Flood victims hit by 'outrageous' phone charges

STORM and flood-battered residents in Ottery and its surrounding areas have been hit in the pocket by outrageous charges to re-connect their phone lines.

STORM and flood-battered residents in Ottery and its surrounding areas have been hit in the pocket by "outrageous" charges to re-connect their phone lines.

Fifteen minutes work from BT engineers has seen customers left with bills in excess of £200, a rate of £1000 an hour, leaving recipients and a town councillor fuming.

Councillor Roger Giles has raised the issue with Devon County Council's Trading Standards and warned flood-hit residents, especially in Thorne Farm Way, to be wary of their phone bills check their phones are working.

He said: "There has been a problem with BT phone lines...Some people have got a bill and suffered and some people haven't. Some are out of their properties or have direct debits and will come back in three to five months time to discover this or not even know about it. It is outrageous and despicable by BT - making profits at the expense of people who have suffered from flooding is unacceptable."

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Pensioner Pauline Hemming, 60, was shocked to receive a 'one off fault charge' bill for £223.11p for repairs carried out after the fierce October 30 storm knocked out the power and main telephone line to her Paxford House Square home.

She said: "You had to peel me off the ceiling. I was on the phone within seconds and was told it was out of their control. And an act of god is in my control?

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"It was more than I spend in two years on phone bills."

Brian Smith, 78, of Salisbury Close, in Feniton suffered as three inches of flooded his home only to then be lumped with a £223 bill for a 15 minute fixing a problem with incoming calls. Despite his protestations the money was taken by direct debit from his account on Wednesday.

A BT spokesperson said "in view of the circumstances" the charges levied on Mrs Hemming and Mr Smith will be waived and the company was willing to look into other cases which will be judged on their own merit.

He added: "I must explain that our cover ends at the master socket. If an engineer is called out and does work beyond that a charge will be raised."

To register a complaint contact the BT OFCOM referral team on 0800 7312762, quoting reference 1-72415047 or Trading Standards on (01392) 381381 quoting 574535.

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