TalkTalk and Tiscali UK have wrongly charged thousands of customers for customers for services they have not provided, in some cases sending in debt collectors and wrecking credit ratings of customers who have been unwilling to pay the erroneous charges.
Phone and broadband watchdog Ofcom revealed its findings today, having received more than a thousand complaints this year alone from former TalkTalk and Tiscali UK customers who have been wrongly billed for services they had already cancelled.
Ofcom has instructed TalkTalk and Tiscali UK, part of the TalkTalk group, to stop breaching the rules by 2 December 2010 or face further enforcement action. This could include financial penalties of up to 10% of relevant turnover.
Which? broadband surveys show that an old ISP continuing to take payments after cancellation tops the list of problems that people experience when switching provider. If you experience problems with a phone or broadband provider that they are unable or unwilling to fix let Ofcom know, or contact Which? Legal Service which offers unlimited phone advice on consumer law issues for less than £6 a month.
Billed for more than two years for cancelled service
In some cases, customers who cancelled their TalkTalk or Tiscali UK services as long as two years ago or more have continued to receive bills right up until this year.
Which? telecoms expert Ceri Stanaway says: ‘It’s appalling that TalkTalk and Tiscali UK have continued to charge customers for services that they cancelled some time ago. You’d expect such giants in the phone and broadband world to have systems in place that were able to fulfil such a basic customer service requirement.
‘Worse, in many cases they’ve threatened innocent consumers with legal action, and ruined credit ratings which may have affected customers’ ability to apply for other services. The TalkTalk Group can’t have been unaware of the seriousness and extent of this problem, and should have ceased all debt-collection activity until any problems with their systems were resolved.
‘If this represents the level of customer service that TalkTalk offers to many of its customers, small wonder that it consistently scores well below average for customer satisfaction in Which? broadband and phone bundle satisfaction surveys.’
Don’t put up with substandard customer service – the Which? phone bundles and broadband surveys reveal which telecoms providers you can trust to treat you well.
TalkTalk/Tiscali must remedy consumer harm
In Ofcom’s legally binding Notification to TalkTalk and Tiscali UK, it requires the phone and broadband providers to address and remedy the harm they have caused affected consumers, including:
- providing refunds to all consumers who were billed for cancelled services since 1 January 2010
- stopping debt collection action, and withdrawing from any legal proceedings (if started), against consumers and paying their reasonable legal costs
- taking any necessary steps to repair credit ratings of affected consumers, such as notifying credit reference agencies where relevant.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Director of Consumer Affairs said: ‘Ofcom is determined to stand up for consumers and take action against companies that break the rules.
‘Our investigation into TalkTalk and Tiscali UK found that they had billed customers for cancelled services; this is unacceptable which is why we have ordered them to clean up their act or face the consequences.’
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