PSA: UK small businesses, don't get ripped off by BT's "PC Security" scam

I cancelled my small business BT account last year when they endorsed the Tory Internet censorship plan — and to my surprise, they kept sending me bills, but that wasn't nearly so surprising as what I discovered next: a seven-year-long overbilling ripoff that took most of a year to untangle.

It turns out that BT had automatically signed me up — without asking or telling me — for a service called "PC Security," which is a £5/month repackaged version of McAfee's anti-virus stuff. I don't own — and I have never owned — a computer that could run this software, but it turns out that they'd been billing me for it for seven years.

What followed was an hilariously terrible adventure through BT's customer service system, including brain-meltingly dumb chats with their online customer service, sending letters to the company, sending emails, asking the @bt_care Twitter people, and so on. Eventually, I emailed the CEO's personal email address:

That's when I finally got to speak to someone helpful, who figured out that I had been spuriously billed for a service I never ordered for years and years, and who wrestled with their farcically broken billing system, which kept sending me legal threats and red bills with new charges on them. In the end, they agreed to refund five years worth of the seven years' worth of fraudulent bills, saying that the remaining two years were my problem, since the statute of limitations had run out on them — and they wouldn't pay interest on the funds they'd been sitting on for all those years, either.

Now that the cheque has cleared, I'm going public with it. The CEO's office assured me that I was the only person who'd ever been in this situation, but given a) what a terrible company BT is and b) how completely awful their IT is, I find it unlikely that she could possibly know this, or that it could possibly be true.

So: BT business customers, go look at your bills! If you've been charged for "PC Security," call and cancel straightaway, and if you never ordered this (and honestly, why would you, McAfee's generally understood to be pretty dreadful), then email the CEO about a refund.

As for me, I'm as happy as can be with my new ISP, the wonderful Andrews and Arnold, who oppose censorship, support the Open Rights Group, and have given me service that is 10,000 times better than BT ever was (they even made the dread Openreach behave itself, though it involved going well above and beyond the call of duty).