Phone bill VAT wrangle

May Sexton angry over early VAT increase to her phone bill'PA1105-26
May Sexton angry over early VAT increase to her phone bill'PA1105-26

PHONE companies charging VAT at the new rate of 20% on calls made before it was introduced in January have come under fire from a local parish councillor.

May Sexton of Flamborough Parish Council saw red when she noticed her bill, which arrived after the government’s January 4 increase from 17.5% to 20% discovered her bill for calls made between October 1 and December 31 last year had been charged plus VAT at the new rate.

After tackling her suppliers, Post Office Home Phone, and with a little help from The Free Press, she is now advising others with a similar problem to stick to their guns and demand a refund of the VAT overcharge.

However, it wasn’t easy.

“I ended up at a call centre where they didn’t understand what I was trying to explain. They were quite adamant that there was no one else I could talk to or complain to and that there was nothing wrong with the bill,” said Mrs Sexton of North End, Flamborough.

In desperation she contacted the Free Press who discovered whilst Post Office Home Phone had not done anything illegal by charging the full 20% for the service she received prior to the increase it was “at the discretion of the company“. Also, not the company, but the government benefited from the extra VAT.

A spokesman for Post Office Home Phone said: “The VAT charge on all Post Office Home Phone accounts is calculated at the time the bill is generated and as this bill was generated after January 4 the new rate of 20% was applied.

“However, as in this instance the call billing period ended on December 31 and before the new 20% VAT implementation date of January 4 we will be liaising direct with the customer to resolve this matter.”

The result was, albeit just over two weeks after receiving that statement from the company, Mrs Sexton received a call and was offered a refund.

“It may not have been legally wrong, but it was certainly morally wrong. The amount involved was not huge but the principle of it is, add up all the small amounts on people’s bills and it will be a lot of money.

“People should complain to their suppliers and stick to their guns for a refund,” said Mrs Sexton.

Since her one woman battle the VAT scandal has become a national issue with people throughout the country complaining of the same problem after it was discovered other phone providers, including mobile phone suppliers, were doing the same thing.