Thousands of customers who were incorrectly billed for cancelled services by TalkTalk and Tiscali UK have received compensation, following an Ofcom investigation.
The compensated consumers – who TalkTalk and Tiscali UK continued to bill after their former customers had cancelled their services – have received a total of almost £2.5 million in refunds and good will payments.
As Which? reported in November 2010, in some cases, former customers continued to be billed several years after they’d cancelled their phone or broadband services.
Ongoing TalkTalk/Tiscali complaints
TalkTalk, along with the former Tiscali UK – now part of the TalkTalk Group – are likely to have been aware of the scale of the problem, which affected many thousands of former customers. But TalkTalk and Tiscali UK only took proper action to address the issue after Ofcom stepped in in November 2010.
In a statement issued today, Ofcom has said that it is still receiving some complaints from consumers, in spite of the actions taken by TalkTalk and Tiscali UK.
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Ofcom powers to penalise rule-breakers
Telecoms regulations prohibit communications providers from billing companies for services that they have not supplied. However, under its current powers, Ofcom is not able to issue financial penalties for a company that breaches the rules without giving the company an opportunity to take action to address the issue by a given deadline.
Because TalkTalk and Tiscali UK took significant action by Ofcom’s deadline of 2 December 2010, Ofcom is unable to issue a financial penalty at this point – although it reserves the right to do so if its ongoing investigation finds that TalkTalk or Tiscali UK have continued to breach the regulations.
Government is currently consulting on changes to the law, which would give Ofcom the power to issue financial penalty for regulation breaches even if the company in question takes subsequent action. If the Government decides to proceed with these changes, these new powers would be available to Ofcom on 25 May 2011.
Proposed regulation changes will benefit consumers
Ofcom welcomes the proposed changes to the law, as does Which? phone and broadband expert Ceri Stanaway, who says: ‘TalkTalk and Tiscali UK should not have been able to get away with wrongly taking money from their former customers for as long as they did, even threatening some wrongly charged consumers with legal action.
‘It can only be hoped that if Ofcom is given the power to automatically fine companies that breach consumer protection rules, it will incentivise companies to put their houses in order as soon as they recognise a problem. It’s just a shame that this approach seems to be necessary to force many companies to do the right thing by their customers.’
Let Ofcom know if you’re still being affected by TalkTalk and Tiscali UK’s billing problems by calling 0300 123 3333. Affected consumers can also contact TalkTalk and Tiscali UK directly on their dedicated hotline – 0800 5428 073.
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