BT bill charge slated as 'financial blackmail'MPs say charge will hurt poor customers

02 March 2007

 

A dialled number displayed on a telephone.

A group of MPs have accused BT of 'financial blackmail' for charging customers who choose not to pay their bills by direct debit.

Some 35 MPs have signed a Commons motion led by David Hamilton (Lab, Midlothian) which condemns the charges.

From May, customers who do not pay their bills every month by direct debit will be charged £4.50 per quarter.

The MPs urge BT to withdraw the levy, which they say will hurt poor customers the most.

Direct debit

The motion 'notes with concern the decision by BT to introduce a charge on customers who decide not to pay their bill by direct debit or monthly payment plan'.

It 'acknowledges that these forms for payment may save BT some administrative costs but that consumers deserve to be able to make a free choice about the method they use without financial blackmail'.

As only 92 per cent of households have bank accounts, the MPs say, 'these charges would penalise the poorest more than other groups'.

They say BT made profits of £1.4 billion in the final quarter of last year alone and call upon the company to review the charge 'immediately'.

'Financial blackmail'

BT Retail Chief Operating Officer John Petter said: 'BT's charge for customers who pay their bills by cash or cheque is amongst the lowest in the industry.

'For example, our charge is £1.50 a month compared to Virgin's £5.

'Effectively, we are replacing an existing discount with a charge, which results in a 50p a month decrease for some customers and a 50p increase for others.'

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