/ Technology

Your view: mystery calls on your phone bill

Landline phones hanging

After one Which? member told us about a charge for a phantom speaking clock call, it sparked our interest. When we opened it to the floor to get your opinion, it turned out this wasn’t the only one…

Understandably many of you were frustrated with these mystery calls. NFH was confused as to why engineers needed to call ‘123’ to test phone lines:

‘I caught an engineer dialling 123 to test my line while in my home and I voiced my disapproval. I don’t understand why the engineers use a chargeable number for test calls. There are plenty of other free alternatives without having to waste customers’ money.’

But HAB really bore the brunt of it when he was charged when the engineer wasn’t even fixing his line:

‘My wife and I remembered there had been an engineer up the pole in a neighbour’s garden on the date, and time, that the calls appeared on the bill. The irony of it was that we didn’t have a fault, so the fault must have been on someone else’s line…’

But is it down to the engineers?

Ddenmik said his provider thought his (non-existent) Sky box might be to blame:

‘I had a charge for speaking clock some months ago with BT. When I pointed out that no one was in the house at the time of the alleged call, the money was refunded. However, I was asked if I had a Sky box (I don’t) as this appliance can, I was advised, sometime trigger calls of this type.’

However, Cherry was hit by a spate of 123 calls:

‘I had a series of about eight 123 calls on my bill the day a BT Openreach engineer visited to investigate a fault on my phone.’

Cherry later added: ‘It was actually 18 calls – just rechecked the bill!’

Struggling to get a refund?

It seems you’ve had varying luck on getting your calls refunded. Luckily, K Brockenhurst found it as easy as 1, 2, 3:

‘We were charged 50p last month for a speaking clock call we did not make. I phoned Talk Talk and they said it had been reported to them and someone must have made it, but they gave us an immediate refund without any problem.’

Mike, on the other hand, hit a brick wall and has even set up a family cooperative to show is disapproval:

‘My mother who is elderly and living on a small pension received a bill from Talk Talk with a call added to the speaking clock for over £5 – after much hassle with them they very begrudgingly refunded the money. We have now left Talk Talk for good and we have created a large family cooperative so any bad practices from utility companies we all leave en mass and do not return.’

More than just 123

And then there’s D.A. Watson, who spotted directory enquiry calls on his bill:

‘My August landline account from EE included a charge of £5.00 against a purported call to 118500, directory enquiries. Neither my wife nor myself were at home at the time of the call.’

Have you spotted mystery phone calls on your bill? Did you attempt to get a refund?


I spotted a large number of calls from my landline to my mobile. It turns out that if you use the BT Call Diversion service, you pay the cost of a call to your mobile every time someone rings on your landline. I can’t find any reference to this pitfall on the BT website, and the advisers I spoke to at BT knew nothing about it. It’s been going on at least a year and has cost me around £20 a month. Lesson: check your itemised bill regularly!


If you have a BT moblie and divert calls you don’t get charged. It is obvious if you are diverting to another phone that you will get charged.


I don’t bother with a physical landline any more. I now have a one gigabit broadband connection at home, over which I can run multiple virtual landlines at no cost. I don’t consequently don’t suffer from these phantom outgoing calls or nuisance incoming calls. The internet used to operate over telephone lines, but increasingly telephone lines are operating over the internet instead. I predict that all communications will be IP-based at some point in future.


Alex, is it really necessary to divide up contributions between two threads? You’ve highlighted what you believe are the best contributions from the original discussion, but must you ask people to post their experiences here instead of the original topic thread?


Hi Wev, thanks for your comment. We like to feature your stories in our posts, especially in this case as there are some really useful case studies in the comments. As the debate fell off our homepage, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t forgotten about so that we can keep the ball rolling.

If you’ve got any other feedback on the site, we’d love to hear so please email us. Contact details are here:


Wev & Alex have highlighted major flaws with Which? Convo – most people only contribute to the front page and only the last 8 comments are visible that are sometimes all about the same subject which is why threads get resurrected as a new convo.

Unless a comment is aimed at anything on the front page, 8 comments later it has gone into oblivion.

Sometimes threads need resurrecting with new comments and ideas by new people who may not have seen the original thread and have something relevant to say.

Which? need to rethink the home page so that people who only want to check in once a week can see what has been discussed in the last week and not just the last 8 posts.

Maybe you need a second page somewhere between the current design and a regular forum so that all the latest threads can be seen.


I concur in wev’s view about bisecting the Converstional threads. I have previously suggested that more live and ongoing Conversations should listed on the home page [just the title will do and the last seven days would be enough] so we can catch up with contributions that we might have missed because there was too much ping-pong on the popular topic. Failing any response to that suggestion I use the search box at the top right of the page which keeps a list of the topics I might wish to revisit [you might still need to trawl through the index, however].


Sometimes a comment making an excellent point appears very briefly on the home page, then is pushed off by a flurry of comments on another subject, and so is seen by almost no-one. A couple of times I have posted a comment and hoped to see some reactions to it, but it has immediately disappeared from view.
Could it not be possible to see all comments for the previous day in one place?


If a comment contains a link it has to be approved before it appears. This is normally done promptly but not if the comment is posted in the evening or at the weekend. This means that some comments with links never appear on the homepage.

It would be great to be able to look at all the comments posted during the previous 24 hours and to be able to search for posts made by individual users.


I’m loving all of these suggestions. I’ve had a chat with Alex, and we’ve decided that since we’re on a community comment round-up, let’s keep the suggestions of improvements coming here. I can understand how it’s easier to do it here rather than on email. We are looking to make improvements to the site, and we want all of you super users involved. So – suggest away.

One quick thing, I’ve increased the homepage comments to show 10 as a bit of a quick fix, though I know this isn’t the solution you’re looking for. Cheers!


Thanks very much Patrick. Most of us have no idea of the constraints of the software used for this site, but a few very useful changes have been introduced over the years – especially the direct link to comments from posts shown on the homepage.

Increasing the number of recent Conversations on the homepage and increasing the number of homepage comments have both been useful, at least in my view.

I wish I knew a quick way of scrolling through hundreds of comments within a Conversation when using an iPad. It’s very easy with a computer.


Hi Wavechange, the site isn’t optimised for tablets and mobiles… another change that’s on the road-map.


I’m looking forward to the Which? Conversation app. 🙂


Haha, hopefully that won’t be necessary with a good mobile optimised site 🙂

What would you like the app to do?