Friday, October 06, 2006

BT and TalkTalk play pingpong with my head

If possible, things are worse today. How much worse? Well imagine holding simultaneously for BT and TalkTalk on two mobile phones. Then speaking to them simultaneously. And being told at the end that your phone will be back on again by next Wednesday. Probably.

I was on the phone for three hours to TalkTalk, alternately on hold and talking to their Faults department. Eventually, they repeated the story that I was cut off because of a "cease order" from BT. This was different from the order that they had through Opal Telecom to unbundle the line, and they couldn't tell me who it came from. I had to phone BT.

I was told, again, that the only way to get service back was to speak to BT. Once again, I reacted with disbelief; my advisor (David, a patient man who admitted he was learning the system and said that my account was the most complex he had seen) went away to get more information. He told me that I would need to start a new contract with BT (that wouldn't start for ten working days) and would then tie me in for three months, before considering changing provider again.

According to his records, it's just that some other provider, not TalkTalk, has requested BT to cease providing my service.

It took a long while to get this clear, but that seemed to be the position of TalkTalk's Faults department. But, I said, I had already tried the BT route yesterday, and ended up at TalkTalk's local loop unbundling (LLU) department, who assured me that it was just a line in the exchange that needed fixing.

So David agreed to transfer me across to TalkTalk's LLU again.

While that's going on, I dialled the BT number, on another phone. I then had TalkTalk's hold music ("We have got to get it together") in one ear on a T-Mobile phone, and BT's (Grieg's Morning) in the other ear, courtesy of O2.

Eventually, someone at BT called Phil answered. This time, he said, oh yes, there WAS a cease order on this line. He couldn't tell me who from. He couldn't see who from. But I just had to say the word, and he could set me up with a brand new line. Like David told me, it would take 10 working days, and I'd have to stay with BT for three months.

By this time, TalkTalk's LLU department has answered the phone, and there's a man called Richard in my left hear, hearing half of my conversation with Phil from BT. "No, sir, don't do it," says Richard. "BT aren't even involved in this."

I tell Phil from BT that he's offering a rather extreme answer (espceially if he can't tell me for sure why I'm cut off). I tell him I'll get back to him, I hang up, and I carry on my talk with Richard from TalkTalk.

He disagrees completely with his colleague David, from TalkTalk's faults department. He says there's no other phone company involved, and all I have to do is wait for his department to sort it out and fix the fault. He can't actually see what the fault is: "sometimes we plug a line into our equipment and its dead on arrival". Someone at the exchange wil be able to make it work, he says.

I ring off. I've had three hours of "We have got to get it together".

While I'm on the phone, the post has come. There's a letter from TalkTalk. It's addressed to me, but it has a different account number, which I've never seen before.

The letter speaks to me as if I am a new customer, and says "In our attempts to connect you to TalkTalk, there's been a small hitch. Unfortunately, BT has advised us that it is not possible to put a TalkTalk connection through on the telephone number we currently hold on our records." It suggests that I've given them a wrong number (no), I've got a new telephone number that isn't in BT's database yet (nope), or I'm a cable customer (no again).

I go back to TAlkTalk's LLU department. I get someone called Ken -- he knows who Richard is. Now, Ken is interested to have two account numbers for me. In fact, that's putting it mildly. He's flipping from screen to screen on his system, seeing things he didn't know were even possible. He calls in a senior colleague, Kevin, who has superior powers.

Keven suddenly realises what's happening. Apparently it's not a fault. It's an admin glitch. My line isn't cut off, but it's not shown as active. It's not disconnected, it's in a "limbo state". Kevin has taken his laptop into his office, Ken tells me. Kevin can fix it.

From Ken's tone, the owrds "laptop" and "office" are enough to make Kevin a superior being - and from my time in open-plan offices, I know what he means.

Ken tells me it will be fixed, and I can call him back if it doesn't come live. And he gives me Kevin's number.

When should I call? Well, it should be live in "72 working hours". That's sometime around Wednesday lunchtime. So on Day 15 of the problem, TalkTalk might fix the administrative error that started the trouble.

That is, if this error really was the cuase of the problem. I'm still not convinced.

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