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Bloke threatens BT with giant plywood cheque

Cash this, suggests hacked-off Reg reader

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

It's Friday, so we're sure the following heartwarming tale will cheer your final slog into the weekend: how Reg reader David Humpage is giving BT some serious grief with giant novelty cheques.

David wrote to the El Reg consumer affairs department explaining that a couple of years back he noticed he was being charged £4.50 a pop for paying his phone bills online. This, he suggests, actually costs the telco nothing, so why the charge?

Two years of correspondence later, BT admitted it didn't take a financial hit for processing online payments, but explained it "averaged together all the non-direct-debit payment methods, and on that basis it costs them £4.50".

David says: "Fair enough, I thought, I don't want to do business with this kind of dishonesty and anyway you haven't apologised about Phorm yet. So I left."

He continues: "As I'd been paying for over two years to have non-existent cheques cashed, I thought I may as well have something for this outlay, so my last cheque was sent blown up on A3 cardboard. Remember, it's legal to write a cheque on anything as long as it contains the right information - there are famous stories of a cheque written on a cow, or in one case on a fish. In the circumstances, I thought they got off pretty lightly."

BT didn't think so, and since dispatching his novelty cheque last November, David has "been deluged with calls from BT people who couldn't speak English and were clearly following a script".

The company also referred the matter to a debt collection agency, which claimed the cheque had bounced. In fact, clarified David's bank, it was never presented for payment.

BT then claimed the cheque rubbered "because it was non-standard" - something David nicely describes as "clearly bollocks".

David splendidly concludes: "I've had my solicitor write them several letters, pointing out that they've been paid with a legal cheque, and it's up to them to cash it. I've even offered to replace the cheque, though stipulating that there'll be a £25 admin charge and the replacement will be on plywood."

Well done that man. The current state of play is that David's solicitor has written to BT threatening to "take them to court if they didn't cash my cheque". He's currently awaiting a reply, while the debt collectors have fallen silent.

We emailed BT this morning asking for its position on giant novelty cheques. A press officer requested the phone number related to the bill in question, and promised to look into the matter. Watch this space... ®

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