Retired couple Joyce and Nick Stepney were infuriated after they were given the runaround by BT and kept waiting five weeks to get their phone fixed.
Their landline packed up on December 12, followed by weeks of aborted repair appointments and unexpected hassle using their emergency mobiles.
‘We’ve had our BT landline since 1979 when we moved in here, ‘explained Joyce, ‘and we’re really very reliant on it.
‘We noticed that something was wrong during the weekend before it went down completely. The phone kept making a funny noise, but on the Monday morning we found the line was completely dead.
‘We immediately got on to BT and were told that, after testing the line, they’d found a problem at the exchange. If we waited a couple of days and tried our phone, it’d be back on.’
The couple were impressed when an engineer unexpectedly turned up to tell them they’d sorted the problem at the exchange, but found another one.
He came into the house with a technical gadget and detected the fault as being some 10 metres away and almost certainly down to the repair of an earlier drainage defect.
At that stage they didn’t think for one moment there’d be much of a problem.
But hope soon turned to irritation when, with Christmas looming and Joyce’s 92-year-old mother about to join them for the festivities, a working phone was proving as elusive as ever.
Another engineer came out and assured them he’d put the job through that very afternoon and it should be up and running two days later.
But two days came and went, nobody turned up and the phone was still sitting there refusing to emit even the faintest suggestion of a dialling tone.
On re-contacting BT’s faults line, Nick elicited a further promise. The line would be fixed either on December 21 or 24.
Resignation finally turned to rage when yet again no-one from BT turned up or even called the couple’s mobile to offer an apology.
Nick dashed off a stiff letter of complaint to the company, but to his annoyance it wasn’t even acknowledged.
What irked 68-year old Joyce most was trying to enable her elderly mum to use a mobile so she could have her regular festive chat with the grandchildren.
The first contact with BT after the holiday came as quite a shock, when an engineer turned up out of the blue on December 28 to check the progress, which was still precisely nil.
He told them it was down to the contractors. Because of Christmas, apart from emergency staff, they’d all gone home. The repair would be done before, or by December 31.
True to form, the fifth promise to get the phone working turned out to be another wild goose chase and Nick’s patience completely snapped.
He felt he was at the centre of a chaotic muddle and every time he got through to the BT fault line he ended up going round in ever-decreasing circles. No-one appeared to be able or willing to give him concrete information.
On asking a BT engineer to let him have the name of an executive boss, Nick was unceremoniously rebuffed and told they were not permitted to provide that information.
In desperation, Nick decided to contact phone regulator Ofcom, but it said it couldn’t take the matter up for him until an amicable solution had been finalised with BT.
On January 2 an incandescent Nick, 74, twice tried to get thought to BT to give them a well-deserved piece of his mind. But after hanging on the line for more than 20 minutes on each occasion, he got cut off.
The shambles continued a few days later when they took Joyce’s mum back home and used her landline phone to try to get things moving.
Promise number six to get the job done by January 19 was the final straw.
Joyce said: ‘If they’d just told us at the beginning it was a major fault and would take four weeks or more to fix, we would have known where we stood.
‘Instead we were just being strung along and no-one seemed to know what they were doing.’
Exhausted by all the inactivity, they decided it was high time to get some action, so they called Streetwise to tell us their frustrating tale.
We alerted BT management to their story of waiting woe and reminded them of their customer service guarantee. The very next day the phone was promptly reconnected.
A senior manager contacted the couple to confirm it had been fixed.
A BT spokesman told Streetwise: ‘We are sorry to hear about Mr Stepney’s telephone problem.
‘Openreach engineers are currently fixing a complex underground fault, which is affecting some customers in Old Street, in Hill Head, Fareham.
‘Engineers have been working as fast as they can to restore service as soon as possible. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.
‘Mr Stepney’s account was credited £26.60 under BT’s compensation scheme.
‘An additional goodwill credit of £25 has also been applied to Mr Stepney’s account, for the services issues experienced.’
Joyce was incredulous at the speed their phone service was restored after we stepped in.
‘Thank you ever so much for your help,’ she said/
‘‘I’m sure that it just wouldn’t have come about without you.’