/ 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.

Comments

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

Danny,
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!

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.

Philip Dee says:
7 November 2010

Same problem here. I was complaining about TalkTalk on their members forum about being mis-sold a more expensive service:

http://www.talktalkmembers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43744

After many months of wrangling, they offered me £30 compensation and advised me how to leave TalkTalk by doing a reverse migration to BT. I followed this advise and have been on Sky since the 13th October, but they continue to bill me.

When I sent a note to their customer services, they replied to say they wouldn’t issue a credit note as neither myself or Sky had told them I was leaving. They also didn’t bother giving me the £30 that they had offered either. The reality is that Sky/BT can’t take on the service without getting TalkTalk’s agreement.

Anyone got any advise as to my next step? I’ll soon be getting the threatening letters for not paying the bill.

Dave Matthews says:
30 June 2015

Blog/write reviews every day (telling the truth, off course) – thats the way of dealing with this monster.

Just don’t pay them having same problem adding 59 to my bill even tho bean paying 50 a month well they will get ignored with me reminders will go in the bin but remember a Dept collector can not do anything ignore the door seek advice get injunction police will remove them put the notice on the door alls they do is huff and puff im already with sky talk talk dont own sky BT what runs it they are a abusive firm what make up story s to exploit customers theyll have a job ringing me phones switched off not serviced with them and if they send bily boys round will get a injunction and have them removed

It sounds like lots of you are looking for advice on how to get your complaints about TalkTalk heard – so we’ve contacted TalkTalk and asked them to respond to this thread. We’ll keep you updated on any feedback we get from them.

Judith says:
24 December 2010

I have been with tiscali for quite some time and now its talk talk I have been having ongoing problems for a fortnight my netgear keeps disconnecting and then it says no internet connection have telphoned tiscali and they told me it was 50% there fault and would phone me. still waiting for this problem to be sorted. how does any one get intouch with people from tiscali or talk talk.

Try this – but might be off over Christmas:

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

Email – Nicolas.Piere [at] talktalkplc [dot] com

Dave Matthews says:
30 June 2015

It shouldn’t get to this stage! I am just going to blog all the way (an article/blog every day), hopefully your disguisting company will stop stealing from customers!

This happened to me when I left Pipex (taken over by Tiscali) !!!
They took 2 monthly payments from me after I had left and again a year later even welcoming me as a new customer and threatening a cancellation charge.
I complained through ISPA:
http://www.ispa.org.uk
It did take 2 tries to finally get them off my back and they did not fully refund my money but I have not heard from them for nearly 2 years now !

ann says:
7 May 2011

My mother had endless problems with TalkTalk. They signed her up for a landline, and then for a broadband service which they failed to deliver over a period of six months while charging her a higher price straight away. The main problem was their call centre – every time you would get put through to a different person, who promised to help but who said they had no knowledge of what had happened before and who never seemed to take any action on their promises. In the end we resorted to emails and registered delivery mail to get a sense of continuity and sidestep their inability to admit to what had been said previously. Eventually we got a letter promising to allow cancellation without charge – and then they not only charged a cancellation fee but also charged premioum rate on the final bill for calls to their own call centre. They then refused to believe in their own letter, which they couldn’t find, so we had to send yet another registered delivery letter along with a copy of TalkTalk’s letter. We got the money back but it was a huge struggle – they blamed my mother for “not understanding because of her age” – rubbish!!! I was involved throughout, but I could see how otherwise they might have bullied her into paying. At that point we’d both lost the will to take it further, we were just relieved that the nightmare was over.

Karen says:
16 May 2011

Migrated from Talk Talk to Plusnet in February, after having very satisfactory service from Nildram for many years but no longer able to access online billing and being plagued with calls pestering me to upgrade my service (not mentioning the 24 month contract unless asked!!). 3 months later. regularly receiving letters asking for an increasingly escalating “unpaid balance” and threatening to cut off my service. Ha ha. One letter threatened debt collection – a phone call got that sorted but still no final bill despite two calls which promised to email me the same day. No response from online customer service. Do Not bother with them. Why have Ofcom not,as they threatened to do last year, fined them for billing ex customers – it is obvious from so many people’s complaints that they continue to do this blatantly.

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28 June 2012

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Jeff Jones says:
6 December 2012

fast forward 2 years and they are up to the exact same shoddy behaviour. Sending my 78 year old mother threatening a 250 disconnect fee for breach of contract for terminating a service. The service is 4 years old and 3 years out of contract. We notified them of termination with 6 weeks notice although only 4 weeks is required. They raised no issue at the time. Then post termination they have started to bombard and harras a 78 year old lady who has done nothing wrong.

Yep – still up to their old tricks in 2013. Cancelled service months ago and I’m still getting letters, bills, emails, calls – it’s absolutely ridiculous.

OFCOM when will you wake up and start dealing with these rogues??

Dave Adams says:
3 October 2014

Still up to the old tricks, cancelled in Dec 2011 because of terrible customer services (taking direct debit payments on dates when they decided), got a bill for £28 on September 2014, rung talktalk customer services, New Delhi (or Mumbai),to be told sorry about this, you will not hear from us again.Brilliant I thought…..Now I’m getting “The Next Level Reminder” that i have missed the £28 in October 2014. Really do no want the debt collectors knocking on the door.

Julie Watson says:
9 October 2014

Today I recieved an unpaid bill notice from talk talk for £128. Talk talk took £124 from my account in Feb 2011 after repeated attemps to get my broadband working. After 3 months I moved to Sky abd talk talk agreed that I wouldnt need to pay for a service I hadnt recieved. They took payment anyway but my bank refunded it. Why are they sending these letters almost 4 years after the fact?

Jenni says:
23 October 2014

I am having the same problem . I moved to SKY in Sept 2011. I had paid talktalk up to date. Then they took £123 from my account. They said it was early cancellation fee. My contract with them had ended !!! I am now getting debt collection letters from them for £142 !!!! I also was without broadband for three months, that’s why I changed. I complained & asked for a refund as I was still paying for the broadband I never had ,but no joy ! Now I am receiving these letters !!!!!