Over the last few months, but especially within the last few weeks, we've seen an increase in calls from customers surprised to have found that their broadband has suddenly stopped working. Their modems appear to remain 'in-synch' with the exchange, but their username and password is rejected when they attempt to connect.
Following the normal procedures for 'No Authentication' faults, we quickly identified that all these customers’ assets were no longer owned by ourselves in BT's systems. Hmm… Strange, we thought, since none of these customers had requested to migrate away or cease their service with us.
After delving deeper into each individual case we found a single common factor - that the customer had opted to move their line rental over to Carphone Warehouse (TalkTalk).
It would appear, you see, that in areas where TalkTalk have an unbundled exchange, they can move your home phone AND your broadband over to their equipment (fully unbundled) without a MAC key or any authorisation from the customer. So, even if you sign up to only move your home phone service to TalkTalk, they may just swindle you out of your trusty broadband connection - forcing you to take their option.
This doesn't appear to be isolated to their 'free broadband' option either. Several of our customers who have contacted us had not signed up to the more expensive TalkTalk plan that includes broadband.
Naturally, these customers were surprised to hear what has happened and were most upset at what TalkTalk had done. So we took a delve into their Ts and Cs. Indeed, they do claim (in their Ts and Cs) that switching your home phone service to TalkTalk does give them the right to nab your broadband too.
They say :
1.23.2 you will no longer be able to use Broadband or Line Rental Services from other providers. We will not be liable for any charges which may arise as a result of the termination of your contract with your existing providers for those services;
However, they also say :
"1.22 Unless you have agreed previously to take our Broadband Service, we will seek your express consent before transferring you to our LLU network if you take a broadband service from another provider on the same telephone line at the time of transfer."
Strangely, none of our customers recalled ever opting to take the TalkTalk Broadband service. Nor did any of them remember being contacted for “express consent” to have their broadband service stolen away from them. If they had, why would they be calling us confused over why they cannot connect?
The numbers aren’t small either. This is something we’ve been tracking internally for quite some time and dozens of customers have been affected by this. And if it’s happening to our customers, other ISPs must surely be seeing the same thing.
Of course, we do lose some customers who do genuinely wish to leave and take up service with TalkTalk. For these customers, TalkTalk’s assumption that everyone in the world wants their ‘free broadband’ offer is less of an inconvenience. Good job, eh? But I can’t personally believe, in this day and age, that Ofcom are allowing this to happen without any consumer-driven processes (i.e. the MAC key process) to take place.
It’s no wonder their customer numbers are ‘soaring’ when they’re getting them this easily!
It doesn’t appear to stop there either. Over the last few days, we’ve received calls from customers who had been told they could signup to TalkTalk and have TalkTalk "take care of everything". Surprised that we were still billing them, after TalkTalk had switched them (without a MAC key!) they were told by TalkTalk’s sales staff that they would arrange the cancellation with us.
To put this to the test and see if this customer’s unbelievable statement was true, I lifted to handset and called their sales team with a few genuine enquiries. I decided to call a few times, to see if the story changed. Indeed it did.
1st Call – Woman – The woman advised me that I could signup today, and TalkTalk would take care of everything. She said that they would move me over without requiring a MAC key, and that they would deal with the cancellation with my current provider on my behalf - so I'd have nothing to worry about. Sit back – relax!
2nd Call – Gentleman – I was told that I could signup to TalkTalk right now, and that I would not need a MAC key to do so. However, on the day my broadband is switched on, I might like to call my current provider “as a courtesy” just to let them know I’ve switched!
3rd Call – Gentleman – A particularly ‘pushy’ salesman on this occasion. I was told that my landline would switchover first (within a few days) then Broadband would follow in a few weeks (once I’m firmly in my 18month contract). At which point, he said I would need to get a MAC key from my current provider. When I was reluctant to signup there and then he was particularly rude and ended the call.
All of these whom I spoke to were particularly keen to bag a sale right now. The third one even began placing the order for me after I made it clear I was enquiring only. However, it would appear that potential customers are getting some very mixed messages from TalkTalk Sales. I just hope I don’t find myself a customer of theirs in a few days time!
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We're a Yorkshire-based provider selling broadband and phone services to homes and businesses throughout the UK. Winner of the ISPA 2010 'Best Consumer Customer Service ISP' Award, we're proud to offer the UK's best value standalone broadband.
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