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BT 'ruthless' over Paddington telephone crash

PUBLISHED: 12:18 08 April 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 07 September 2010

BRITISH Telecom is being labelled ruthless for refusing to compensate firms which lost thousands of pounds after Paddington telephone exchange went down. Phone lines and internet connections were knocked out when a flood sparked an elect

Sanchez Manning

BRITISH Telecom is being labelled "ruthless" for refusing to compensate firms which lost thousands of pounds after Paddington telephone exchange went down.

Phone lines and internet connections were knocked out when a flood sparked an electrical fire at the towering BT building in Bell Street, Lisson Green.

Lord's cricket ground, shops, businesses, restaurants, banks, GP surgeries and a host of other public services across north-west London were blighted by the incident on March 31.

Angry traders claim they lost vast sums of money. But they say BT has rebutted all requests for compensation.

Shakkell Yunis, of Build HQ timber yard, in Broadley Street, close to the telephone exchange, said: "My company does 80 per cent of its transactions on the phone. So in the two or three days the lines were down, we lost £2,000 to £3,000.

"But when we spoke to BT they said, 'Look at your contract - there's no compensation for loss of business.'

"It's quite a ruthless move because they have the monopoly so you can't go to anyone else for your landline. They've left themselves in a position of complete advantage."

Raymond Altback, of Joshua Altback hairdressers, in St John's Wood High Street, added: "Last week was extremely quiet and we lost a considerable amount of money. But you just don't get any joy from them. Every time something gets cut off, they always find a way to get out of it - although they're quick to charge you if they come out to fix a fault."

The flood that sparked the fire was in a basement room at the exchange.

Firefighters were alerted at about 7.30am on March 31 and battled for two hours to get the fire and flood under control.

Among the areas worst affected by the disaster were Swiss Cottage, St John's Wood, Maida Vale, Paddington, Hampstead and Marylebone.

Residents were angry about BT's failure to keep them informed about when the lines would be restored before they were gradually mended over the weekend.

A BT spokesman said: "Following a serious flood at a telephone exchange in north-west London last week, causing disruption to services for customers, BT confirms that all broadband and telephone services have been restored to customers.

"BT's engineering teams worked throughout the Easter weekend to resolve outstanding customer issues and to monitor the performance of the network."

But he said that BT would not be offering any payout to firms left out of pocket.

"The cause of this incident was something that was 'beyond our reasonable control' and BT doesn't pay compensation in such cases," he said.


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