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UK ISP Takes a Stand to Tackle Repeated BT SFI Billing Errors

Friday, Oct 26th, 2012 (7:59 am) - Score 1,001

The outspoken boss of UK ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP) has threatened to withhold payment of “disputed charges” after becoming “sick and tired” of his staff allegedly having to waste hours tackling Special Fault Investigation (SFI) related billing errors and other mistakes created by BTOpenreach and BTWholesale.

Openreach is responsible for managing access to and maintaining BT’s national UK telecoms network, which most ISPs rely on for the delivery of their internet and phone services. A significant part of its work involves sending out engineers to resolve problems, such as complex broadband faults. Customers usually report such problems to their ISPs before the provider passes them on to Openreach.

Mistakes can of course be made, much as they can in any complex business of scale, although the most common usually relate to SFI billing errors (e.g. where Openreach charges for work that is supposed to be within their own realm or charges for missed appointments when the engineer did attend). Issues like this are nothing new and ISPs, not to mention end-users themselves, have a long history of related gripes.

Adrian Kennard, Director of Andrews & Arnold, said:

This one is aimed at other ISPs using BT services. All of you spend a lot of time on disputes, I am sure, not just SFI charges but mistakes, though I suspect SFI charges are the main one. It is very time consuming. 

To be quite frank I am sick and tired of having staff spend hours and hours fixing BT errors on their bill. They should have no errors. It is simply not acceptable.”

It’s perhaps not realistic to expect “no errors” at all but never the less Kennard has decided to “take a stand” against the problem. From now on the ISP has pledged to check Openreach’s bills and advise them of any errors, although they will only do this once. “We will then withhold the payment of the disputed charges, as per the contract. We believe that this is all we have to do as per the contract,” added Kennard. “When they come back later asking why the invoice was under paid (even though we told them), we will only reply if they agree to pay a consultancy fee, probably £75/hour.”

Kennard claims to be interested in hearing whether or not any other ISPs have had to adopt a similarly strict approach in order to tackle such concerns, although traditionally most providers have preferred to keep their heads low for fear of upsetting the business most directly responsible for their livelihoods. As usual we’ve asked Openreach for comment and are awaiting a response.

It should be said that AAISP has a long history of concerns with SFI charges and even created a dedicated page to explain their position in more detail.

UPDATE 8:53am

Adrian Kennard told ISPreview.co.uk this morning that, “the main problem we have had is that BT will often just sit on the disputes” and do nothing for months. Allegedly Openreach would then come back and chase the ISP for why a bill was paid short, which would result in AAISP having to “faff about going through the details with the BT payments team. This would happen several times for the same disputes even.”

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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