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BT business customer contracts to change Thursday

Two days left to opt out of new 12-month agreement

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Updated: BT customers with Business PSTN lines will find their contract upgraded to include BT Business Line Divert come Thursday - but will find that upgrade locks them into a 12-month repeating contract unless they opt out before it kicks in.

Customers should have received a letter about the change, but several telecommunications companies joined together in filing an official complaint to Ofcom at the end of last month, suggesting that such changes need more than assumed consent. Their case has now been taken up by the Federation of Communication Services who believe that BT's behaviour is anti-competitive, and that requiring customers to opt out of a new contract is unreasonable.

Kerry Ritz, MD of VoIP provider Vonage UK, is adamant that the ex-monopoly isn't playing fair. "Yet again BT is resorting to stealth tactics to hold on to its customers," he said. "Opt-outs are widely regarded as unfair and anti the consumer, yet BT uses them because they know their services aren’t up to scratch."

Ofcom will only take action if the rules have been broken, but the federation cites precedent from a year ago that would seem to indicate Ofcom not only has the right, but also the obligation, to act in a case like this one. Of course, on that occasion it was BT who was complaining.

Ofcom say they are "actively engaged" with BT Retail on this matter, but won't say if they're going to let the company rewrite the contracts. BT points out that customers should already have received a written warning and that a special line has been set up (0800 587 1984) to answer queries and allow customers to opt out.

Anyone wanting to do so is going to have to move pretty quickly, though if you're happy with BT and want free Business Line Divert then you've no reason to call. Anyone else using a Business PSTN line might want to check what they are about to be tied down to. ®

Update BT has been in touch to remind us that it was Wednesday, not Thursday, that the new contracts came into effect, but that's no problem as customers have until the 19th of May to cancel the new contract, and apparently the busy chaps at BT will be phoning every one of you over the next month or so to offer you the opportunity to opt out, or explain why you've already opted out.

Do let us know if/when you hear from them.

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