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talk about getting 0wned

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09:00 - 19 June 2003


Di Alexander was baffled when a £500 item appeared on his latest BT telephone bill.

According to the account, he has dialled the Speaking Clock every nine minutes of every hour throughout last December and from January to March.

The calls, each amounting to 32 seconds, have sent his bill sky high and left Mr Alexander, of 10 Guisach Terrace, Corpach, Inverness-shire, dumbstruck.

The development manager for the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust was told by BT that the problem relates to his Sky digital box.

An angry Mr Alexander contacted his MP, David Stewart, who is taking the complaint to BT, Sky and Highland Council's trading standards officers.

Mr Alexander says that when he took up the problem with BT, the telecoms giant claimed that the calls were linked to a fault with settings on his digibox.

The box is programmed to "call back" from a modem at regular intervals to convey information for billing purposes and details of any non-subscription events.

But Sky told Mr Alexander there could only be a problem if the phone had been unplugged or a prefix is entered into the telephone settings.

And he says the only time he touched the digibox was when the broadcaster sent a new satellite viewing card.

"I followed the printed instructions to the letter in replacing the old card with the new," he said.

"The television functioned again as before, and I have not touched the digibox since, nor has anyone else."

Mr Alexander maintains that he should not have to pay for calls which are no fault of the customer but clearly result from a systems failure by Sky.

BT is adamant that the calls have to be paid for, but has suspended payment until July.

Sky says it is "unable to consider paying any balance" on his bill.

But their bemused customer asked: "How on earth could I or any other human being be intent upon, or capable of, such an unrelentingly repetitive and precise and continuous pattern of usage?

"And why on earth would anyone want to dial the Speaking Clock more than once in a blue moon anyway?"

MP Mr Stewart said: "From research I've carried out, Mr Alexander isn't the only one to be caught out with this problem and there have been similar complaints to the BBC's Watchdog programme.

"As yet, Mr Alexander hasn't been offered any help from Sky to pay his bill, but I believe they have helped in one other case of a similar complaint."

The MP added: "They should do the decent thing and come to a settlement and I will be pursing the matter."

A BT spokesman said: "We've carried out a very full investigation into a number of complaints of this type and have found no fault with any BT equipment.

"There does appear to be a problem with some Sky digiboxes connected to the BT network automatically dialling numbers and this is a matter for Sky."

He added: "We have dealt with a number of similar cases and in every one when we have asked our customers to disconnect their Sky digibox from the telephone line, the calls to 123 have ceased immediately.

"BT has a legal obligation to charge for the cost of connecting calls made on its network and the charges have been maintained. It's a matter for Sky to resolve."

A Sky spokesman was not available to comment.


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Whoa!! Talk about getting screwed by technology ppl shouldn't buy everything without checking it out first.

Then again, pre-programmed digiboxes...Hum.... company may needed some cash *roll eyes and ponders*


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