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ISP XLN Forces UK Customers to Pay for Insurance against BT Engineers

Monday, Dec 9th, 2013 (12:39 pm) - Score 2,364

Business ISP XLN Telecom has taken the unique, if controversial, approach of attaching a new monthly “Business Assurance” charge of +£1.95 to their customers broadband and phone bills in order to protect against the increasingly hefty engineer charges that BTOpenreach levy for fixing service faults (SFI).

Openreach often deploys engineers to investigate and resolve complex faults under the Special Fault Investigation (SFI) system, which usually occurs after a fault has been identified by the end-user and the ISP is unable to resolve it directly and so calls out an engineer (ideally after first offering the option to their customer).

In theory Openreach’s engineers should fix any problems that are within their realm, without charge (i.e. this usually means everything up to where the line enters your home phone socket). But mistakes often occur, such as unnecessary work or blaming the wrong piece of equipment, which can leave customers to shoulder the minimum charge of £180 inc. VAT (£78 per hour after that). Now XLN Telecom has found a solution.. insurance via a price hike.

XLN Telecom’s Customer Letter (Extract)

XLN Telecom has decided to do something positive to safeguard you from unexpected engineer charges. While unfortunately BT are not willing to drop or lower these charges, we have been working with customers to find a solution as it has threatened to put some out of business. A bill of hundreds of pounds is very unwelcome, particularly in this economic climate.

So to give you peace of mind we have introduced a fair solution for all customers that makes sure you will never have to pay BT Openreach engineer charges. For just £1.95 per month for each line we guarantee that all faults will be fixed free of charge and you will never get a bill from BT Openreach – XLN will pay it for you.

Just one BT Openreach engineer call-out is equivalent to 16 years of XLN protection, so this is a sensible, low-cost solution to a growing problem.

It should be noted that as an added benefit related customers will also receive all the services included in XLN’s Business Support Standard package at no extra cost (unless you consider that you’re paying an extra £1.95 whether you like it or not). The idea is certainly a novel approach but rival provider AAISP, which has long campaigned against the problems of SFI visits and charges, has questioned why it isn’t being offered as an optional extra.

Adrian Kennard, Director of Andrews & Arnold, said (blog):

The underlying issue is that BT are blaming customer equipment when they simply have failed to find the cause of a fault. In principle, I am more than happy if BT were to prove the fault was end user equipment to then charge for wasting their time, but in our experience that is rarely the case.

So the idea of offering an insurance against the risk of an SFI charge is a novel approach. I hope XLN have the appropriate FSA stuff to offer insurance and are charging insurance premium tax correctly and so on. Or is it not insurance? I wonder.

The only thing I would disagree with is that they seem to be forcing this on their customers rather than simply offering it as an option.”

In fairness XLN have probably chosen to levy the charge against all of their related customers because it would work to bring the total cost of the charge itself down to a more acceptable level. But we do agree that, despite being a fundamentally good idea, the idea of simply lumping it on to customers bills might attract a negative response from some subscribers and perhaps justly so.

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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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