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BT caused charity workers 'stress and grief'

Thursday, May 7th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A small charity that works with vulnerable adults has been caused “a huge amount of inconvenience, stress and grief” by BT’s poor customer service, according to the charity’s boss.

Paul Richards (pictured with project manager Madeline Denny) is the director of Stay Up Late, a charity that promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities.

He said the charity first contacted BT last July about having broadband installed, but had to wait until October before getting online.

Stay Up Late has since had to move offices but has been told to pay a £211 cancellation charge.

“On five occasions we were informed that a contractor from BT would be installing the connection and on five occasions they turned up and left,” said Mr Richards.

“The reason they gave was that because we were on the sixth floor it would be too much effort for them and the amount of money they would get from BT wouldn’t make it worth their while.”

Mr Richards suggested installing the router downstairs but was told the construction of the building made it impossible for wi-fi to pass through the ceilings.

“We complained about this in October and eventually had our broadband installed successfully,” he said.

Shortly afterwards, Stay Up Late had to vacate its Brighton office as the landlord had decided to redevelop the building. The charity informed BT and was told it would have to pay a fee to end its contract early.

“We are a small charity working really hard to support vulnerable adults in the community and rely on an internet connection to do our work effectively,” said Mr Richards.

'Saying sorry'

“We made the point to the BT call centre that the organisation had caused us a huge amount of inconvenience, stress and grief and whether they could consider letting us off the £211 cancellation charge as a way of saying sorry.

“They said they weren’t willing to consider this.”

Mr Richards said the lack of broadband cost the charity a lot in terms of time spent trying to sort the issue and using mobile phone hotspots to get online.

It also put workers under stress as they weren’t able to interact with Stay Up Late’s beneficiaries and stakeholders effectively.

“We’re a really small charity and the team are working hard to match up people with learning disabilities with volunteers, recruit volunteers, submitting funding applications, dealing with referrals, and all sorts of other things to promote and deliver the project,” said Mr Richards.

“As a cost effective way of working we use cloud based systems as well as a heavy use of email as we’re working across a wide area in Sussex.

“So to not have broadband for five months meant the team couldn’t do their work properly – [they] would have to work from home, or cafes – not as a team.”

'Way below par'

Mr Richards is asking BT to reconsider its decision and waive the cancellation fee as a gesture of goodwill as its customer service was “way below par”.

“Small charities are struggling in the UK at the moment, the economic situation is meaning greater pressures on our work as we seek to deal with demand for our services.

“It would be nice to think that big companies like BT could support us and our like by trying to make life as easy as possible for us, not complicating it and then penalising us.”

Mr Richards added that his personal BT contract was up for renewal and he was looking for another provider as he had been so upset by the way BT had treated his team.

Cable.co.uk asked BT to comment, but had not received one at the time of publication.

BT announced earlier today that record numbers of consumers had signed up to fibre broadband with Openreach.

The company added 455,000 new customers to its Openreach fibre service in the first three months of 2015.

BT also revealed that pre-tax profits rose to £2.645bn for the year to the end of March, a year-on-year rise of 14%.

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