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Confusion Over BT’s Definition of a Tablet After BT Sport Block UPDATE

Thursday, August 20th, 2020 (9:40 am) - Score 18,293
bt_sport_unsupported_device

Customers on some of BT’s broadband and TV packages (both business and residential) have recently found that the bundled BTSport TV App has stopped working on Microsoft Surface (Go and Pro) tablets, which is despite the fact that they’re advertised as being supported. Part of this is because the UK ISP now considers them to be laptops.

Over the past few years’ customers of various packages, on BT as well as via other operators like EE, have taken a bundle that also gave them access to the BT Sport App on both their mobile device and “1 other device“. As part of that a lot of people also registered a mix of both Microsoft Windows 10 based laptops and surface tablets as their choice of “other device” (handy as you can use HDMI or USB-C to stream content to a TV).

Anybody doing a quick Google around BT’s site to check for supported devices will have no trouble finding confirmation that “Windows smartphones and tablets running Windows 10” are supported (here). The page for BT Business customers goes further (here) and even directly lists everything from iPads to Microsoft Surface tablets, Samsung Galaxy Tablets and other Windows based tablets or phones as being supported.

Suffice to say that existing customers have been given a reasonable expectation that all of these will work and indeed, for the past few years, they have.

Windows smartphones and tablets running Windows 10

The app has been optimised for touchscreen devices, but it is compatible with the majority of devices running Windows 10. However, there are many different Windows 10 devices on the market, and we’re unable to test the app on every one. We have successfully tested the app on the following devices:

Tablets

HP x2 210 Intel Atom Z8300
Microsoft Surface 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Linx 1010B 10″
Acer Iconia 8″ Z3735F

Sadly, until recently, there hasn’t been much live sport to watch over the late spring and summer due to the impact from COVID-19, but as more events start to return then BT Sport users have also begun to load up the app again. Unfortunately, some of those on Microsoft Windows based tablets are now finding that the BT Sport App is restricting their access.

The message given informs those affected that “Your subscription doesn’t allow viewing on this platform. Please upgrade your subscription to use this app.” Upon contacting BT many of those affected appear to be told that it should still work, while others have been informed that the devices are no longer supported, despite still being listed as such above.

Meanwhile a seemingly related thread on EE’s community forum (here) indicates that the issue began around June 2020 after users with Microsoft Windows 10 computers were informed that “Your subscription doesn’t allow viewing on this platform. Access will be removed on 20th July 2020.”

Part of the issue appears likely to stem from the fact that BT Sport customers now need to pay a little extra if they want “large screen app” access, which isn’t always being clearly explained on the pages that list supported devices.

Example Complaint by T***

“We run a small home-based business and are customers of BT Business Broadband and currently pay about £74 per month for two 60meg connections and a speechline. The contract includes the BT Sports app which is a nice add-on my son enjoys for football – he is having hospital treatment and “extremely vulnerable” to Covid so he has cabin fever. Out of the blue access has been blocked for no good reason.

They have changed their T’s&C’s unilaterally to stop people ‘abusing’ the use of the app to view on bigger screens without paying extra for a fuller subscription. All the marketing blerb from BT promises BT Sport access via their app which the marketing states works on phones and tablets. It no longer works on our Microsoft Surface Go tablet (fully updated).”

Example Complaint by pka1

“I am getting the same message. When I subscribed to the package it was for my iPhone and “1 other device”, and I remember registering my Windows 10 laptop somewhere as that device (which can then HDMI to the big telly) … it’s been working for the last 3 years or so.”

Example Complaint by dave

“I am not going to pay you extra to get something that was included in the offer when I took the contract out. Contrary to that which is being quoted the original deal was for a mobile device containing an EE SIM using BT Sport mobile app and one Windows 10 device using the BT Sport app from the Microsoft store. That is a device running the the full Windows 10 operating system and not Windows mobile. Now if EE wish to vary those conditions then that is up to them, but I would have expected an advance notice of change of service. EE didn’t give that and they are who my contract is with.”

In response BT declined to offer a comment but did inform us that there are no compatibility issues with the BT Sport app on any Windows device. Instead the operator said that some customers have been accessing the service on devices that their subscriptions should not have allowed and they were given 2-months’ notice before the block was introduced (due to COVID-19 not everybody saw this as it was only displayed inside the app).

We queried this further and the operator noted that Microsoft Surface devices, while said to be tablet-like, are now considered by BT to be a laptop and thus BT business customers, for example, cannot access the app on those devices (this is something that BT still needs to make very clear on their website). Apparently the details are all covered in their T&Cs, which of course almost nobody ever actually reads or fully understands.

The issue also opens up a whole can of worms around BT’s technical definition of what can and cannot be considered a “tablet” (we are awaiting BT’s view). The Microsoft Surface Pro and Go devices are all sold without keyboards as tablets, which can be added as a paid extra. Similarly, the latest iPad’s have recently received software updates that enable them to behave more like laptops with, again, the optional addition of a keyboard.

In the meantime, there are of course some ways to work around issues like this. For example, you can still use TV casting from a mobile device to achieve a similar large screen style outcome and some mobiles even enable you to output from USB-C to HDMI.

Alternatively there are software projects like scrcpy (scroll down on that page for the downloads), which enable users to mirror their Android mobile phone screen to a PC computer (note: on Android you’ll need to enable developer options and ‘Allow USB Debug‘ for this to work). Finally, a few others have found that the block went away after they simply uninstalled and then reinstalled the app.

UPDATE 21st August 2020

BT informs that they’ve now amended the BT Business customer help page to remove references to Windows devices, which they say was an “error.” As BT treats some BTSport customers differently from others then they’ve also provided a clarification to explain this difference, even though it still doesn’t answer the question of why a 10″ iPad is classed as a tablet, while a 10″ Microsoft Surface Go is classed as a laptop.

Difference in customers

  • BT business, BT mobile and EE mobile customers all have their own policies and terms and conditions when using the BT Sport app.
  • They should be treated separately from each other and from other customers. They do not have the same policies as BT TV customers, BT broadband customers or other EE customers which have their own terms and conditions for using the BT Sport app.

The issue

  • BT business, BT mobile and EE mobile customers have always only had small screen access, e.g. on mobile and tablets only.
  • We recently identified that some customers were using the Windows 10 platform to gain large screen access, such as watching the BT Sport app on a Surface Go which constitutes as a laptop (large screen).
  • As such we made changes to prevent them being able to do this as it is outside of their terms and conditions. We gave these customers two months notice of the changes at the end of May 2020.
  • This isn’t applicable to BT TV customers.

Who has large screen access

  • BT Sport on BT TV customers are able to use the BT Sport app on any platform, giving them large or small screen access. They do not need to “pay a little extra” for this and is not a new feature.
  • For the small subset of customers who do not have large screen access, this is made clear to them in the terms and conditions and at the point of sale.

Devices

  • BT Sport app has never registered devices and we are not aware of an offer of “+1 device” for the BT Sport app.
  • What is permitted on the BT Sport app are two concurrent streams from permitted devices and screens.

Support pages

  • Reference to the support page here as confirmation that all customers can watch BT Sport on any Windows 10 device is misleading. This is simply showing what platforms the app support, it does not state all customers with the BT Sport app can access it on these platforms.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder says:

    Unfortunately this is just another (re)incarnation of “BT Law” – the process in which BT awards itself the right to trample over consumer and SME rights whenever it feels like it. I though we had seen the back of this kind of behaviour with the new team in place as upsets so many people that it is effective marketing for the opposition.

    If BT are still advertising this on the website, then anyone subscribing has a reasonable expectation of promise of the service as described. And would be entitled to compensation for failure to fulfil the promise. Screen capture of the offending page would do.

    As far as consumers are concerned the small print doesn’t mean that much if the headline says it with no equivocation or qualification.

    I wouldn’t give much for BT’s chances of successfully defending any consumer compensation claims in County Court.

    Unfortunately the same protections are not necessarily handed down to SME’s who are subject to a lot of T&C’s abuse from national level companies which is something that does need to be fixed. The problem is that contracts between companies fall outside of the Unfair Contracts Act – as most SME’s don’t have the legal nous or resources to parse every small contact this is inherently unfair. That being said Small Claims tend to be pretty unsympathetic to nationals trying on T&C’s abuse where the outcome is obviously unfair and the nationals don’t usually bother to defend those kind of claims anyway. Small Claims rulings don’t set precedent.

    Could actually be a useful way of getting out of a long contract with BT….as BT would be in breach of a material term…..

    1. Avatar Iain says:

      Absolutely. Unfair sections of contracts are not legally valid. In particular, small print cannot contradict headline terms.

  2. Avatar Simi says:

    Microsoft do this. I can get office personal on a few little tablets I own. But the limit is 11.1 inches according to their terms so when I went to a Surface Pro which was 11.3 inches they said no and forced me to pay for it again. When I said this was stupid as it’s their own brand of tablet and they should know this limit will impact on the people who buy their hardware I was just told it’s in the licence agreement. I had only just got it thankfully so I returned it and transferred my whole business package to Google. (My Office 365 was online anyway instead of software based downloads) so it was a good move. I just couldn’t believe the cheek they had. As for BT? Well.. We all have words to spell out what those letters stand for.

  3. Avatar Simi says:

    Sorry I meant Office essentials which is for business, not Office Personal

  4. Avatar Matt says:

    Seems like a simple case of BT not fulfilling their end of the contract.

    Have your subscription terminated, if they’re not fulfilling their end of the deal then you can leave without a cancellation fee. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

    1. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      That doesn’t really solve the issue though if BT and EE are still selling the packages with misleading terms and conditions. A company cannot say you can access a service on a type of device but then retroactively impose restrictions based on what they define to be such a device, and arbitrarily at that.

      No, they cannot be expected to test the app on all devices, but if their own terms lack specificity and instead simply use the term “tablet with x OS on it” then they are contractually obliged to offer it within those broadly defined terms. They can choose to update the terms but they are breaking consumer contract law if they silently update the terms.

      It is wholly anti consumer and simply terminating contract on an individual level is insufficient remediation.

  5. Avatar Stuart Burgess says:

    Its high time this practice of defining certain devices by size was binned…Everything from a phone to a pc/tablet/ notebook/laptop up to the biggest television set should be regarded the same .

    1. Avatar Chris says:

      I would hardly call both a phone and a TV the same device.

    2. Avatar Alex Atkin says:

      @Chris The point is that a phone can stream to a TV and these are all “screens”, the size should be completely irrelevant.

      It makes far more sense to do what Netflix do, charge based on resolution and bitrate limitations. That way someone can watch on any size they want, but will be motivated to pay more for a better picture as it will look progressively worse as your screen size increases.

  6. Avatar David Platt says:

    No problem watching BT sport on my laptop either via the BT sports app or via a browser. I have BT sport with my broadband contract and also receive it via Sky box. I don’t appear to have a problem.

  7. Avatar Rauy Woodward says:

    Not related, but Sky news are reporting that BT are apparently facing a 15 billion pound take over bid

    https://news.sky.com/story/bt-group-board-on-alert-for-15bn-takeover-approaches-12054366

  8. Avatar John Stock says:

    For the ordinary household user what other line of redress exists against BT, other than County Court action?
    At the time of writing I should be watching the Brighton V Man United Premier League game.
    Upon attempting to log on I am presented with a message saying, “You need to upgrade your package to view this content”
    On previous occasions I have been forced into purchasing unwanted product in order to be able to view games. I am now involved in the tedious procedure of having these purchases reversed.
    The system has now become so corrupted that upon attempting this strategy again another message is displayed saying, “We are sorry but we process your order at this time”

    On previous occasions when I have managed to speak to a real person at BT about this I have been told that they do not know what is causing the problem.

    Where does one go from here?

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