

 

The £3 a quarter reduction in line rental is very welcome however the fact remains that the charge for payment processing is listed at £4.50. With regard to the matter of cost as a customer I have paid by cheque via the post office for some time and would assert that part of each payment has gone toward funding your payment processing department already and paying the associated costs.

 

I am aware that the my local post office receives 7p for processing a Bank Giro Credit payment. And a local council recently stated it's costs for accepting each non-direct debit payment as 45p, therefore it stands to reason that on a basis of economies of scale and automation your costs would be less than that per payment received. In charging an additional £4.50 per quarter to non-direct debit customers British Telecom stand to make increased revenues from an unlawful charge.

 

Your letter also mentions that the said charge has been put in place, as "on average customers are more likely to forget to pay or not pay, and this leaves us with bad debt of around £100 million a year". Whilst I am appreciate bad debt is a problem. To ask customers who pay in full and on time to compensate you for the actions of others in not settling their bills represents a fundemental problem.

 

This may consititute an unfair term under law:

5.4. 1) A person dealing as a consumer cannont by reference to any contract term be made to indemnify another person (whether party to the contract or not) in respect of liability that may be incurred by the other for negligence or breach of contract, except in so far as the contract terms satisfies the requirement of reasonableness.

 

Additionally I am aware of a number of people who after complaining have been excluded from paying this new fee.

 

Due to the above I would like to extend the opportunity to you to refund any previous "Payment processing fees", and excempt my account from any of these future fees with the view to avoiding any legal action.

 

Thank you for your time and assistance. I look forward to your reply.

 

Yours sincerely

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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  • 2 weeks later...

No response as of yet, reply will go out in 4 days time.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Very interesting and I'm pleased to see this one being taken head on in this fashion, thanks for the heads up :)

 

My understanding is that a company is quite entitled to offer a discount to customers who pay via a particular method but they cannot charge a fee to those who choose an alternative method. I appreciate that the net effect may be the same. But one way offers and discount incentive, which is acceptable whilst the other actively enforces a penalty which I feel pretty confident we already know is not. Is this right or have I missed the point?

 

As for covering the costs of bad debtors, surely that cost should be factored across the whole customer base not simply added to a proportion based on their chosen method of payment. Are they really saying that no DD paying customer has ever left them short after bouncing a payment or two.

 

Good luck with this one Enron, cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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Thanks for your input, I think that it can be considerred a penalty as the charge is not being applied to all it's customers, and is abscent from business telephone bills.

 

Trading standards have said that from their point of view these kind of charges are legal, but i'm very skeptical that they are because of the above.

 

I remember Watchdog coverring the issue of the payment processing fee/late payment charges. Customers were very unhappy and hence the reduction in line rental was added though interestingly this is not mentioned in their terms & conditions - so at any time they could remove it, and from a legal standpoint the reduction is not tied to the payment processing fee through the t&c's.

 

I've been to hearings against banks (and won) so legal aciton is not daunting to any degree.

 

From dealing with BT customer services a few times recently (on behalf of other people) they are really pushing people to change to direct debit. They should instead be trying to incentivise customers to change to direct debit instead of penalising them.

 

The reduction in line rental has been £2.56 (£30.63 - £28.07) instead of the £3 they are listing as well.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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T...the charge is not being applied to all it's customers, and is abscent from business telephone bills.

 

Trading standards have said that from their point of view these kind of charges are legal, but i'm very skeptical that they are because of the above.

 

I wholeheartedly agree with all you've said here, my bank waved the white flag and paid when they got the letter from MCOL, so I havn't had to face the courts yet but I would certainly give it a go with BT on this case. I wait with interest to see their next move.

 

Cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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I'll send a letter off at the end of the week, which will be a fortnight since posting the last one.

 

Will outline that "I note with interest that you have choosen not to reply to my previous letter", and include a copy.

 

Will give them 14 days to refund previous "Payment processing fee's" before commencing legal action.

 

But list that I hope we can come to an arrangement where legal action will not be necessary i.e. stop charging the payment processing fee.

 

It's only £9 so far, but in addition to the continued monetary value (£18 a year) there is also the principle of the thing.

 

--

Additional, I think the very fact that BT has reduced the line rental to offset the "Payment Processing Fee" is very damning in itself. If £4.50 is a valid figure per quarter, then why have they offset it by reducing the price of another service.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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The reduction in line rental has been £2.56 (£30.63 - £28.07) instead of the £3 they are listing as well.

 

I think they are basing that on £2.56 excluding VAT. Rough figures bring it in line with their general pricing struture.

 

As for the offsetting of costs of one service by chargng extra on another, it makse no sense and I cannot see it standing as defensible.

 

It is also interesting to note "there is a fee from BT Payments Ltd, a BT Group Company for processing your payments". Can one company/division apply a penalty to it's customers to cover a cost which itself doesn't have to bear. And why are we getting charged by BT Payments Ltd, if we have paid on time, albeit by cheque or other method?

 

What are your thoughts?

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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Ah, never thought of the VAT aspect.

 

The off-setting line doesn't make sense. They are arguing that by cutting line rental by £3 a quarter the actual payment processing charge is £1.50. Why not keep things as they are and charge £1.50 for payment processing?

 

Think a judge would be interested by this.

 

As for late payment fee's thats a laugh, especially if they are saying a seperate company is making the charge.

 

The only thing that has likely changed is BTs software, someone has ammeneded it to automatically add £7.50 if a payment arrives late.... nice litter earner for them.... but still unlawful.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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The payment processing fee is being charged by BT Payments Services Ltd, not just the late payment fee. I am sorry I got the exact wording incorrect on my last post - now corrected.

 

But the point remains that BT are enforcing a charge on one section of their customer base in order to cover the costs incurred by another company which provides a service to their whole customer base.

 

As for simply charging £1.50 and keeping the other rates unchanged, surely they should be keeping the rates unchanged and then offer a discount to those who pay by DD.

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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Exactly, the reduction of line rental charges only came in after alot of people kicked up a stink about the introduction of a charge for paying by any other means that direct debit.

 

I'd be interested to know what the line rental is of those who pay by direct debit.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Well that was entertaining :D I have just spent an hour on the phone to BT. I started by asking what the current line rental fee were. The answer given was that pre may 2007 it was £12 for BT Option 1. This was reduced to £10.50 for everyone but the processing fee was introduced for those not paying by etc etc.

 

The first operator insisted that these fees were not a penalty and was then only able to read from a script that said it was fair and in line with other providers and covers the cost of processing the payments. She added that for some strange reason it also covers the delay they have when getting paid thought the post office, which apparently takes 15 days. I suggested that they should take that up with the post office and that we shouldn't be charged, especially if we do not use that as a method of payment.

 

When pushed for an answer to "if it isn't a penalty then what is it? She went silent and refused to say anything apart from "I have answerd your question and it is not a penalty". I got tired of that and asked for someone senior.

 

The same script was then read out by the 'manager'. I pressed her on points like why should we be charged to cover the costs of a subsiduary company that is not providing us with any direct service? Also if they are only charging part of their customer base and this is an additional charge then it is clearly a penalty. The same script was then referred to and no more answers were able to be given. Interestingly she said "this fee is being charged to all our customers" I queried that point and said "no it is only being put to a group of your customers ie the ones not paying by DD". She insisted that she was right, repeated her statement and then said she couldn't help me any more. Ok then, so I asked for someone else with more authority who may be able to answer my questions.

 

This time I got the Line Manager, and the call took a very humourous twist. I started by asking him

Is it was BT Company policy for call centre staff to lie to customers?
he said
"Yes Mr Smith"
A bit taken aback I repeated the question and he repeated the answer. I asked if the call was being recorded was told "yes probably" so again I asked him and he said yes, oh um oh no we do not lie - we help our customers. So we went round the same Q & A, this time I added that if we are being charged for the cost of processing our payments why are DD cutomers not having the same policy imposed on them, may be a lower fee could be charged but surely they should pay to cover that cost and then it would be fair. He had no answer to this one

 

He did add that this fee has always been charged, it is just new policy for BT to itemise the charge on our bills and is part of their new way of working with their customers and "helping us to understand the way our bills are made up". I couldn't make this up if I tried.

 

The final outcome was that even though they are a telephone communications company if I wanted to take the matter any further I would need to do so in writing :o They refused to put me through to anyone else. I turned that round and made a formal complaint then and there to the line manager, dictated the compaint to him and he has promised a written response in 7-8 working days.

 

Let's see :)

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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A very interesting conversation indeed.

 

The fact that they are saying the "Payment processing fee" is now being itemised to help customers is somewhat laughable.

 

I wonder why this does not also apply to customers making direct debit payments but at a reduced rate. And the fact that business customers are not being charged it points a big finger toward it being a penalty.

 

Let me know how you get on and what response you receive.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Hi Enron, It did cross my mind that if were were able to confirm that these were unlawful penalties, then we shoud be able to reclaim them in much the same way as with the banks. If so, then his explicit admission that these penalties have always been charged and that they are only now itemising them would surely mean that we could reclaim this figure at least for the last 6 years. The phrase about disguising penalties etc comes to mind.

 

Cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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If you can get the word penalty in writing, then that certainly would be a start.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Out of interest what do you think a SAR would bring if I asked for all the notes made on my account. I asume they are bound by the same regulations that cover these, are they?

 

Cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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SAR, would imagine it would operate very similar to the way that the bank one works.

 

Ideally I think you should specifically request sheets for any manual intervention relating to your account, that way you can show that payment collection is entirely automated - and thus very cheap.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Good stuff, i'm still getting fob off letters, so one final letter for them before starting legal action.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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Ive not got that far yet, My pile of statements is the size of 2 yellow pages. Its not seperate A4 sheets but 1 continues real of paper.

 

I'm going to claim for the non DD charge, late charges and a few reconnection charges, about £200 in full.

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Good to see this thread still going :D welcome poker_mad it looks like we can get a result if we keep pushing for it. Enron how are the fob off letters going :lol: is it stuck record time or have they introduced anything new?

 

I have had no communicatilon in response to my complaints. But I did send a SAR in on the 20th September so I guess now I will wait it out and see what that reveals.

 

Cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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Let me know how you get on with your S.A.R - (Subject Access Request).

 

I have discoverred one very interesting fact though, and that is that the reduction in service charges by £3 has been made to ALL residential customers (including those who pay by direct debit).

 

Whilst the service charge has been reduced by £3 for people not paying by direct debit, it has also happened for those paying by direct debit. So you could argue its a discount to all customers, and as it is not enshrined in the Terms & Conditions has no impact on offsetting the "Payment Processing Fee".

 

So effectively we'll be paying £4.50 more than the person who contacted me who pays by direct debit.

 

He pays £9.35 in Service Charges a month, which equates to £28.05 a quarter, and I pay £28.07 a quarter.

 

--

LETTER THAT WENT OUT TO BT LAST WEEK

 

Dear Sir/Madam

 

I note with interest that you have chosen not to reply to my letter dated 3rd September. This related to the “payment processing fee” which has recently been added to BT telephone bills, and of which I enclose a copy.

 

As the bill payer I believe that money is due to me from this newly introduced penalty charge, currently at £9 (2x £4.50) and I will be the person instigating county court proceedings.

 

Whilst I am more than willing to meet the actual cost of making a payment via the Post Office, I believe the amount to be minimal and not the £4.50 which is currently being levied on customers for each payment. if I am wrong and you are able to demonstrate £4.50 as an accurate cost for an individual payment by cheque by means of a full breakdown and illustration of how this figure is compiled then I will discontinue my claim.

 

£9 may seem a very small amount, however in addition to the monetary value this penalty charge is being used to force people to make payment by direct debit or be penalised – which I believe to be wrong on principle.

 

Any court action would no doubt incur costs much greater than the amount at issue, as such I would like to extend this opportunity to avoid said costs and the waste of valuable court time by coming to a prior settlement - this being a refund or credit of £9, and exclusion from paying the “payment processing fee” in the future.

 

Alternatively I will begin action on 10th October by submitting a claim through the county court. In the past I have appeared at hearings and successfully won my claims, as such the legal process is not a daunting one.

 

I believe that the court would take a dim view if BT were unwilling to negotiate over an amount this small, as such I look forward to your reply and hope we can come to a prior arrangement.

Advice offered by ENRON is without prejudice and is for your judgement as to whether to take it. You should seek the assistance or hire of a solicitor or other paid professional if in doubt.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Enron,

 

and yeah there is life left in this thread :D

 

I sent my SAR off on 20th September and heard nothing until last night. Some kind lass called to say that they are happy to provide copies of all my previous bills as per my letter. But there would of course be a charge of £3.50 for each sheet. They just wanted to check if that was all I wanted :-x

 

So I explained in very polite terms exactly what is meant by a SAR, the DPA etc etc and the fact that the maximum fee of £10 had already been paid. She put me through to her manager who after going through the whole thing again said - and I kid you not

 

ah.. in that case you don't need us you need to call the Chairman's office

 

I told him I really didn't think it was up to the Chairman to provide me with copies of documents and copies of transcripts where BT staff a have been proved wrong but that I would gladly take it up with him if he could provide a direct line number.

 

He thought again about his suggestion and decided that he would talk to his manager and get back to me. So far nothing.

 

I did point out that they were now very close if not over the allocated time to provide the documents. He said he would look into that as well.:rolleyes:

 

So how are things with you and BT?

 

Cheers

Prelim sent May '06

LBA sent June '06

Fob off now rec'd to the prelim

Copy of fob off now rec'd as response to LBA!

Full repayment of all charges since 1997 now received.

Account Closed

Donation made :)

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