After cancelling his contract with Talktalk, a customer was charged for an upgrade he did not request. We investigate what happened and provide some advice
In August I changed my broadband service from Talktalk to BT. I contacted Talktalk and my request for a migration authorisation code (MAC) was met within three days.
This was passed onto BT and I was told I would be connected on 3 September. On 20 August Talktalk collected its last monthly payment and the service was suspended. I received a letter from the company on 30 August to say that it would disconnect me on 9 September.
I phoned to say that I had already been disconnected and the company agreed it was an error.
Then on 13 October Talktalk sent me a letter claiming payment for an outstanding balance of £402.41 because I was in breach of contract.
Mr Sweetman showed us a letter he received from Talktalk showing that he was being charged the money because he had upgraded his broadband and moved his phone service to Talktalk on 27 July.
The outstanding balance was an early termination fee. Usually if a consumer wants to end a broadband contract early, they will have to pay a termination fee. This is for the months remaining of the contract. What Talktalk appears to be saying is that Mr Sweetman cancelled this contract within days of agreeing to it.
If he had done, provided the new contract had been agreed to online or over the phone, he has rights under the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) to cancel (see below).
Mr Sweetman, however, denies agreeing to any such contract. He told us that his telephone line had remained with his original supplier, Adept Telecom, until he switched to BT on 3 September – and he had the bills to prove this.
He said he had not upgraded his broadband contract with Talktalk at any time and had not been sent any new documentation about this until he queried the demand for £402.41.
Lately we have had a number of complaints about Talktalk and Tiscali billing customers for services after people have cancelled their contracts.
Recently, Ofcom issued a legal notification to Talktalk (and Tiscali, which is now part of the Talktalk group) for breach of telecoms regulations.
This breach was for sending bills to consumers for services that have not been provided or had been cancelled. Talktalk told Computeractive that it was complying with Ofcom's notification.
Using the DSRs to cancel a broadband contract
If you sign up to a contract online or over the phone, the Distance Selling Regulations (DSRs) allow the consumer seven working days from the day the contract is agreed in which to cancel.
However, if the person has agreed to start the service earlier, this right will not apply. Some companies offer a longer cancellation period so check their terms and conditions.
Since we first highlighted this case, Talktalk has said that Mr Sweetman does not owe it any money and the matter is closed.
“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 said.
Ofcom, which received more than 1,000 similar complaints, said it is continuing to monitor the situation. It has already issued a notification to the ISP.
The steps Talktalk must take include stopping any legal proceedings that have already begun. It must also take all necessary steps to repair the credit ratings of customers if these have been damaged.
Updating your subscription status