Ofcom fines TalkTalk £3m over incorrect billing

Ofcom fines TalkTalk £3m over incorrect billing

Summary: The regulator said the heavy fine, which follows the telco's persistent billing for services it did not actually provide, shouldact as a 'deterrent'

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TOPICS: Broadband, Mobility
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Ofcom has fined TalkTalk and its Tiscali UK subsidiary for persistently billing tens of thousands of customers for services they did not receive.

Ofcom sign

Ofcom has fined TalkTalk and its Tiscali UK subsidiary £3m for persistently billing tens of thousands of customers for services they did not receive. Photo credit: Jon Yeomans

The regulator first censured the companies for the incorrect charges in November, after which TalkTalk and Tiscali gave over 65,000 affected customers a total of £2.5m in refunds and goodwill payments. On Thursday, Ofcom levied an additional £3m fine, saying the telecoms firms continued to bill customers for non-existent services even after being told off for doing so.

"While TalkTalk and Tiscali UK did take some important steps to comply with the rules, such as making changes to their customer records management systems, they still incorrectly billed almost 3,000 consumers between 2 December, 2010 and 4 March, 2011," Ofcom said in a statement.

The regulator said the size of the fine was "to reflect the seriousness of their breach of the rules and to act as a deterrent to them and other telecoms companies who must comply with the rules".

However, Ofcom said the fine would have been even greater if TalkTalk and Tiscali UK had not taken steps to fix their systems and compensate customers.

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Despite being named in Ofcom's statements, Tiscali UK does not technically exist anymore. It was bought by TalkTalk's then-parent company, Carphone Warehouse, in 2009. Its operations were merged into TalkTalk, which was then itself demerged from Carphone Warehouse in 2010.

On Thursday, TalkTalk chief executive Dido Harding said in a statement that the company was pleased Ofcom had recognised the steps taken to fix the problems and "acknowledged that the issues surrounding the integration of the Tiscali business in 2010 are behind us".

Complaining that TalkTalk was "disappointed at the scale of the fine and [felt] it is a disproportionate penalty", Harding noted that every affected customer had been reimbursed, and that Ofcom had received a mere 12 complaints regarding the issue over the last three months.

"Last year I recognised that we needed to invest in our systems, processes and customer services — and we are making significant progress," Harding said. "We have seen a 40-percent year-on-year reduction in customer service calls; Ofcom receives three times fewer calls about TalkTalk than they did at the height of the Tiscali integration; and our five million customers are more loyal and more satisfied than they were 12 months ago."


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Topics: Broadband, Mobility

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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11 comments
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  • Perhaps Ofcom would like to have a look at Orange too. Several times I have had a text telling me my pay-as-you-go account has got X amount left for example 87p but when I topped up by £10 the amount was just £10 in my account. 87p might not seem a lot to most people but when you have over a million PAYG customers then that's a nice little earner.
    anonymous
  • The fine should have been double that amount. there are many people like myself who just gave up trying to get their money back.
    I changed over to Talk-talk for broadband, and they completely messed up my telephone and broadband. After having no telephone or broadband for a week I had to go to another supplier who sorted it within 2 days. Talk-Talk then grabbed £213 from my account for early disconnection. I would never deal or recommend that technically useless company to anyone
    maitland48
  • I went with them because the doorstep seller said that they were taking over my provider Plusnet and found them very expensive. I am still in dispute with them over billing.
    chezza18
  • If you pay peanuts, dont be surprised if your treated like a monkey
    chunky-e5cfb
  • Harding said. "We have seen a 40-percent year-on-year reduction in customer service calls; Ofcom receives three times fewer calls about TalkTalk than they did at the height of the Tiscali integration; and our five million customers are more loyal and more satisfied than they were 12 months ago."

    What a load of crap, I was with Tiscali and they changed my account to talk talk, billed me an extra £7 a month for a connection speed that was almost on the modem speed of things, maximum of 50kb/s download. The more I phoned to get the speed sorted, the less willing they were to solve the problem. At one point I was told to run a speed test and phone back the next day....

    When I did, i was told by another customer rep to do the same. I did it again and phoned and managed to get the ring around to tiscali technicians who then stated it was a talk talk technician that was needed, who then told me it was a tiscali technician. When I finally got a technician to speak to, the line was so led around in rings that the person was completely inaudible on the phone.

    One little switch to SKY and iḿ enjoying speedy broadband cheaper with no need to have ever called customer services.

    And where is my refund???? Not forgetting the £10 in bills owed for the time spent on the phone
    anonymous
  • In response to Mr Harding`s comment that "We have seen a 40-percent year-on-year reduction in customer service calls"; that is because its customers cannot get through to its 'support' lines. WE GIVE UP. Their email support is allmost as bad, having categories of subjects and where none exist not allowing transmission. If you send wrong topic heading then recipient at Talk will not deal with it. eg. contract termination date request, speak to another area....
    flemi014
  • I was with Talk Talk and for the whole 9 months I was trying to get out of the contract, from day one things did not work and even with all there so called "Expertise in I.T" they still could not get me connect to the internet. Finally they gave up and let me cancel my contract without paying a clause for early contract cancellation however still didnt get my 9 months rental back :(
    Worse service I have every had off any organisation.. went to o2 and that was the end of my problems.. they are absolutely brilliant.... 3 years later still with them and not one issue...
    Klarita-05d86
  • Perfect chance to reclaim now
    anonymous
  • 1st. thats funny, i know for a fact if tt cannot provide a bb speed of at least 700kbs they dont bother.
    2nd. ofcom themselves recently issued a statement confirming that between, tt, sky and bt, tt are the only providers who do not cap your bb speed below its full potential ergo, offering the fastest speeds of the three on a dsl line.
    3rd. BT OPEN REACH are the engineer service for ALL dsl phone and bb providors.
    4th. your bb speed is determined by the distance from your home to the local exchange. this can be affected by the number of ppl online at the same time, the websites your viewing, the condition of your router, computer or even your line. you may have needed a new telephone line.
    5th. its very easy to jump on the bandwagon and kick someone whos down. just remember tt have 5million customers, on the most part of whom are happy. in light of the small number of tt's customer base who have been unhappey, the numbers are minute in comparison. also come to mind that every company will have problems, especially when intergrating other companies into its operations. every company will recieve a volume of complaints, just remember the old saying "you can make some people happy all the time, everybody some of the time, but never everybody all the time...."
    Ive allways been happy with my tt service, and when there has been problems, they have been resolved in a realistic timescale
    krixsuz
  • How do we get our money back, Last year when we finished with Talk Talk and went back with BT, after paying all bills, suddenly 3 or so month later we started to have bills from talk talk, as a busy man , I paid on my husbands behalf. Then more bills. Eventually he phoned and told then, we left you months ago, there should not be anymore bills. It still came and eventually 2 debt collection companies, afraid to get black listed I paid the debt collectors to keep them at bay, now I see your write up, I realised we were stitched up. How can we get reimbursement? Same with BT now, I swear, there's something not right with their billing...excessive billing, as we have a few lines, it gets complicated and whilst we contest, BT ignores and sends it to debt collectors, so again we pay off to keep our nose clean whilst we try to make head or tail with bills. Our problem is, my husband has it in his name and the refuse to talk to me when he's too busy to be kept on hold etc...so to all beware, if you're not on the button, they get you!!!
    changset
  • BEEN WITH TT ABOUT 5-6 YRS. LANDLINE AND BB. PAY BY DIRECT DEBIT. NO PAIN. THEY SUBMIT THE BILL AND THE BANK PAYS UP. UNTIL WE SWOPPED BANKS. TT DIDNT GET A PAYMENT. SO THEY CUT US OFF. NO WARNING. NO LANDLINE. NO BB. HAD TO USE A MOBILE TO GET IN TOUCH. OPERATOR/CALL CENTRE MADE US PAY THERE AND THEN WITH MY CREDIT CARD. IN EFFECT PAYING TWICE. RECLAIMED THAT BACK. NO APOLOGIES. NO UNDERSTANDING OF THE UK BANKING SYSTEM. THEY GET NO MONEY ERGO, ITS MY FAULT. IT GETS BETTER. WE RECEIVED A LETTER IN THE POST, AFTER I'D PAID WITH MY CARD, SAYING I OWED THIS AMOUNT AND THE MATTER WAS BEING PASSED TO A RECOVERY AGENCY.THAT GOT SORTED OVER THE PHONE BUT NO SECOND LETTER TO SAY SORRY YOU OWE US NOTHING. NO APOLOGY EVER.
    daveaaaaaa14