Helpdesk: Left hanging on the line after we reported phone fault to BT

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Jane Bradley investigates your consumer dilemmas

Q: After the storms of early December, we found that our phone line was crackly and calls were barely audible, even though none of our close neighbours had the same problem.

We called BT on 13 December and they said they’d look into the matter. I have an unwell mother abroad, so the phone is vital to us. We have a limited mobile signal where we live and so to make calls we have to stand in the garden, which is not ideal in all the bad weather.

Two weeks later, on 27 December, BT contacted us to say that the problem had been fixed and, in fact, the sound quality had improved temporarily, but the next day, it was back to being as bad as ever. Our broadband wasn’t affected, so we contacted them online and told them they would need to contact us by e-mail as our landline didn’t work, and the mobile coverage was sketchy.

We heard nothing until we received a text message on 18 January, telling us that they would need access to the house at some point over the following two days – without specifying a time.

They didn’t turn up on either of these two days, but the following Monday I received a text message at work informing me that they were coming that afternoon.

Dropping everything, I managed to get back home by 12:45pm, but they’d already left a message to say that they had been.

Ironically, when I phoned, they said that the engineers could not be contacted to be recalled, because of “poor mobile phone reception in the area”.

We understand that bad weather can cause damage, but feel that six weeks without a phone, the inability of BT to understand that contacting some rural customers by text message doesn’t work and the uncertainty and disappointment about missed appointments is bad customer service.

JF, Colintraive

A: A spokeswoman for BT said: “We are glad to report that this overhead fault was fixed yesterday. Argyll was particularly hard hit in the series of storms which battered Scotland over the winter, with fallen trees, lightning strikes and repeated gales hampering repair efforts.

“Considerable damage was caused to Openreach’s aerial network. Each fault has had to be fixed individually, including many cases where new poles and overhead cable have been needed. In this case, engineers initially thought they had fixed the noisy line, but the fault recurred. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and frustration caused.”

• If you have a consumer issue that you would like tackling, contact Jane Bradley on 0131 620 8432 or e-mail