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Case studies - BT hassle after house is flooded

Elizabeth faced major upheaval when her property was flooded after heavy rain in November 2010. She had to move to temporary accommodation for seven months, while the entire ground floor of the house was rewired and replastered.

As part of the move, she contacted BT to ask for her broadband and phone to be transferred to her temporary accommodation.

BT told Elizabeth her phone and broadband would be installed on 29 December 2010. It later cancelled the appointment. A second order was placed and Elizabeth was assured installation would take place on 12 January 2011. She then discovered that this order had been changed to ‘pending’. BT then told her to cancel this order and place a new one.

Frustrated with the lack of progress and poor customer service – on one occasion she was left waiting on hold for more than an hour in order to speak to someone – Elizabeth wrote to BT to cancel her contract. 

She received no response, despite sending BT a further letter. She was then received a letter from a debt collection agency stating that her credit rating could be affected if payment was not made for her present account.

Which? Legal advice

Elizabeth sought advice from Which? Legal. We told her that, under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, BT has to carry out all aspects of its service within a reasonable period of time, using reasonable care and skill.

As it had done neither, she could terminate her current contract and cancel any ‘pending orders’ without financial penalty. We told her she should write to BT again, setting out the above, and stating that if her credit rating was affected, she should also write to the Information Commissioner’s office on the basis that BT had no right to put anything detrimental on her credit file. 


Elizabeth sent the complaint by email and on the same day received a call from BT stating that the debt would be cancelled and she wouldn’t receive further communication from the debt collection agency. BT also agreed to pay Elizabeth £15.

Legal points

If you’ve experienced problems with your broadband service that aren’t rectified to your satisfaction, you may be able to terminate the contract without financial penalty. Many providers claim that you must pay a cancellation charge but this is not the case.