can now choose between a range of phone service providers
for phone lines and equipment for telephone handsets, switchboards
and faxes. Most choose BT but other phone service providers
now include and Energis Communications (business customers
only), and many other cable phone service companies.
you have a telephone installed you will be given an application
form which will show what both the provider and the customer
will agree to in the contract. You may have to agree to a
minimum contract term of say one year. If you want to terminate
the line rental before the term expires, you will usually
have to pay the entire year's rental if you signed the contract.
If you think that the terms in a contract are unacceptable
then consult an experienced adviser.
Finding a Phone Service Provider
you choose a provider find out what services are available
and how much they will cost you. Find the rental cost of the
equipment, call and line charges and extra facilities like
call waiting. Find out if there are cheaper rates for particular
payment methods like direct debit. What standards the providers
offer for repairs, or extra help for older or disabled customers.
Also find out the providers’ policies on debt and disconnection.
Every phone service company has a Code of Practice that covers
things like maintenance, repairs, disconnection and procedures
for any complaints. Find out the companies Code of Practice
before choosing a provider.
Connection and Installation Charges
may have to pay charges up front before your phone equipment
is installed or connected. If there is not already a phone
in your home, or if the phone line needs to be re-connected.
Additional equipment like extensions to existing installations,
new plugs or extra bells will have to be paid for in advance.
Phone Service Deposits
sometimes ask for a deposit before giving you a phone service.
You might have to pay a deposit if you have a court order
against you for non-payment. Even if they do not charge a
deposit, a provider can limit the amount of calls you may
make. As soon as a certain level of calls have been made a
bill will be sent. Before you agree to have phone service
supplied, they may make credit checks using a credit reference
agency. If the provider does charge a deposit they will notify
you of this and the amount you must pay. Deposits will be
held by the provider for a certain period. If you establish
a good payment record the deposit will be credited against
future bills. If the provider asks for a deposit and you feel
it is too high or if you should not this at all, consult an
Obtaining the Right Phone Equipment
can rent or buy your phone equipment and you can get details
from the sales office of the company. First check that any
equipment you buy is approved for connection to the United
Kingdom public telephone network. It is best to check this
as providers may remove any unapproved phone equipment from
their network. Approved equipment is currently marked with
a green dot. The provider will not have responsibility for
equipment that was not bought or rented from them.
Contracts for Maintenance
for the rental of equipment can include conditions about free
repairs. The provider can also offer a range of additional
maintenance services for quick emergency repairs. Normally
you will have to pay extra for these unless the phone provider
gives you exemptions. BT does not currently charge extra to
customers who are very severely disabled.
Directory Enquiries and Telephone Directories
Telecom produce phone directories and you can choose not be
included in the directory if you do not want general access
to your phone number. There is no charge for a listing in
the telephone directory. If you are in the directory, your
number will also be available from companies which deal with
enquiries about telephone numbers. These enquiry companies
charge for their services, unless a person is disabled. Disabled
phone users must register with the phone service provider
before they are eligible.
Phone Service Repairs
phone service provider differs on repairs and you will need
to check the provider’s Code of Practice. Codes of Practice
on phone repairs usually cover issues such as whether there
is a time limit during which repairs should be started once
a problem has been reported and whether the faults found are
repaired free of charge. This is usually the case unless the
provider decides the fault was caused by the customer. If
you have problems with repairs consult an experienced adviser.
Insurance Policies and Claiming the Cost of Repairs
you can claim on your house contents insurance for the cost
of replacing or repairing damaged equipment if this is not
provided free of charge by the phone service provider. Check
your insurance policy to find out if there is an excess or
loss of no-claims bonus since the cost of replacing damaged
telephone equipment is normally quite low.
Compensation When a Service is Unavailable
your phone is out of order for more than a specified time
after being reported, you may have a right to a rebate on
the standing charge. Providers may also have to pay you compensation
for the time when their service was not available. You will
find this information in the providers Code of Practice. If
you are having trouble with compensation and rebates then
consult an experienced adviser.
The Right to be Supplied a Phone Service
Telecom is obliged to provide a phone service to anyone who
asks for it, unless a customer has been in debt with them
before. In this case, they can refuse to provide a new service.
Sometimes if a customer lives remote, the price of providing
a phone service may be very high, and the person may not be
able to pay the full connection cost. No other phone service
providers have an obligation to provide a phone service. If
British Telecom refuse to provide a phone line or the cost
seems very high, consult an experienced adviser.
Obtaining a Phone Line or Changing Phone Service Providers
the phone service provider if you want a new phone line installed
and tell them the date you want it to start. This can be done
over the phone but you will then also need to make a written
application. If you need to change your provider notify both
the current and new providers. If the provider agrees to supply
services, the terms and conditions of supplying the line will
be set out in the providers terms and conditions. These services
must be provided within a reasonable time. If the provider
does not supply the services as set out in the contract, the
company will be in breach of contract. If you need information
or advice about changing to a new phone service provider,
you could consider contacting Ofcom. They can give information
about what to check when considering whether to change to
a new phone service provider, and a list of licensed phone
service providers in your particular area. Ofcom are independent
and cannot recommend a service provider.
Carrier Pre-Selection (CPS)
pre-selection is a service that allows a British Telecom customer
to make calls using another phone company. You can do this
by dialling a short code or freephone number on your phone
and then dialling the number. You can also have an adaptor
that allows calls to be diverted to another phone number without
your having to dial a code first. Carrier pre-selection must
be made available to BT customers. Other companies like mobile
phone companies can choose if they want to make it available
to their customers. Some types of call are not included in
Carrier pre-selection, emergency numbers, directory enquiries,
operator assistance and Internet access.
You will not have to make every call using CPS. You may want
to use a CPS provider for international calls but another
provider for local calls. In this case once you have arranged
to have international calls put through via a provider, you
dial the code for that provider before dialling the number.
You can usually choose four options for CPS: national calls
only, national and international calls, international calls
only and 'all calls', which includes, local, international,
national and mobile phone calls. British Telecom still own,
run and send you the bills for your phone line. Your phone
number will not change but you will get a separate bill for
call charges from each phone company that you use.
service providers allow customers to keep their phone numbers
when changing their provider. This is number portability and
only applies if you are changing the phone service provider
you use without changing your address. Other providers offer
additional services where a customer may change address and
provider but still keep the same phone number. Providers are
not obliged to offer number portability but if they do they
may make a reasonable charge.
About Phone Bills
The Phone Bill and Who is Responsible?
name on the account is responsible for the phone bill. Providers
will allow only one person to be named on an account. Other
service providers allow joint names and in this case each
of the joint named account holders are responsible for the
bill and may be contacted for payment. If you have a very
high phone bill as a result of calls made by someone who is
not a joint account holder, like a friend or a lodger, it
is your job to pursue that person for the money. If the calls
were made to premium rate services you could also contact
the regulator PhonepayPlus for help with claiming compensation.
landlords put a payphone put into a property. The landlord
is responsible for the rental and for paying the phone service
provider for calls made. Some payphones can be programmed
with a special scale of charges. This can be a lot higher
than public payphone charges but the landlord must display
the charges on or near the payphone.
providers usually offer itemised billing which shows the date,
duration, time and cost of calls costing more than a certain
amount. It can also show all the calls that you make. Check
with your provider to see if it offers these services, and
if there are any costs as this will help you to minimise disputes
about the size of the phone bill.
may think that a bill is too high. It is actually very rare
for phone equipment to give wrong information but it is possible
for there to be a fault. Sometimes a handset may be faulty
and fail to disconnect at the end of a call or you may not
replace a handset correctly. If you need to dispute the bill,
consult an experienced adviser.
provider has their own policy on disconnections and it is
necessary that you refer to the Code of Practice written in
your contract. If a phone bill has not been paid the provider
will normally send a reminder. Depending on the provider’s
Code of Practice, you will have a certain amount of time within
which to pay the bill before disconnection. When you receive
the reminder it is better to either post a cheque directly
to the provider or pay directly to the company. Payments through
the post office or bank may take several days to process and
during this time you could be disconnected.
you dispute the phone bill, you should pay the amount you
think you owe and send a letter to the providers stating why
have done this which should prevent your disconnection at
this stage. If your phone line has been disconnected and you
want it to be reconnected, the phone service provider will
normally make a charge for reconnection. If you are having
disconnection problems consult an experienced adviser.
Phones for the Disabled
Social Services Help
who is assessed under the National Health Service and Community
Care Act 1990 as having a need, may get help with telephone
charges. Local authorities will pay for installation, others
will pay for the rental costs. If you are disabled and need
further information about help with telephone charges, consult
an experienced adviser.
Phones in Remote Areas
is a standard charge for running a phone line into a property
and installing a phone. But if you live some distance from
the nearest cable the provider may charge for part or all
of the cost of laying new cable, poles etc. Contact the service
provider for details of how near you are to other customers
or phone cables and the costs of connection.
Access to Land for Repairs and Installation
a provider wants to install cables, pylons, telephone lines
or other equipment they must get permission in writing from
the land owners concerned including land needed for access.
If you refuse permission for a provider to carry out an installation,
it can apply to get permission from a court. If you want more
information about installation of telephone equipment on your
land, consult an experienced adviser.
Stop Unsolicited Calls
companies are banned from making unsolicited calls to people
who have registered with the Telephone Preference Service
(TPS). You can get further information about TPS at www.tpsonline.org.uk.
Marketing companies in the European Union are not allowed
to send unsolicited faxes to anyone who has not given their
consent to receive faxes from the company and this is the
case whether or not they have registered with the Fax Preference
Obscene or Malicious Calls
obscene, harassing or malicious calls may be a criminal offence.
Report these to the police. The police can authorise the phone
service to trace these calls. But if the person who is making
the calls is prosecuted, you may have to give evidence in
court. The providers usually have procedures with which deal
these calls. Check the phone service provider’s Code
phone bills list any calls to telephone helplines which means
that other people in the household will be able to see that
you have phoned a helpline. Providers supply a last number
redial service, which means that other members of the household
can check the last telephone number that was called. Some
providers itemise only calls above a certain limit and so,
to protect confidentiality, you could make a very brief call
to a helpline and ask them to call you back. Most helplines
that do this do not use caller display equipment and they
withhold their number when making or returning calls to customers.
Calls to freephone numbers beginning 0800 or 0500 are not
itemised on the phone bill unless made through a switchboard.
If you do not want the helpline to know your telephone number,
you should dial 141 before entering the helpline number.
Caller Return and Caller Display
service providers supply a service called ‘caller display’
or ‘caller return’. The caller display shows the
number of the caller, provided the phone receiving the call
has a visual display unit. Caller return enables the person
receiving calls to find out the number of the last caller
by dialling 1471. To delete the last incoming number, dial
1475. Caller return may be of limited use in the case of obscene
calls, as the person making the call can usually withhold
their number by phoning 141 before making the call. This does
not mean that the number cannot be traced once the police
have authorised this. With nuisance calls the provider can
trace the caller's number even if the number from which the
call was made has been withheld. You can also decide not to
answer a call if the caller’s number is not displayed.
Discounts, Rebates and Low Cost Schemes
offer a range of special discount and rebate schemes including
schemes for light and heavy users of phone services. Information
on these schemes is available from providers.
rate services give information and provide entertainment over
the phone; weather information, competitions and message exchange
services. Premium rate calls cost more than normal calls,
and rates for calls from mobile phones, telephone boxes and
hotels can be even higher. Charges from an domestic phone
must be shown in the advert for the service. The phone numbers
of most premium rate services start with '090', and services
of an adult nature start with '0909'. Some premium rate services
on mobile phones may use short access codes. Directory Enquiry
services which begin with '118' are also premium rate numbers.
can stop any dialling from your phone line to all United Kingdom
based 090 premium rate numbers. This will include calls from
your home computer. If you need to do this you should get
in touch your phone service provider. If you have a problem
with a premium rate service, or have been wrongly charged
for using a premium rate number, you can complain to the premium
rate services regulator PhonepayPlus. They have a number checking
facility on their website which allows you to find more information
about premium rate numbers that appear on your telephone bill.
They can also give you advice about what to do next.
should speak to your provider first about any complaints.
If the problem is not resolved you can make a formal complaint
to the company. You can find details of how to do this on
the back of your phone bill. All providers are required to
have a customer complaints process. If the company hasn't
got one, you should tell the communications watchdog, Ofcom.
If you have made a formal complaint to the company and your
problem still hasn’t been resolved, you can try using
the company's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.
Your phone company might belong to one of two ADR schemes
which have been approved by Ofcom: Otelo (the Office of the
Telecommunications Ombudsman) or CISAS (Communications and
Internet Services Adjudication Scheme). Providers are required
to have an ADR scheme. They are breaking important consumer
protection rules if they don't. If your phone company won't
tell you about its ADR scheme, you can call Ofcom for details,
or look on their website.
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