Telecoms giant slammed as pensioner inadvertently runs up huge bill

Part of the massive bill and (inset) Mrs Hausvalds
Part of the massive bill and (inset) Mrs Hausvalds

A Collessie woman has accused BT of ‘preying on the defenceless’ after her elderly mother was sent a bill for over £93 for just SIX calls.

Lin Walton contacted the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen to warn others against falling into the same trap as her 88-year-old widowed mum Joan Hausvalds, who suffers from deafness and Alzheimer’s.

Between April 6 and June 6 this year, Mrs Hausvalds made six calls to BT’s 118500 service to find out numbers she needed.

But she didn’t realise that by being connected she was running up a bill of a whopping £93.03 - and her direct debit was increased to £72 a month.

Three of the six calls were charged at £20 each, despite lasting less than 10 minutes.

“My mother is housebound, has Alzheimers and is very deaf, but needs a phone as it is her lifeline to calling for help when she needs it,” said Lin.

“Despite complaining to BT and explaining about my mum’s health issues, they absolutely refused to refund a penny.

“I was directed to complain to Phonepay Plus, who regulate the premium rate call service and monitor the charges along with Ofcom, and I also complained to the Ombudsman, but they are all unable to help, leaving my mother very distressed by this.

“She would not have heard or understood the charges if she was told over the ‘phone as she made the calls, and would never have made the calls if she had realised the true cost of these calls, which can be £5 a minute!

“Shame on BT for preying on the defenceless in our society.”

Eventually a customer services adviser agreed to refund £65 as a gesture of goodwill after listening to the six calls and conceding that it was obvious that Mrs Hausvalds hadn’t understood that by being connected she was racking up a huge bill. A call barring service has also been offered to prevent future calls to the line.

BT’s 118500 directory service provides a range of information and number services, including the option of being connected to the number. Before transferring, each agent reads a script announcing the charges before connecting the caller. BT says it has also sent details of its free directory enquiry service for customers who have difficulty using the phone like Mrs Hausvalds.