Many service providers now offer a bundled broadband and telephone service as the communications technologies converge. Some offer Voice-over-IP (VoIP) services which make use of a broadband connection to provide a telephone service, something that doesn't affect your billing for broadband or any calls made through your normal phone line, whilst others offer a range of services which involve taking control of the billing of the phone line itself from BT.
TalkTalk (www.talktalk.net) is one of the providers which offers the native telephone services in over 1,100 exchanges which cover about 20% of the total number of exchanges in the UK. Recently, several service providers have noticed problems with customers calling about their broadband connections no longer working. Upon investigation of the cause, it seems BT's systems identifies the lines as no longer being assigned to the ISP in question, even though no cease or migration order has been requested. One of the common factors identified by PlusNet (www.plus.net) in looking into this, is that the customer has migrated their land line telephone service to TalkTalk.
In the cases recorded, the customer has often not requested to move their broadband service and has not requested a MAC code from the current provider to migrate the broadband. TalkTalk appear to have the ability to move the whole line to their service, including the broadband, without ever confirming with the losing ISP or informing the customer that this is being done.
This is not inline with TalkTalk's Terms & Conditions which state:
1.22 Unless you have agreed previously to take our Broadband Service, we will seek your express consent before transferring you to our LLU network if you take a broadband service from another provider on the same telephone line at the time of transfer.TalkTalk Terms & Conditions
PlusNet contacted its customers and confirmed with them that none had opted to take the TalkTalk broadband service nor were they contacted by TalkTalk to confirm that their current broadband service could be moved--At least two customers had made it categorically clear that TalkTalk were not to take over their broadband connection.
In attempts to move back to their previous provider, TalkTalk are reported as being less than helpful informing customers they are now in an 18 month contract. Some have managed to get a MAC code to migrate back, but others are having problems. We would remind all users that as of 14th February 2007, the new General Condition 22 requirements set out by Ofcom require service providers to provide MAC codes where technically feasible, or otherwise assist the users in migrating, regardless of what minimum contracts may be in place.
"Recently, I received a broadband option 3 welcome pack from TalkTalk advising me that my broadband would go live by the end of June and that I would experience disruption to my service.
Because I had not requested anything from them I firstly logged on to my [TalkTalk] account and could see that my package had indeed been changed to option 3 and the order date was 18 May. I phoned them immediately to enquire as to what was going on. I was told that the order had been placed for option 3 and was now too advanced to stop the process.
Despite my anger and frustration in trying to convince them that I had not requested the change, they had the audacity to try to convince me what a good deal their free broadband was. They did however finally admit that that the change should not have happened but still could not stop it.
I phoned OFCOM who were fully aware of [TalkTalk's] tactics and they gave me the number to the [TalkTalk] management team. The management team are UK based and appeared to be very helpful but insisted that the only way out is for me to contact BT and ask them to take my line back at which point I would enter into a new 18 month contract with BT and would then have to re-apply to PlusNet for my broadband.
Because of my persistence, TT credited my account with £20 (inconvenience fee) and agreed to waive the £70 cessation fee if I chose to leave them and go back to BT.A TalkTalk Option 1 & PlusNet Broadband Customer
This is very worrying for customers on existing contracts with time to run as they may still be required to pay the service provider they were using before TalkTalk took over the line for the remaining period on their contract, possibly even in one lump sum depending on the terms and conditions, in addition to the costs of getting reconnected to the previous service.
"Based on the number of our customers this has happened to so far in June (about 20), and our market share (about 1.5%) I'd estimate that TalkTalk are unfairly 'poaching' roughly 2,500 customers a month from other ISPs."Neil Armstrong (Products & Marketing Director), commenting on the PlusNet blog
These numbers are a cause for concern if they are an accurate reflection of the bigger situation, especially as the problem is not limited to TalkTalk--We have seen reports from various broadband service providers who have found their customers have been moved onto an LLU provider's network without their knowledge, Orange and Sky being two other examples we have heard about.