Telephone

BTimages

One of the hardest parts about moving to Aberdeen is establishing a landline. BT (British Telecommunications) owns all the telephone lines in the UK, and they are not known for very good customer service, especially for first time customers. It is not uncommon to wait a month or two after moving into your new home to obtain phone service.  If it happens faster, consider yourself very blessed!  It is also not uncommon to wait on hold for an hour or more each time you call BT’s customer service number (expect to make multiple calls). Before you read some of the tips below, keep in mind that these are gleaned from the experiences of a number of different people, and that your experience might be completely different. It is fairly routine to receive conflicting information from different customer service representatives, and so any of the following details may prove “untrue” depending upon who you speak with in the company. This is all part of what makes interacting with BT so troubling. While we hate to sound so negative, we want you to be prepared. As a last ray of hope, there have been a few of us, who have had no problems getting their phone line connected. So take heart!

How to get connected

Call 0800 800 150. This is BT’s general line. You will have it memorized in no time! The calls are free if you are using a BT line (0800 is the same as 1 800 in the US). You can call from a payphone, which is a free call. If you use a mobile phone, be aware you may spend a small fortune due to long hold times. Try plugging a phone into the existing phone socket/jack and dialing the number. Under special circumstances it may go through, or use someone else’s phone. It’s a free call for them if they don’t mind you tying up their line.

Ask your landlord if he/she knows if the current line is set up with BT. If so, get the number as BT may ask you for this information. Alternatively,  if you are able to obtain a dial tone by plugging a phone in an outlet you can dial 17070 to obtain the phone number that is currently linked with your residence.

If you do obtain a dial tone, you should be able to request a line take over as opposed to a standard set-up. This should allow you to avoid paying the £130 connection fee that BT often charges.

If you are planning to switch to another phone provider (i.e. TalkTalk) after BT connects your phone, do not tell BT. If you are planning to switch you should get the cheapest plan possible from BT.  BT will make you agree to a 12 month contract. Even if they don’t mention this, if you are getting service from them, you are automatically signing up for a 12 month contract. If you do choose to switch phone companies you will be responsible for paying the line rental fee in one lump sum for the remaining months left in the contract. Figure out if it would still be cheaper or not to switch to another company right away in light of this cancellation fee being charged or if it would be better to wait until your 12 month contract is done.

Get a bank account/debit card as soon as possible. You will probably have to pay a £50 deposit to BT which you can pay with your account. (Note: They will not take an American credit card unless it has a local UK address connected with it.) They might also require you to set up direct debit through your checking (current) account. It may be advisable, however, not to set up direct debit until after you actually have a line since they may debit your account before you are connected!

Know your address/postcode. They will need this information to find the exact location of your home in order to connect your line.

Record details of every single call you make to BT (date, time, person you spoke with, how long you waited on hold, what you were told, etc.). It’s best to have these things written down for future phone calls and complaints.

If you are given a date of when your line will be hooked up, don’t get your heart set on it! It may not happen.

Be careful about getting too angry with the customer service reps on the phone as they are known to hang up on you or transfer you to another department just because they don’t want to deal with you.

What to expect

The line rental is the monthly service charge for having your line connected through BT (or another company). It is about £11 a month with BT. This does not include the cost of local, nationwide or international calls.

Each out-going call is charged separately. The rates vary depending on the prefix you dial. This is why it is best to either get calls through another company (Talk Talk, Telediscount, or AOL Talk) which offers calls for free or cheaper.

If you do not set up direct debit, expect an additional £5 fee to be included on your bill as a processing fee.

A standard billing cycle is every 3 months, though with direct debit you can pay your bill every month.

Help

If you have numerous difficulties in the process, it may be advisable to ask to be connected to the Customer Options Department. Several students found that this department was able to accomplish the set-up more readily.

If you have had a difficult time getting your line set-up don’t hesitate to ask for compensation. They might not give much, but anything helps and they have been known to provide compensation in the past.

TalkTalk

talktalk

How to get connected

You can get connected at www.talktalk.co.uk or phone 0800 049 4235. Your BT landline and broadband needs to be in place and functioning in order for you to switch to Talk Talk.

What to expect

TalkTalk provides very cheap rates. Line rental is £10.50 per month and for just £9.99 per month you can sign up for a call plan which includes all UK and US calls! There is a one time connection fee of £29.99. If you already have a BT router, you will still need to get a TalkTalk one in order to get your broadband service working. The TalkTalk customer service is misinformed that the BT router works with their broadband service. It does not!

Help

If you are experiencing difficulties phone 0870 444 1820. As with BT, customer service can be exhausting and challenging, but persistence pays! In general though, on hold times are not quite as long.

Telediscount

What is it and how to get connected

Telediscount is a phone number prefix you can use to help cut costs on your phone bill. Instead of signing up for a specific long distance plan with your phone company, you simply dial the Telediscount number prior to making your phone call. It appears right on your regular phone bill without you having to sign up, prepay, or do anything extra. First, you dial the appropriate Telediscount access number. You will then be told your rate for the call and prompted to enter the phone number you wish to reach (remember to include the country code if you’re dialing an international number) followed by the hash button (#).

Access Phone Numbers

08448618686 or 08448617878 for calls to the US.

08444623232 or 08444629595 for calls to a landline in the UK.

08445664343 for calls to a mobile in the UK.

For a complete list of access numbers, visit http://www.telediscount.co.uk.

Cost

Calls to the US are 1p/minute.

Calls to a landline in the UK are 2p/minute.

Calls to a mobile phone in the UK are 5p/min.

For Calling America

Magic Jack

What it is and how to get connected

This is another alternative for calling American phone numbers. You pay a fee once a year and get unlimited minutes that year (currently $39.95). Magic Jack is connected through a USB drive and can be accessed whenever there is internet available, whether WIFI or through a modem. You cannot call UK numbers without a cost. You get set up your own American area code, and they will allocate you with a phone number. There are discounts available for purchasing Magic Jack in three year increments. It has a phone jack available for a cordless phone, a corded phone, a headset, or other phone jack capabilities. Just remember this needs to be purchased prior to arrival as it is an American product.

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