Over the past couple of months I’ve heard of and from a number of BT customers who’ve been told their YouView box will cease to work or be unable to record if they cancel their BT TV subscription.
This is simply untrue.
When the BBC Trust gave the go-ahead for the BBC Executive to part-fund YouView, then known as Project Canvass, it insisted: “it should not be necessary for licence fee payers to pay a subscription simply to use the Canvas platform (without premium content).”
These conditions not only apply to the BBC, they had to be agreed to by all YouView shareholders in return for the corporation’s involvement.
This means is that while BT and TalkTalk are allowed to sell additional content to YouView box owners, they’re not allowed to charge to use YouView’s core features – including the ability to record programmes.
Being charitable it’s probable that BT’s staff are getting confused with the old BT Vision+ boxes which didn’t even switch on without a current subscription and live broadband connection.
That explanation is certainly preferable to the alternative – that staff are lying in order to dissuade users from cancelling their subscriptions.
But assuming the least worst option is true, it highlights some very weak product knowledge on the part of BT’s staff who often act as if their TV services are some after thought on which they’ve had only the most cursory training.
The BBC Trust is currently reviewing YouView’s progress on several key priorities, including accessibility and the way in which YouView is promoted by its partners.
It may well be necessary for them to include within this the way that BT staff misinform customers about the need to pay a subscription to use basic features.
Last year the telecoms giant confirmed to seenit.co.uk that the boxes it supplies as part of a bundle will continue to work if customers later switch broadband providers.
The company told us in such a situations “all the players will work apart from the BT player offering all of our BT content. All other features like the backwards EPG and catch-up players will continue to work.”
And to eliminate all doubt, here’s the latest official line from BT:
“We can confirm that the box will continue to work as a PVR for Freeview channels.”
Hopefully they’ll also relay this fact to their staff.