Hoping someone can help a family business with a phone issue

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I don't know if there's anywhere more appropriate I can post this as I'm new to the forum but thought someone out there may have heard something similar or know of similar problems.

In 2004 my partner and I started a family design and t-shirt print business which was going well until 2006 when some kids started a fire around the back of the building which got into the roof and not only destroyed our business but 4 others that were connected. Sadly, we were also massively under insured and so have since incurred a lot of credit card and loan debt in replacing the equipment we'd lost.

8 Days after the fire our third child was born and while the offices were being demolished and rebuilt we started working from home until we had somewhere to work from again. However, with our new family addition, it was only myself who returned to the office and in September 2007, while still trying to rebuild the business from the year before, a sales rep from a now defunct company called Affordable Digital Solutions Ltd told me that they could provide two telephone lines, a phone system and broadband for £90+VAT per month. Believing everything he said I signed up and an engineer came along and installed a phone switchboard box on the wall and replaced our existing telephones that we'd bought for £30 from ASDA with a posh new system. BoSEF phoned to confirm the £90+VAT payment and I believed that was that. We cancelled the payments to BT for the line rental and broadband and thought everything was sorted. Next thing I knew the broadband went off so I phoned ADSL who asked "have you paid your BT bill?". Confused I said we'd cancelled it, and was subsequently informed that we were supposed to pay BT for the telephone and broadband and to then generate an invoice and claim the money back from ADSL. However, it turned out that this was only a 12 month promotion and as of September 2008 we would be responsible for the phone line and broadband, so our original £90+VAT per month went up to £140+VAT per month. Eventually we discovered that what we've signed up for is ADSL (now taken over by 9 Telecom) to provide our second line, to still pay BT for the broadband and line rental on the main phone, still pay Unicom (another company I wish I'd never heard of) for any call charges on the main line, and now BoSEF for a telephone switchboard system that is essentially two telephones in a room that had 1 person in it.

The contract we have with BoSEF I believe is for 7 years from September 2007 so I've still got over 5 years left on it at £90+VAT per month which in total (and as we're only a small business we aren't VAT registered) comes to £7560, or £8694!!!

The worst part now though is that we're looking to take people on, so while looking up telephones that will plug in to this system I came across a number of companies selling the equipment we have, for under £1000 for the whole system with more phones than we have.

I'm hoping to speak to various companies on Monday to find out if the equipment is actually worth what we're paying for it or if we have been seriously ripped off by BoSEF but I have a feeling that the equipment will in no way be worth anywhere near £8694 and I don't know what we can do about it.

We had a threatening default letter from them not so long back as we'd missed a payment we didn't realise and they were threatening to send someone round to reclaim the equipment, which at first I thought "great, they can take it and we can be shot of it", but then it turned out that they would reclaim the equipment, I'd have to pay for the engineer who took the system from the wall, they would then auction it and we would be eligible for the shortfall, which, if it's worth under £1000 new and on sale on ebay for £260 would be a sizeable difference.

Problem is I don't know who to turn to. ADSL were of no use whatsoever in trying to resolve our issues as they were obviously in the business of conning people, and now that 9 Telecom have taken over I've been hearing many horror stories from people that have also been ripped off like myself and my partner. Tower Leasing were some mediators between BoSEF and ADSL in stitching us up with the deal we're tied into, but now it's a case of us being stuck with BoSEF for finance on something that isn't worth what we're paying and was potentially never worth anywhere near it.

So is that fraud? Theft? Us being gullible?

If anyone knows of any helpful advice, where to turn to, who to speak to or what we can do other than go bankrupt and start again that would be great because it has been a major struggle building the business back up after the fire, We spent a year of e-mails and phone calls and letters to ADSL trying to get some resolution to this and now that they're gone 9 Telecom can't do anything about the equipment and BoSEF just want their money regardless.

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  • Heinz
    Heinz Posts: 11,191 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker Car Insurance Carver!
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    Sorry, I'm going to suggest you spend more money to get yourself out of this hole. Consult a solicitor to find out what you are committed to and how (and how cheaply) you can get yourself out of any contract which may be legally enforceable.
    Time has moved on (much quicker than it used to - or so it seems at my age) and my previous advice on residential telephony has been or is now gradually being overtaken by changes in the retail market. Hence, I have now deleted links to my previous 'pearls of wisdom'. I sincerely hope they helped save some of you money.
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