Ofcom has fined TalkTalk and Tiscali UK £3 million after it incorrectly billed tens of thousands of consumers for services they had not received.
Ofcom found that between 1 January and 1 November 2010 over 62,000 consumers were issued bills for services they had not received, in particular to customers that had already closed their accounts.
Ofcom investigates TalkTalk and Tiscali UK
Ofcom says it considers this to be a ‘serious breach of the rules’ and has issued TalkTalk and Tiscali UK with the fine to reflect this and to act as a deterrent to them and other telecoms companies.
The original investigation was launched in July 2010 after Ofcom received complaints from over 1,000 consumers. In November 2010 it issued TalkTalk and Tiscali UK with a legally-binding notification and both were told steps must be taken to sort out the billing problems before the 2 December 2010. However almost 3,000 consumers were still incorrectly billed after this deadline.
In its statement today Ofcom does acknowledge that the companies did take some important steps to comply with the rules, including making changes to their customer records management systems, during the period given.
Compensation for customers
TalkTalk and Tiscali were also required to pay refunds to those affected. The companies have already paid over £2.5 million in refunds and ‘good will payments’ to more than 65,000 customers.
Dido Harding CEO of TalkTalk Group says, ‘We are of course disappointed at the scale of the fine and feel it is a disproportionate penalty; however we are striving to continually improve and invest in customer experience and are pleased at the clear progress we are starting to make’.
TalkTalk also says that the billing issue in question is now resolved and point out that Ofcom is receiving three times fewer complaints about TalkTalk than it did in 2010.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, says:
‘It’s good to see a regulator showing its teeth – a £3 million fine clearly shows Ofcom is ready to take meaningful action against telecoms companies that break the rules. TalkTalk and Tiscali UK made repeated mistakes, billing customers for services they hadn’t used. This fine recognises the impact billing errors have on customers, and hopefully it will spur other companies on to ensure their systems are fit for purpose and kept fully up to date.
‘We’d also like to see companies respond more quickly and effectively to customer complaints, without waiting for the regulator to get involved.’
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