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Dinner Lady Wins Compensation from UK ISP Unicom After 2 Year Battle

Monday, January 11th, 2016 (1:15 am) - Score 1,771
unicom

A dinner lady from Sheffield (England) has finally ended a two year battle with telecoms and broadband provider Unicom (Universal Utilities / VERASTAR) by receiving compensation of £718.35, after the ISP initially denied ever having offered her a service with “no termination fee“.

Unicom has already earned itself somewhat of a flaky reputation for sales tactics and Ofcom recently fined the provider £200,000 for misleading consumers over the sale of their fixed line telecommunications services (here), while also ordering them to compensate customers.

However Ofcom’s ruling only covered a narrow time-scale, which left anybody who had suffered similar problems outside of that period with little recourse. One such individual was Mrs Jayne Furniss, a dinner lady in Sheffield.

Back in December 2013 Mrs Furniss had been running a small cafe called ‘the Perfect Pie‘ for 5 years and was renting a single phone line for incoming calls via Unicom, but her business ceased to trade and Unicom promptly hit her with a landline termination charge of £488.35.

At this point Mrs Furniss began protesting the charge, not least because she claims to have been promised over the phone that no such charge would be tabled if her business ceased to trade. Mrs Furniss claims that she spent the next three months receiving repeated calls from Unicom (e.g. warnings of damage to her credit rating, use of bailiffs and court action etc.), at one point the provider is even alleged to have sent her court papers that weren’t actually registered to a court.

Naturally most people aren’t accustomed to dealing with such tactics and on 25th March 2014, weary under the continuing pressure from Unicom, she agreed to make a payment of £418.35. But thankfully this is not the end of the story and, with support from Ian Senior, a court case against Unicom was prepared.

Statement from Ian Senior:

On 12 May 2015 Ian Senior, acting for Mrs Furniss, obtained from Unicom the voice-recording of a verbal contract between her and Unicom made on 11 February 2013 in which the sales agent clearly states that “…no termination fee is charged if you cease to trade“. Thus, in demanding a termination fee from Jayne Furniss using duress, Unicom was in clear and wilful breach of contract.

All the harassment that they had inflicted on her was based on their own breach of contract. There followed six months of correspondence between Ian Senior and Unicom during which Unicom rejected an offer to go to mediation, Mrs Furniss then started the process of a formal court case against Unicom claiming £418.35 as refund of the termination fee plus £300 compensation for harassment.

On 8th December 2015 Unicom finally agreed to settle out of court and paid Mrs Furniss the full amount of £718.35, although they didn’t apologise and merely stated that their offer “is not an admittance of fault, but has been made entirely as a gesture of goodwill so that both parties can avoid a time consuming court process.

Of course Mrs Furniss isn’t the only former Unicom customer to have received such treatment, as shown by Ofcom’s investigation and past complaints. As such there may now be renewed interest in pursuing the ISP through the courts and ISPreview.co.uk understands that a group action against Unicom/Verastar is already under consideration. A dedicated complaints page even exists to highlight some of the problems that people have had with the provider.

Mrs Furniss will be interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme today, at around 12.15 to 12.55, about her successful fight against Unicom/Verastar.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Jazmin

    The Bain of my life

    Despite repeated requests in writing, verbally and after speaking to senior managers, they still continue to call me on the phone at least twice a week to discuss the BT line from their Newcastle office

    I ignore most of their calls but they change their numbers regularly

  2. Busterbobs

    Hi Jasmin,
    If you haven’t already, I would suggest that you contact the Information Commissioners Office to make a formal record of your complaint, describe the history of the calls and enclose the letters you have sent to try and stop the unwanted calls https://ico.org.uk/concerns/marketing/report-telesales-calls/ Hope this helps.

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