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  #1  
Old 28-03-2008, 07:30 AM
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Default Solicitor taking bt to court for non direct debit charges

Hopes Of Millions Riding On BT Court Case


David Crabtree
Midlands correspondent
Updated:06:01, Friday March 28, 2008
A solicitor is set to take British Telecom to court for charging more to customers who do not pay their bills by direct debit.

BT charges cash customers extra

Ros Fernihough believes she is being wrongly penalised because she pays her bills in cash.
In May last year BT introduced an £18 per year charge for the 2.9 million customers who pay they phone bills by cash, cheque, debit or credit card.
BT says it costs more to process non-direct debit payments. It also costs more to chase people who do not pay.
But Ros Fernihough, a 62-year-old lawyer from Walsall said: "The charge is fundamentally unfair. Many people, especially those on the margins of society and who are on low incomes find it very difficult to find any increase for any bill."
Other organisations charge extra to non-direct debit customers. The annual charge for the British Gas customer who is not on direct debit is around £1,055.
Those on direct debit are charged £87 less. Vodafone add £3.50 to the monthly bills of all their customers who do not pay by direct debit. They say this is to cover extra administration costs.


"With charges as high as £60 a year, customers should seriously consider whether they wish to continue settling their bills by cheque, cash or card.
"If they do, they could still cut costs by moving to a company that offers cheaper line rental."
Ros Fernihough said: "On a 10 pound note it says 'I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ten pounds', not ten pounds plus a £1.50 handling fee."
She is bringing the case under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulation 1999 and is due to be heard at Walsall County Court.
The judge has already ruled that her claim is of considerable public importance.
She says it has been a hard struggle but believes she will take the hopes of millions of people into the courtroom with her.
The outcome could lead to companies lifting the charges they levy on cash paying customers.
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Old 28-03-2008, 07:43 AM
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This lady might be saving us a few shekels if she wins..

She was interviewed on ITV Breakfast this morning.
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Old 28-03-2008, 10:06 AM
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chase non paying customers?? Virgin tried to charge me the £5 a month with a full Broadband contract
paid up front in cash? no chasing needed?

I especially like the comment on the handling fee.

Would defiantly save some time DL may be some more claims for refunds on the horizon
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Last edited by Hocuspocus : 28-03-2008 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 28-03-2008, 10:12 AM
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Oh I am planning to lodge a claim for refund of charges from BT.
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Old 28-03-2008, 10:16 AM
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could what the judge says determine the reclaiming and will it be the 6 years again, i have alot to come from Telewest/Virgin if so
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Old 28-03-2008, 10:25 AM
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For arguments ake £1 a month is not a problem. It is when virgin charge you £5 for non direct debit and then add a £10 late payment fee. Then the fuel suppliers are doing the same. Never mind. It is probably because bt refused to pay the sol back. I can see the utilities etc going to high court case in a few years to save their back sides.
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Old 28-03-2008, 10:31 AM
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Im paymeter honestly on any service available and by the time i add up the £5s plus any late payment charge they "may" apply, and the worry im happy knowing what and when im paying, and that theres no nasty surprises.
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Old 28-03-2008, 01:55 PM
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Ofcom have already said that these charges for non DD payments are unfair -but no ruling has yet been made as far as I can tell.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Last Updated: Thursday, 28 February 2008, 12:31 GMT



Ofcom set to ban 'unfair' charges





Paying by cheque can carry a noticeable extra cost

Telecom and internet firms will soon have to stop levying extra charges that the regulator Ofcom says are unfair.
The regulator is responding to complaints about additional charges for paying bills by cheque or cash, ending contracts early or paying bills late.
Any extra charges must be clear and "demonstrably fair", Ofcom says.
The draft guidance from the regulator covers bills and charges not only for home phones but also for mobile phones, broadband and pay TV.
If charges remain unclear to customers, firms will not be able to recoup more than the cost of providing the service, under the draft rules that should come into force in the autumn.
"For consumers to get an all round fair deal they need to know the full costs of the services they are buying," said Ofcom's chief executive Ed Richards
"Our proposals will encourage companies to be open and straightforward about additional charges where they feel it is necessary to include them.
"In addition, our proposals mean that, in some cases, additional charges will be subject to clear limits which would provide direct protection for consumers," he added.
Clear explanation
A year ago BT attracted widespread criticism for a decision to increase to £4.50 a quarter the extra charge on customers who did not pay their bills by direct debit.
A consumer who ends a contract early should never have to pay more than the payments left under the contract


Ofcom


Its rival Virgin charged £5 a month for administering the bill collection of customers who had not signed up for a direct debit.
Ofcom's proposed rules do not outlaw such extra charges altogether.
Instead, it says they must be "prominent and transparent" so that customers can easily make up their own minds about the true overall cost of buying a telephone service.
If a company does not do that, then the charges "should only include the provider's extra costs of collecting normal payments and not an opportunity to collect further revenue".
"This consultation and subsequent action will hopefully lead to more transparency and fairness for consumers in the telecommunications industry," said David Sinclair of Help the Aged.
"It is often the poorest and most excluded who lose out and end up paying more when charges are hidden or when contract amendments or extensions are made without the active consent of the consumer."
Legal threat
Ofcom's new rules will apply not only to bill collection charges but to charges for collecting failed and late payments.
As well as making customers more aware of these, the regulator says they should only be applied once the customer has had a "fair chance" to pay the bill and should reflect only the true cost of collecting the money.
Ofcom also wants to apply the same argument to charges for breaking a phone contract by ending it early.
"A consumer who ends a contract early should never have to pay more than the payments left under the contract period," Ofcom said. "In fact they should often pay less than this, to reflect costs providers save because the contract ends early." Once Ofcom's final guidance is published later this year, telecom firms will have three months to comply, or face legal action under the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Last edited by TUTTSI : 28-03-2008 at 01:58 PM. Reason: additional info
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Old 28-03-2008, 02:02 PM
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Foreword


Competition in the provision of communications services is good for consumers. Greater innovation is one such benefit, lower prices are another.
While the amount that consumers pay for communications services is falling year-on-year, the full picture is not always so apparent. Charges levied on top of the headline price - for example for non-direct debit payments or late payments or for early termination of contracts - may be unclear to consumers. If so, these additional charges may not be subject to the competitive pressures which discipline headline prices.
Following complaints from consumers, Ofcom has investigated these issues in detail. We have concluded that communications providers need to do more to ensure that consumers are properly informed up front about any charges which may be incurred. Communication providers will also need to change some terms and conditions to ensure these charges are set fairly.
In this consultation we are seeking views on a new set of guidance under the existing Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations . Ofcom’s draft guidance in relation to contracts for communication services is intended to help protect consumers from unfair terms in their contracts and will enable suppliers to comply more easily with the regulations . The key elements of the guidance are summarised in the Executive Summary.
At the same time, there is a concern that some additional charges may fall disproportionately on low-income consumers, increasing their costs or even excluding these consumers from some communication services altogether.
We believe some concerns over access and inclusion for low income consumers are best addressed by targeted social telephony schemes, such as BT Basic, which provides low cost rental (and an inclusive call allowance), with no additional charge for non-direct debit payments, for those in receipt of certain state benefits.
We recognise that there are broader concerns about the amounts low income groups pay for a range of services which go beyond communications services, and we are keen to engage with Government and others in an examination of these issues.

Ed Richards
Chief Executive



This was taken from OFCOMS web site
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  #10  
Old 28-03-2008, 06:07 PM
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Just wandering where were these charges and costs 10 years ago ?
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