Relief for mum after lost phone number led to debt mix-up

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Pearline Jones was really upset when she found out she was unable to keep the same number she had had for many years with BT after she changed addresses. No longer able to access the service and, understandably given her mature years not realising all the consequences, reluctantly she switched providers.

Pearline also recalls sending back equipment she then received from BT, although she is less sure if she formally cancelled her old account.

Five months later she was being warned about owing £509 including a charge for a mobile number she had never used.

++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++;

Pearline’s family tried to sort it, but struggled to make headway and with the debt spiralling asked Crusader to defend her corner.

“Mum hasn’t used the services listed on the statements. They keep going up and she can’t afford to pay this, she gets by on her small pension and is so worried,” explained daughter Angelina.

And so was Crusader because unpaid bills have a habit of turning into frightening demands from debt collectors and then unpleasant visits.

Pearline clearly wasn’t a cheat and with the confusion that had gone on we asked BT if it could help wipe the slate clean, something which would benefit both sides.

And to Pearline and her family’s immense relief, it has and more – also sending her a bouquet of flowers and refunding a further deduction it had taken.

“We’re very sorry that Mrs Jones’ experience was not to the standard we expect for our customers,” said a BT spokesperson.

“We’ve been in touch with her and have cleared the balance on her account, while also refunding charges she paid for service in February.”

Phone numbers – how best to hang on to yours if you move home

Hanging on to your landline number if you move is not a given, it depends on the telephone exchange and if that is different usually not possible.

However numbers, especially ones held for a long time, become part of someone’s identity and sense of security. Because if the disruption a change causes, telecoms providers do try to make it happen for more vulnerable customers.

It’s worth families pressing the case on behalf of loved ones. If you are promised you can keep it, get that in writing before you move. For families trying to help an older relative with a problem and attempting to get to the bottom of the payments made, be aware you could be told there is a charge for copies of itemised bills.

Argue it is for a vulnerable customer and it should be supplied free of charge. And if you cancel your account, always do it in writing and let your bank know about ending the direct debit.

  • Pearline’s name has been changed

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