Billing customers for phantom services has landed Talk Talk and Tiscali with a multi-million pound fine
Talk Talk suffered another hit from Ofcom today as the regulator fined it and subsidiary Tiscali £3 millon for incorrectly billing thousands of customers.
An Ofcom investigation last year found that between 1 January and 1 November 2010, the Talk Talk group billed around 62,000 consumers for services they had not received.
The ISP was given until 2 December 2010 to clean up its act but still incorrectly charged nearly 3,000 people between then and 4 March 2011.
“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,” the watchdog said today.
The fine, which is split roughly equally between Talk Talk and Tiscali, could have been much worse but the maximum of 10 percent of turnover was avoided because of efforts to correct the issue.
TalkTalk and Tiscali UK have already paid over £2.5 million in refunds and good will payments to more than 65,000 affected consumers.
Talk Talk CEO Dido Harding said her firm was pleased their efforts had been recognised but was surprised at the size of the fine handed out.
She said in a statement: “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.”
Talk Talk has been beset with customer service problems since it began integrating Tiscali, with billing migration causing particular grief.
Harding said the migration was completed last year and the last three months had seen only 12 related complaints to Ofcom.
In a warning for consumers, Brian Boroff, Managing Director of Mobilife, a mobile phone comparison site, said it is their own responsibility to make sure firms are not over charging them.
He said: “Companies are not obliged to alert you to any overspend when it comes to billing so consumers need to be ever vigilant and always check their bills to make sure they are on the right tariff and not being overcharged.”
This is the second time in as many months that Ofcom has been the bearer of sobering news for Talk Talk.
In July, the regulator revealed that Talk Talk customers were the UK’s most unhappy with their broadband service and the most likely to switch suppliers.
And back in April another Ofcom survey found Talk Talk was the UK’s most complained about ISP.
Talk Talk and Tiscali have 30 days from receipt of notice to pay today’s fine.