A GREAT-GRANDAD was charged 100 by BT to replace two AA batteries in his phone.

Pensioner Alf Clarkson, of Huyton, found a fault with his handset, and his daughter Susan Blackman reported the problem to the communications giant.

But the family was disgusted when the 81-year-old had to fork out 99.99 when an engineer traced the glitch to worn-out batteries.

Mrs Blackman said: We got the phone line after my mum, Teresa, died 39 years ago.

It is essential for him because he is bedridden. It is there for his family to contact him and for him to contact us in an emergency.

When I went to visit him, the telephone was not working. With his age, I reported the fault to BT.

It was not until three months after the initial call-out that Mr Clarkson received the bill from BT and realised just how much he had paid.

The retired welder and dad-of-five, who has 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, said: I was very shocked.

I pay my bill by direct debit and I did not realise it would cost so much. It is certainly a lot of money for a pensioner.

I am bed-bound so I need a phone, but it is not cheap.

BT today said the charge covered the cost of calling out an engineer to make the checks.

Mrs Blackman, a housewife, said: BT and Outreach, the company which works with BT on faults, charged my father 99.99, effectively for replacing two AA batteries.

An engineer came out to see my father the day after I reported the fault, and he told us we would have to pay a call-out charge.

The problem was with the actual telephone unit itself, so the engineer fixed this simply by adding two AA batteries to the phone.

I had no idea it would be so expensive. When I complained to BT, it said the engineer had done us a favour because it should have cost 136!

I am so upset my father is now 99 out of pocket, money which BT will not return. It is a disgrace BT can charge this.

A spokeswoman for BT said a member of the customer services team advised Mrs Blackman to try plugging in a different phone, as remote tests indicated the fault was due to the telephone itself.

She said: We are satisfied from our customer service records the customer was properly advised about the possible charges ahead of the engineer's visit.

THE ECHO