BT slammed after charity cut off

AN MP has condemned communications giant BT for refusing to waiver the £400 telephone bill of a Suffolk charity after it became the latest victim of internet rogue dialling.

AN MP has condemned communications giant BT for refusing to waiver the £400 telephone bill of a Suffolk charity after it became the latest victim of internet rogue dialling.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard claimed BT was showing a lack of "social conscience" and it should think again after disconnecting the phone line of ADHD in Suffolk.

The problems started when the charity - which offers help and support to families with children suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - discovered that one of it's helpline numbers had incurred charges of £400 on calls to premium rate numbers that they had not dialled.

Linda Sheppard, executive director and founder of ADHD which has offices in Ipswich and Lowestoft, said: "It all began when a rogue dialler attached itself to our computer system and ran up a bill of £400.

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"Although the helpline has been transferred to another phone line, BT just cut us off without any notice. The last letter we had from them said that we still had to pay the bill but we're going to hold out as long as possible because we don't have that sort of money.

"It's the principal - there's no debate because we did not make those calls. I think it's time that BT showed a bit of sense."

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There have been a number of similar incidents since the beginning of the year, which happen when rogue diallers access the internet and hijack the computer, making premium rate or international calls without the user's knowledge.

Mr Blizzard claimed: "BT is showing a lack of social conscience by terminating a telephone hotline set up to help parents affected by ADHD.

"This organisation is providing a vital service and I find BT's attitude appalling.

"Until this matter is resolved parents are unable to get through easily on the published numbers to obtain the advice and help they so badly need and the organisation is finding it very difficult to operate. I urge BT to think again."

In April the EADT revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service in Suffolk is investigating whether BT has committed an offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 if it demands money from customers after their telephone lines were fraudulently used by rogue diallers.

Paul Hayward, BT regional media relations manager for the East of England, said: "We sympathise with customers that have been affected in this way. We do all that we can to inform customers about how to protect themselves, and who to contact if it is a case of reclaiming money they have paid."

He said unless BT had concrete evidence of a criminal act, its hands were tied as to how much action it could take.

And the firm also had contractual obligations to make payment to other licensed operators who were also "entirely innocent" parties themselves, he added.

He said: "BT will always offer customers the opportunity to pay outstanding bills over an extended period but sometimes we have no option but to cease providing service where customers simply refuse to pay.

"We emphasise that disconnection is always the very last resort and comes only after all attempts to reach an agreed solution have failed.

"BT is not responsible for the internet diallers and takes the issue very seriously and we feel very angry and frustrated that our customers have been affected in large numbers.

"We have been actively searching for solutions since the problem emerged last year."

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