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BT Responds to TalkTalks Rolling Contract Moan
By: MarkJ - 04 March, 2009 (8:52 AM)

BT has hit back at yesterdays moan by rival broadband ISP TalkTalk, in which the operator was attacked over its use of rolling contracts (here). TalkTalk warned that, unless a BT customer notified the operator of their intent to leave, they would automatically be signed up to another lengthy new contract.

BT has since denied that such contracts are a bad thing and instead claims them to be "a clear [AND] positive choice". The operator notes how the renewable nature of its contracts are clearly explained three times up front to the customer:

Speaking in a statement to ISPreview, a BT spokesman said: "BT extended free weekend calls to 10.8 million Option 1 customers from February 1, 2008. For the first time, all 14.8 million BT households - the majority of British households - no longer had to pay for weekend calls.

At the same time we announced that from April 1, 2008, Unlimited Weekend Plan customers would also get free evening calls if they took out a 12-month renewable contract, a further saving on top of free weekend calls. More than three million customers have recognised the value this represents by signing up to the deal.

Customers make a clear positive choice to opt in to a renewable contract in exchange for the considerable benefit of free evening calls. The renewable nature of the contract is clearly explained three times up front to the customer.

Customers are very clearly reminded in writing with around 30 days notice when their contract is coming up for renewal that they will be entering into a new 12-month period unless say that they do not wish to do so. If they wish to leave at this point, they can without charge. Our communications are extremely clear on what the customer can expect, in return for the continuing benefit they will receive. Many other services, such as magazine subscriptions, insurance, car breakdown services are contracted in similar ways.

BT certainly has a point because their website does indeed make several relatively clear mentions of a "12 month renewable contract", which is then explained in the small print further down that same page:

Evening & Weekend and Anytime Plans. A 12 month renewable contract applies. So, after 12 months, your contract will be automatically renewed for another 12 month minimum renewable period unless you tell us otherwise. We'll write to remind you when your contract is nearing the end of a renewable period.

This is not to say that rolling contracts aren't still a "sharp practice", but we'd be very surprised if TalkTalk's move to have them stamped out via Ofcom actually succeeded.

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