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BT pause digital switchover

The National Pensioners’ Convention welcomes BT’s decision to suspend the roll out of their new Digital Voice home phone service which has already caused problems for many older people.

'NPC helps win pause in BT digital switchover after raising problems facing pensioners'

The NPC met with BT executives last month to outline serious flaws in the new system, which is scheduled to replace the old analogue phone lines by 2025. But the switchover has already had serious consequences for many of our members, who were left without any phone for emergencies.

BT have now apologised for having “underestimated the disruptive impact this upgrade would have on some of our customers” while they work on improvements to the new system.

NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt said: “The NPC has been at the forefront of confronting BT on our members issues with the new Digital Voice system. Suspending the roll out should be an opportunity for BT to look further into the needs of older people who have difficulty understanding the digital phones that take the place of their beloved landline phones that they are well versed in using.”

She added that the NPC will be seeking a further consultation meeting with BT.

“We must have clarification on the full implications of this announcement. There are many other phone providers in the UK who are involved in the digital switchover, and it is unclear what their plans are, particularly in relation to notifying older customers – something that really hasn’t been done so far.”

The cases flagged by the NPC included a lady of 85 years of age who was switched to the new digital service in December, but didn’t realise her old landline no longer worked so was left without a phone to call her frantic family over Christmas. Another case involved a gentleman in his 70s whose electricity – and digital phone - was cut off for days by Storm Arwen. His phone provider’s solution was to send two gigantic batteries to charge his mobile phone – but which only had power for a couple of hours.

After today’s news, Jan Shortt also congratulates Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Upper Donside councillor Geva Blackett who contacted NPC after sending a 1,500-name petition to Ofcom protesting at the switchover. Geva’s ward was cut off for days by storms which also brought down mobile phone masts in the area, leaving people without any way of calling emergency services or contacting friends and family.

In a statement posted today (29th March) BT said: “With hindsight we went too early (with the switchover), before many customers – particularly those who rely more heavily on landlines – understood why this change is necessary and what they needed to do.

We also recognise we have more work to do on getting better back-up solutions in place for when things disrupt the service like storms and power cuts. We got this part of our programme wrong and for that, we’re sorry.”

BT added: “We have listened to our customers’ concerns and we have more work to do to improve the resilience of the network, working with energy providers on faster power restoration and providing better back-up solutions for customers.

Digitising the UK’s future is a national mission, and we’re determined to get it right.”


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