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By: MarkJ - 18 August, 2011 (7:33 AM)
tiscali talktalk uk logoofcom ukBroadband ISP TalkTalk (Tiscali) UK has today been fined £3 million after they incorrectly billed 3,000 consumers for services, such as broadband and or phone packages, which they had not received. An investigation by Ofcom found that TalkTalk had failed to correct enough errors with its system, which in February 2011 resulted in the ISP being forced to repay £2.5m after 62,000 customers were incorrectly billed (here).

The communications regulator, Ofcom UK, has continued to keep close tabs on TalkTalk's progress since it last breached telecoms rules (General Condition 11.1). Sadly, despite the ISP promising to correct its faults, TalkTalk still managed to incorrectly bill almost 3,000 consumers between 2nd December 2010 and 4th March 2011!

Ofcom acknowledged that TalkTalk had taken "some important steps to comply with the rules," such as making changes to their customer records management systems, though the problems have not gone away.

Ofcom Statement

Ofcom has therefore issued TalkTalk and Tiscali UK with a financial penalty 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.

Ofcom considers this to be a serious breach of the rules. However, Ofcom is issuing TalkTalk and Tiscali UK with a lower penalty than they might otherwise have been given, had they not taken steps towards complying with the rules, and taken action to remedy the harm they caused to consumers.

The fine is payable to Ofcom and passed on to HM Treasury. TalkTalk and Tiscali UK are required to pay it within 30 days of receiving the penalty notification.

Dido Harding, CEO of TalkTalk, commented:

We are pleased that Ofcom has recognised the significant steps we've taken to solve this problem and has acknowledged that the issues surrounding the integration of the Tiscali business in 2010 are behind us. The billing migration was completed last year and in the last 3 months Ofcom has received only 12 complaints on the issue. In addition, as announced in February, every customer impacted has been reimbursed and compensated with payments totaling over £2.5 million.

Last year I recognised that we needed to invest in our systems, processes and customer services ­ and we are making significant progress. We have seen a 40% 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 5 million customers are more loyal and more satisfied than they were 12 months ago.

We are of course disappointed at the scale of the fine and feel it is a disproportionate penalty; however we are striving to continually improve and invest in customer experience and are pleased at the clear progress we are starting to make.

Most of the billing problems affected customers who had already closed their accounts, which is an issue that subscribers have been reporting to us for what seems like almost a decade now. Meanwhile Ofcom believes that, despite TalkTalk's improvements, their attempts to rectify the underlying problems have been "insufficient". Ofcom is continuing to monitor TalkTalk's compliance.
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