BUSINESSES left thousands of pounds out of pocket after a phone line fault lasting five weeks have been told they will get neglible compensation – or nothing at all.

An underground cable fault on June 19 meant firms in London Road, Marks Tey, could not use phones, the internet or take payments on card machines.

It has finally been fixed, but businesses will not be compensated.

Patrick Schils, who runs Interbike, has been told Unicom, which provides his contract, will not give him compensation.

Mr Schils, 55, said turnover had been down by 35 per cent during the phone line fault, and people had thought they were out of business. He said: “I feel sick about it.

“It is the worst possible time of year and there has been a complete lack of willingness and urgency to sort it out.”

A few days after the problem started, Mr Schils got a manual credit card machine at the shop.

It meant he had to send paper records of transactions to the bank for him to receive the money.

To make matters worse, records of sales worth £3,000 have gone missing in the post.

Mr Schils said: “We sent them on July 10 and it hasn’t gone into the bank account yet.

“It could be down to Royal Mail or the bank but, at the end of the day, it is BT’s fault.”

Mr Schils asked BT if he was entitled to compensation, but was told it was down to service provider Unicom, which has said no. Richard Hipkin, who runs Chateau Wines, has been offered 90p a day compensation from BT.

Mr Hipkin said he had lost about £3,000.

He added: “All BT has offered is 90p a day for the line rental, which works out at about £30.

“Even now the line is back working, it is not as busy as it should be because people have found elsewhere.”

A BT spokesman said: “This proved to be an extremely difficult and time-consuming job, in very difficult conditions, which required the replacement of a number of underground blockages, as well as the cable route becoming completely flooded due to the bad weather. “Once this was cleared, we were able to start the complex task of replacing 200 metres of underground cabling and then jointing those affected back into service. All works were completed on July 11. “We would again wish to apologise for any inconvenience caused. It is correct that those affected should talk to their respective service providers, that they have their contracts with, in regards to any requests for compensation.”