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TalkTalk and Tiscali in breach of Ofcom rules over incorrect billing
Tuesday 02 November 2010 11:13:03 by John Hunt

TalkTalk and Tiscali UK (owned by TalkTalk) have today been given a slap on the wrists by Ofcom after they have breached telecoms rules in relation to consumer billing. Ofcom have received over 1,000 complaints so far this year about bills from the two companies for services that have not been provided and Ofcom have given the TalkTalk Group a month to get things straightened out. The relevant rule that has been breached is General Condition 11.1 which states:

"The Communications Provider shall not render any Bill to an End-User in respect of the provision of any Public Electronic Communications Services unless every amount stated in that Bill represents and does not exceed the true extent of any such service actually provided to the End-User in question."

Consumers reported to Ofcom that they had received bills from the companies after cancelling their telephone or broadband service, whilst some overpaid by over £600 pounds. The most likely reason for this is the mess of account and billing systems that will have been in place over time as Tiscali acquired various broadband companies including Pipex, Nildram, and Freedom2Surf amongst others. With TalkTalk and Tiscali merging these together through this year, it's unsurprising that some errors have occurred. One can't help but wonder if this was one factor which lead to the drawn out sale of the Tiscali business, putting some bidders off due to the huge integration process required.

Ofcom believes the scale of the problem is too severe and expects the TalkTalk Group to implement new systems and training to stop old customers receiving bills. They will also need to rectify problems arising from the billing which will include (but not limited to):

  1. establishing a specialist team within the TalkTalk Group to which any complaints about bills for services not provided to end-users are escalated, on receipt, for resolution;
  2. identifying all end-users of the TalkTalk Group who have been billed by it for services it had not provided to them in the period between 1 January 2010 to the date of the Notification ("the affected end-users") and writing to these end-users informing them of any monies owed to them, providing the contact details of the specialist TalkTalk Group team (referred to in (a) above) and setting out the steps required to secure payment of any sums due;
  3. suspending all further billing of, and stopping any debt collection activity in relation to, the affected end-users;
  4. providing refunds of all sums paid by end-users to the TalkTalk Group for which it had billed them in contravention of GC11.1;
  5. in relation to any affected end-user whose credit rating has been adversely affected by steps taken by or on behalf of TalkTalk Group, or by any party, in connection with its contravention of GC11.1, taking the necessary steps to repair the affected credit rating, including but not limited to applying to have any relevant court judgment set aside and notifying relevant credit reference agencies;
  6. in relation to any affected end-user against whom TalkTalk Group has instituted legal proceedings to claim monies purportedly owed, withdrawing forthwith from such legal proceedings, and paying the end-user’s reasonable legal costs in resisting the claim; and
  7. paying an appropriate amount to affected end-users in respect of annoyance, inconvenience or anxiety to which they have been put.

"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."

Claudio Pollack, (Director of Consumer Affairs) Ofcom

"We identified an issue with the cancellation process for ex-Tiscali customers caused by an error on a legacy billing system. We are resolving this by migrating all ex-Tiscali customers onto one network and billing system which will allow us to process cancellations much more effectively. TalkTalk Group has co-operated fully with Ofcom's investigation and we apologise for the inconvenience caused to this limited group of former customers."

Statement received from TalkTalk

Ofcom will require TalkTalk and Tiscali to comply by the 2nd of December or face further enforcement, and with the maximum penalty being a fine of 10% of relevant turnover, there is definitely an incentive for them to sort this out quickly.

Comments

Posted by AndrueC over 6 years ago
Doesn't surprise me in the least. They made a right bog-hole of my Dad's account. So much so they drove him to BT. Remains to be seen if they are any better of course :-/
Posted by russianmonkey over 6 years ago
Why is it not a surprise that a mish-mash of companies have massive problems when billing end users?
Posted by mike41 over 6 years ago
Long overdue action by Ofcom. Interesting to see if this very expensive watchdog is prepared to use its teeth. It's been far too willing to share a cosy kennel with the likes of TT
Posted by kev445 over 6 years ago
About time, they have been doing this for years, I remember them trying to charge me for a free dialup account (about 6 years ago), years after I had even used the free 0845 dialup service!
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
Tiscrapi used to regularly breach ofcom's rules on providing MAC codes within 5 working days they didn't seem to ever grasp that time frame 2 weeks it took me , did ofcom do anything? nope they never have, one reason why the like's of this shower are trading as the are
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
oh and i just remembered tiscali uk was a seperate entity to the tiscali in italy , so the what was told on bbc watchdog ain't the truth either talk talk lie again
Posted by mervl over 6 years ago
This is a longstanding Pipex problem going back beyond 2007. In my case they wanted multiple DDs set up because of continually lost records in this "legacy" billing system They even ignored an agreement after pursuit of an ADR complaint to repay £150 overpaid. Are we supposed to be impressed it has taken Ofcom more than 4 years to wake up to what has been going on through successive ownerships?
Posted by TGVrecord over 6 years ago
I am not surprised that Ofcom has acted over this as they have received some pretty robust complaints from former Pipex customers. My parents were charged a cancellation fee thanks to Pipex mistakenly closing their account due to incompetence. I think more people should complain to Otelo.
Posted by Grudkin over 6 years ago
I complained to Ofcom, BBC watchdog and cesas over 3 years ago regarding this very problem.

Believe me this has been going on for many years.

Tiscali did eventualy stop billing me but still owe me a £15 refund!

It also cost me a small fortune in calls to their premium rate numbers!
Posted by mervl over 6 years ago
I suspect this action is possible since TalkTalk are "co-operative". If former owners under whose watch these problems started were not, then accordingly Ofcom appeared toothless, may be either outwitted or cowered.
Posted by devsen over 6 years ago
This is long, long overdue the whole debacle of overcharging threatening letters from debt collectors has been going on since 2007/2008 when Tiscali took over Pipex. Only a few months back I got a threatening letter from another bunch of crooks debt collectors Friedrickson. Pipex, Tiscali and TalkTalk have caused untold misery. I complained to Ofcom but they have only taken action after the Watchdog investigation, Ofcom director makes me laugh they are the big ISP/Telecom firms poodles.
Posted by devsen over 6 years ago
TalklTalk maybe a cooperative but they have just grown big by acquisition and IMHO are in the same stable as the other useless big ISPs, I have bad experience with all of them, with battery chicken call centre support using premium numbers asking you to reboot your PC when the problem clearly lies with the. Moved to Zen 2008 and never been happier, proper engineers in the UK giving you support and I month contracts, no 18 months of crap while u r handcuffed.
Posted by devsen over 6 years ago
Ofcome is useless about the only quango that should be got rid, worse the FSE who were (are?) still the poodle of the banks.
Posted by jon-dave over 6 years ago
My aunt was a customer of Talk Talk. She recently got a laptop and was target by them and signed up to Broadband.

Talk Talk totally cocked up her bill and overcharged her, a number of phone calls to useless overseas call centres and was promised money back.

She had enough told them to stick it and if they want to take a 82 year old to court – let them.

I had problems with Tiscali few years back and now happy with the Co-Op


Talk talk’s poor service has recently featured on BBC Watchdog
Posted by keithy397 over 6 years ago
I moved recently and asked Tiscali if I could take my set up with me, they said "No" and that I should 'try another option'. The 'option' was a new 24 months contract costing me £15 more per month. I told them to stuff off and send me a final bill. On their website (View my bill) it came to £20 (the majority of the cost was for phoning them prior to my move) by the time I received the bill in letter form, £101.

I cannot stress enough, TalkTalk are CrapCrap and very unhelpful.

I phoned Sky, explained my situation and they gave me a great deal, saving lots of dosh too.
Posted by buckles29 over 6 years ago
Doesn't surprise me in the least.Was with Pipex, paying my £10/month, until they was incorporated into TalkTalk's business operation OPAL. No idea why I was classed as a business. Since the switch,they haven't debitted a single month at the correctly. Over £33 in June,I tried calling the list of numbers given in the change over blurb, they just passed me around between them. A problem with the pipex migration,my over payment would be offset against future bills, nothing taken until October, but 2 amounts taken. Had hoped to switch to sky but not in my area yet.
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