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Have you paid for ‘speaking clock’ calls you didn’t make?

Man looking at mobile phone bill

Do you check your monthly phone bill? It might seem like a bit of a chore, but you might miss something – like a ‘speaking clock’ call you were charged for but never made…

For most of us, looking through the list of calls and charges on our monthly phone bill is one of those mundane tasks we don’t always get round to. But maybe we should. Why? There are heaps of eagle-eyed landline owners who’ve spotted that they’ve been mysteriously charged 30-50p for a call to Timeline 123 (the speaking clock) that they didn’t make.

Engineers checking lines in your local area could be the cause. That’s what one Which? member was told after contacting Plusnet about a charge for a speaking call on their landline – placed when no-one was at home. After some back and forth Plusnet provided a refund, attributing such calls to BT Openreach engineers checking lines, despite having asked them to use a free number.

Others report ‘phantom’ call charges

A quick Google search reveals similar reports of being charged for Timeline 123 speaking clock calls, many on forums belonging to BT, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.

Many of the posters are able to rule out themselves, children or elderly relatives from having made the calls. For some it’s a one-off, while others report up to seven calls over a couple of days. Some also managed to get a refund from their phone provider after persistence.

Are engineers calling ‘123’ to test lines?

We notified Openreach about the phantom calls – a spokesperson told us:

‘This is not an issue as far as we know. Openreach engineers have a special number to call to test a line that doesn’t result in a charge.’

Openreach offered to investigate any further examples we have, so we want to hear from you. How many of you are paying for calls you didn’t make? We may only have just scratched the surface, as not all of us religiously check our phone bills, nor do those who have bother to report odd calls we can’t explain. With 25m landlines in the UK, there could be millions of pounds going to these phantom calls.

Do you check your phone bill and have you spotted a rogue 123 call that you know wasn’t made by you or someone in your household?

martin Chatwin says:
19 October 2016

I reported a fault to PlusNet in August which was not resolved until around mid-September following the visit of a 5th BT engineer who seemed to be the only one who understand how telephone lines are connected.
This fault caused high noise levels on the line. I now find that during this period I have been charged for 28 calls to 123 (some in the early hours of morning eg around 2am) at 50p a time and 1 call to 118411 for 9 secs at 2.39am costing £4.30. PlusNet have agreed to refund the sept. calls as a goodwill gesture. I have yet to claim for those in August as I have only just noticed them.
Whilst it some cases it could be the engineers in my case the early hour calls cannot implicate them therefore I am confident that some fault connection situations are resulting in these phantom calls but getting BT and PlusNet on board to investigate may well be impossible.


Martin – noise on the line that continues over many calls is 80 %/90 % due to a line fault condition I should know I cleared 1000,s of them in my time with BT. Overhead line fault/ underground cable fault / bad connection at street cabinet / lesser – corrosion at incoming junction box due to damp conditions /missing cover at DP letting in rain . This, to me, is one of the easiest faults to find you tap onto the line at various point between you and the exchange -simples .In old strowger equipment it could be an exchange fault or in the old 746/706 dial phone it was the carbon mike –5 engineers -ye gods !!

toni gutman says:
2 November 2016

have just been charged for 3 calls supposedly in quick succession
rang BT ‘Helpdesk’ and the person would not accept that I had not made the calls – he said ‘he’d checked the line’ and there was nothing wrong – implying I was lying or mistaken.
I asked to be put through to a supervisor, but after waiting over 15 min. line went dead

what do I do now?


Put in a complaint to BT via MY BT Toni> login >help>go to complaints at bottom >then>something else > bottom two boxes click>I still want to complain > then EMAIL us > Then fill in boxes and then SUBMIT at bottom –if it asks you if you really want to go ahead click yes . You will be given a reference number >then a confirmation email will be sent to you and they will contact you in 4 days -make sure you have put in the details webpage -CONTACT BY PHONE , not email . BT you are making it very difficult for customers to complain to you DIRECT ! it borders on deviousness please make it easier . Hope this helps , if it doesnt go to the BT Forum and post your complaint guaranteed to get a UK response and (eventually ) an Exec. from BT dealing with your problem . Will those reading this please take a screenshot of it for the future /or archive it – save page as –. Hope this helps Toni ?


posted on the bt forum, and what sounds like an executive rang – but I was out, so he said he would re-contact me on his return on the 10th – noticed ‘openreach’van on estate – dk if relevant – will keep you informed

his email below

BT Community Forum

Discussion Thread
Response Via Email (Daniel) 03/11/2016 12:58 PM
Good Afternoon Antonia,

Thanks for taking the time to contact us over the BT.com Forums.

I called you today to speak with you about the calls that have appeared on your bill. They are rather odd especially as you have never made them before. Did you notice any issues with your telephone line around the 3rd of October? If you had a crossed line telephone fault it’s possible that another person made those calls or else an engineer testing the line tested to see if it was working by calling 123.

I am personally out of the office until the 10/11/2016 but I can gladly help you further with this and hopefully be able to give you the outcome you want.

Daniel Sheerin
BT.com Forum Moderation Team


Tonigutman if your post is correct you do realise that BT has at last admitted –engineers use 123 to test a line –now thats opened the doors for blame. A crossed line externally would be accompanied by noise and overhearing so we must be talking of an exchange fault.

toni gutman says:
16 November 2016

SUCCESS! tho ‘ I’ll wait to see my revised bill – I did mention I was keeping you posted
Good Afternoon Antonia,

‘Thanks for getting back to me. As I mentioned in my first email, I am just back in the office today. I called you at home but missed you. I left a voicemail to say that I would reply to you by email.

I wanted to speak with you about everything. As I can’t reach you, I would like to tell you that I am happy to remove the charges for you. In my own personal experience, I will always listen to my Customer to work out what happened and do my best to help you. I believe everyone should be reasonable and listen to our Customer needs. Are you happy for me to apply the credit back onto your account? Is there anything else that I can help you with at all?

– If you need more information on our Complaints Process then please go to http://www.bt.com/complaints where you can also see our Customer Complaints Code of Practice
– If we don’t hear from you by 8th Dec 2016 we’ll assume that you don’t need us to take any further action and that it’s okay to close your complaint

Thank you

Best wishes

BT.com Forum Moderation Team’


Well thats a breath of fresh air from BT Antonia , admitting they are in the wrong this will do no harm to BT,s reputation and will ,in the end, be a “payback ” for BT . I hope this is now a change of policy as most big telecommunications companies go all out to deny responsibility–well done BT –this time , try to keep it like that.