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Where has my broadband gone?
Monday 18 June 2007 01:49:03 by John Hunt

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.

More on the PlusNet case on their blog. A similar case involving TalkTalk has also been reported on our forums from a NewNet user.

Comments

Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote "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." I assume that was Plusnet that said that as those rules do NOT govern many FULLY unbundled lines or providers thus the statement is Incorrect. This is though another story of more reasons to never go with one of these cheapo bundle providers, the old saying, you get what you pay for is true.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
If it was Plusnet that said it, we would have attributed it to them. It says provide MAC codes where "where technically feasible"..
Posted by warweezil over 9 years ago
If OFCOM had balls they would treat this as "slamming" (which in reality it is) and levy a huge fine. I dont see how TT could assert any "contract rights" and any expenses incurred by the customer in undong the changes made without customer consent are probably recoverable via the small claims court, claims can be filed on-line too! The only way to hurt companies like this is financially, we sure as hell cant expect any protection from the watchdog - which should actually be called a "lapdog" as all too frequently businesses seem to be able to do as they please
Posted by nameloc over 9 years ago
I'm also having problems with Talktalk. I initially agreed to switch to their Talk 3 and broadband package after they called me but cancelled the order within 12 hours. They stated the order had been cancelled but have now transferred me anyway. They have taken over my line for broadband without any kind of communication with my broadband provider Sky, who said this is a case of 'line hijacking'. At the moment talk talk are only willing to pay for any disconnection fees from Sky as they say they have no record of my cancellation request and that it’s too late to change my mind.
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
The author of this fine article has failed to realise that this can only affect customers signing up for TalkTalk LINE RENTAL. That gives TT the contractual right to take over the line completely as a FMPF operator which will have the effect of dumping any existing BB service on the line.

If new customers only take a TT CPS calls package without TT line rental they cannot have their broadband hijacked as TT will not "own" the line.
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
I agree though that TT are legally stealing other ISPs customers. Conclusion? Read the small print.

This warning also applies to all other ISPs bundling calls, line rental and broadband such as Tiscali, Bulldog etc. If you want flexibility keep your line rental with BT.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Well said ETEE that was the point i was trying to originally make, but you done it much better :). If you switch to a FULLY unbundled provider (FMPF) and they take over your broadband, you are screwed as Ofcom rules dont really cover (FMPF) providers. The story is yet another example why you should avoid these bundle type providers all together.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
The problem is people are switching to the line rental with TT. If they currently have broadband with someone else, TT's own terms & conditions state they will explicitly contact you if they plan to move you onto LLU. This isn't happening. Also, some customers are explicitly telling TT they don't want to be moved to LLU so that they can stay with their existing provider. TT are ignoring this.
Posted by ETEE over 9 years ago
"TT's own terms & conditions state they will explicitly contact you if they plan to move you onto LLU. This isn't happening."

The above allegations need to be investigated to see whether there is a major problem or perhaps just isolated instances given undue prominence.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
This is disgusting practice but you have to see the irony Plusnet complaining about customers being poached....

After all - they never bothered to notify their customers before shoving them on to Tiscali LLU (to effectively stop them migrating away).
Posted by Briski over 9 years ago
The example shown in this news article is mine and i would like to clarify some points that will perhaps make some of you think differently.
As an existing TT customer I have rejected many attempts by them to take their broadband and never gave them permission to make me an LLU customer. I didn't take a cheap and nasty bundle, i always have, and always will prefer to pay PlusNet £20 a month for providing me with a first class broadband service. TalkTalk are without doubt in breach of contract and with the help of PlusNet and OFCOM, I intend to hit them were it hurts
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
I agree with you john and ETEE talk talk are clearly in violation of their own terms. The problem is who is going to punish/sort them out?? Ofcom obviously have no balls or they would have implemented their 14th Feb rules for every company, not just shared unbundled services and BT based services. Personally id never join a company on a new contract with shared bundle deals in place for reason such as this, often its better to pay a bit more and get what you want rather then having to deal with twits.
Posted by carrot63 over 9 years ago
"often its better to pay a bit more and get what you want rather then having to deal with twits."

Which is fair enough, except that it's getting harder by the minute to find twit-free providers in the the telecoms business whatever you pay. Hardly surprising given the biggest stick in the regulators arsenal (at least that they are prepared to use) is the threat of an "investigation" - and that only after endless months of hand wringing angst. Ofcom- short for "often complacent"?
Posted by Redback over 9 years ago
BT Provisioning are required to block any LLU move if PSTN services such as ADSL are still present. It is their system that cocks up and allows the move, resulting in a "slam" the LLU operator is not notified and therefore knows nothing and is blameless. Talk Talk are not SMPF they are MPF Direct your questions to BT not the LLU operator.
Posted by Redback over 9 years ago
In addition there are no MAC codes on LLU, it requires transfer back to BT line rental (average 14 days) again nothing to do with the LLU operator.
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