/ Technology

Ofcom blasts TalkTalk for billing ex-customers

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How angry would you be if a company you had left continued to send you bills? What if they threatened you with debt collection for not paying? Well Ofcom has finally slapped TalkTalk for this very issue.

Ofcom’s threat to fine TalkTalk and Tiscali UK up to 10% of their turnover unless they stop sending bills to ex-customers is certainly good news. And it’ll come as a relief to those people tearing their hair out over yet another bill landing on their doormats.

I think Robert Hammond, head of digital and telecoms at Consumer Focus, got it right when he said:

‘How hard can it be to stop billing someone when they have cancelled their service – this is the very basics of customer service? To threaten customers, who have done nothing wrong, with debt collection and legal action is beyond the pale.’

What gets me is TalkTalk’s blatant disregard for its ex-customers when it says the problems with the cancellation process were caused by ‘an error on a legacy billing system’. Sure, it’s the inherited Tiscali that’s been having these problems since 2006, but it shouldn’t take this long to fix a ‘technical glitch’.

TalkTalk then goes on to say:

‘[It] is resolving this by migrating all ex-Tiscali customers onto one network and billing system which will allow us to process cancellations much more effectively… TalkTalk Group has co-operated fully with Ofcom’s investigation and we apologise for the inconvenience caused to this limited group of former customers.’

It’s one thing to be in breach of the telecoms regulations, but it’s another to come out with what is essentially an empty statement. If TalkTalk is truly sorry for its actions, it would have issued a refund to all those affected the moment it realised it had been charging people for services they had cancelled.

It accepts that the technical issue has been going on for some time, yet it deals with refunds on a ‘case by case’ basis. Plus, it waits until it’s being investigated and finally threatened with enforcement action by the regulator before it comes up with a solution. I’m sorry, but I’m not impressed.


We spent months being harassed by TalkTalk (Tiscali) at the start of this year for money which we did not owe it. Three or four telephone calls a day from people we could hardly understand and who certainly didn’t appear able to understand us!
Then followed days/weeks of futile emails – it just sent round robin replies that did not apply. It suspended my email – when I queried it I was told it was due to a billing problem and not a technical problem. Billing kept confirming we did not owe them any money.
Despite all this AND having confirmation and endless names of people we had spoken to who assured us problem was resolved, the telephone calls demanding money continued. All kept maintaining it was caused by a ‘system error’.
Eventually we started receiving letters from debt collectors (who thankfully were far more efficient than TalkTalk/Tiscali – although that wouldn’t take much!).
After going round in circles for months I referred the matter to Otelo who adjudicated in our favour. It told me I would receive goodwill gesture payment within 28 days. Surprise, surprise it never came!
Further contact with Otelo resulted in letter this week from ‘High Level Complaints Executive’ at TalkTalk saying a cheque will arrive within 10 days…………….we’ll see!


I set up a new computer for my sister recently and because she had lost the Tiscali internet set up disc I tried to get a replacement. This proved to be very difficult. The TalkTalk website had links that did not work and the help line was of no help. My sister was unhappy with the service anyway and decided to change providers. TalkTalk cut off her service immediately despite saying they would not do so. Having read this report, I will now ask her to check carefully to ensure they do not continue to charge her.

Dave W says:
2 November 2010

My problem with Tiscali/Talktalk is the other way around! They have just sent me a cheque because I apparently cancelled my account; they did not say when. I had not cancelled. Furthermore they have not taken any money from my bank via DD for 3 months whilst I still enjoy the broadband and ‘phone service; which is reasonable value and generall okay. I spent approx 2 hours on the ‘phone, mostly on hold talking with billing and sales people who contradicted each other. The saga continues as I apparently have a free service and even a cheque for no reason!!

Andy says:
2 November 2010

I had an identical problem with ongoing billing and threats when I cancelled my contract with Demon Internet – part of Thus PLC. The call centre in India was particularly unhelpful. Eventually it was resolved but after much hassle and stress for something so basic.

phoebe says:
2 November 2010

We have had very similar problems – are you able to give me the contact name etc of complaints person?
This company is acting like charlatans!

Paul says:
3 November 2010

I have also suffered at the hands of Tiscali (TalkTalk). I used to have a dial-up service provided by Tiscali and being in the depths of West Wales it was only recently that I was able to get broadband. Tiscali were adamant that my connection was unable to deal with broadband but BT said they could supple albeit that it would be at slower speeds. I agreed to the BT offer and had them connect me to broadband. This was in April and when my problems with Tiscali started.
I work overseas for long periods and when my wife called Tiscali they refused to deal with her as the account was in my name. As a side note she only managed to speak to someone after several calls and lengthy periods on hold at a cost of 10p per minute. I wrote to Tiscali asking them to either deal over the phone with my wife or cancel the service by my letter request. The Tiscali T&C’s require cancellation only by phone, don’t ask me why!
After many more calls and demands for money I asked my credit card company to stop paying the direct debit and recover any monies paid after the date of my letter. The card company were very helpful and did as I requested. Each time a new bill came in either my wife or I would call Tiscali to try and sort the problem, all to no avail and you can imagine the phone bill I managed to rack up calling from overseas.
Eventually, when home on leave, I managed to get through to Tiscali. A fairly heated conversation ensued but in the end I thought that the matter was resolved. You can imagine my surprise and annoyance when a week later I received a letter from a debt collection agency telling me I had to pay up or else! I contacted the agency and tried to explain my situation but they were singularly unimpressed and just kept telling me to call Tiscali. I did so and after another wait of 45 minutes managed to speak to a human. I was passed around the departments but finally thought that it had all been resolved and agreed to pay part of what they were demanding. This was a couple of months ago.
However, two weeks ago I received another demand, by letter, from Tiscali, stating that I still owed them for their service in June. They now claim that my service was not terminated until mid-June when I managed to get through on the phone. The battle continues!


TalkTalk Group – High Level Complaints Executive – Direct Tel line is 01438 765494 extn 6240.

G L Attaway says:
3 November 2010

Having accepted Talk Talk’s invitation to join them I decided it was not for me, having read of all the complaints and unreliability of their broadband service I found that they were offline for four hours which only confirmed my decision to cancel the order. What a palaver! They accepted my cancellation but on that very day they had submitted a direct debit to my bank and told BT to cut off my service. However, since then I have been pestered almost daily with welcome packs etc. I wrote and complained and today have received an apology. I have learned a hard lesson.

Sophie Gilbert says:
3 November 2010

When such a level of incompetence is reached a mere threat to fine isn’t enough. Hit them where it hurts, otherwise they’ll carry on. Ofcom, just fine them, now! They’ve been given enough warning.