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The case of the missing customers…

June 14th, 2007 at 15:37 by Liam

    Where’s my broadband gone?

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).

    The plot thickens

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.

    Talk Talk “Take That”

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!

    “We’ll cancel your PlusNet service”

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!

Liam

This entry was posted by Liam on Thursday, June 14th, 2007 at 3:37 pm and is tagged with and is posted in the category Plusnet News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


14 comments on "The case of the missing customers…"

Kelly

This actually happened to my mother. I'd warned her it might happen, so she queried it with the salesmen who told her that her broadband wouldn't be changed. 3 days later, bang, access to PlusNet!

Neil_A

We have already complained to Ofcom about this and hope to see something positive happening about this.

Based on the number of our customers this has happended to so far in June (about 20), and our market share (about 1.5%) I'd estimate that TalkTalk are unfairly 'poaching' roughly 2,500 customers a month from other ISPs.

They do say all is fair in love and war but it seems to me that customers really are getting screwed over by Talk Talk in these cases.

Kelly

If the customer isn't expecting it, it must get extremely confusing. Especially as they then need to go into the fault process with their original ISP, which, depending on their quality, could end up talking quite a while!

[...] blog posts The case of the missing customers...Additional Email FeaturesSafari... on WindowsAn alternative to Wi-Fi in the homeTasty Morsels [...]

Liam

Following making this post we've had confirmation from several other ISPs that this is affecting them too. This is really unfair-play if you ask me. Not to mention the impact this is having on customers.

nurulk

Hi,

Im a victim of Talk Talk's bad practices.. I specifically communicated to them that I'd like to stay with Plusnet as my ISP. What happens? They cut my internet off and move me off the BT network and therefore forcing me to use their broadband service.

At no point did they have the decency to explain to me that my internet from my current ISP will stop working which I find apalling considering i had specifically mentioned that!

Nurul.

SoulBriski

I have been a TT Line only (Option 1 + TlkWrld) customer for two years and have rejected many requests by them to take their free broadband. In late May I recieved a welcome pack informing me that I had made the right decission to take their option3 package. Since I hadn't requested it i phoned them immediately. Now, if you have ever tried to phone TT you will understand why i got so stressed out.
"The order has progressed too far for us to stop it now so we cant cancel it". "But I didn't order it!" "You will have to wait until the order completes and then contact BT and ask them to take your line back but then we will charge you a £70 cessation fee" The story went on as my blood pressure rose. I telephoned OFCOM and they gave me the number of TT management team in the UK. At least they were based in England and communication was easier but at the end of the day, I am now a TT prisoner

Bri

Graeme

If this is indeed happening, and it seems from the comments above and Liam's findings that it is, then it's a real shame to hear about customers suffering from this. The majority of ISPs have to work hard to stay within industry guidelines, and this is a blatant disregard by TalkTalk which reflects badly on the industry and it's practices specifically designed to protect net-user community from exactly this sort of behaviour. TalkTalk are probably big enough to take an OfCom slap on the wrist without caring. It will be the harder-working ISPs who have to find a way to help customers come back to their ISP of choice.

jelv

I see this story has now hit the front page of TBB:

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/3117-where-as-my-broadband-gone.html

[...] For those that are not aware of the situation, please read my previous post about TalkTalk poaching customers here. [...]

seered

Worse still; my acct vanished in this manner without my even contacting Talk Talk. Right Now its still a mystery who it was that hijacked me. It means a week without a net & a £40 penalty payable by me to BT. Yes it is called a Reactivation Fee but to me it means I am being penalised for someone else's depredations.

All of which rips away confidence in the net. Of what use is top notch soft security on an account when the entire assembly can be physically diverted without the knowledge of anyone? How many times will this happen; leaving me week's & wallet's worth of trouble none of which is my doing.

Surely BT or even Plusnet have some responsiblity for plugging this extreme loophole!

I too have been hijacked by talk talk.my phone was with onetel(talk talk)but my broadband was with metronet(plusnet)and i had a wireless system.tt called me out of the blue offering all sorts of goodies,i told them to post details to me,on 7/7/08 ilost m,y phonr line and my internet.this was very disturbing as i am 81 years old and suffer from a very serious chest condition(copd)and rely on my patient line for help in an emergency.i was without a phone for three days and only managed to sort it with the help of technically minded friends.then the inter net wentdown and required five hours work to restore.tt now tell me that i require their wireless router at a cost of around thirty pounds.all of this trauma waqs unsought on my part and i believe ofcom should take action. Tom

I am being called 3 times a day by talk talk after calling them ans asking about their service, all I did was ask a few simple questions but I did give them my phone number. So now my wife is getting 3 calls a day now asking if I want to switch. To make matters worse it seems that I cant even get removed from their call back system when I call their sales telephone number either AND there is no one to talk to at customer service if you havent got a account with them. What makes this even worse is that they say that the follows the telephone preference service rules but I am TPS registered!! What a joke I wont be moving to them for this simple reason, if this is what they are like trying to get you as a customer then I hate to see what they are like once you are a customer!

My elderley mother had a BT land line where she pays the calls to Ontel, & has internet with Plusnet, all working very nicely for the past few years until she recently received a call from Talk Talk Sales, offering her a free wireless router.

After she contacted me with what had happened, I called them back and requested their sales not to progress as I have internet already and this would disrupt it.

They told me that there was no order was on the system and to call back again in a few days time.
When I called back I got a cancellation reference, this turns out to be worth nothing
Further calls received from talk talk worried her about sending out a welcome pack, again I called got the name of the agent and requested not to proceed with the order and they contacted my mum to verify this.
This worried my mum and she wrote to her bank and informed them not to action a payment.

After spending xmas away visting family she returns home to a bundle of talk talk welcome letters.
I phoned and complained to talk talk nottingham callcentre who would not give me his name or pass me onto a manager. Straight after expressing my disconcern the phone line went dead along with internet.

A few hours later and the line was working but the internet remained down.
When dialing 151 BT to report a fault on the line a recorded message says "Welcome to Talk Talk "

It appears she is no longer a BT customer and they would willing sell us a new contract but would take 11 working days with possible fees cancellation from Talk Talk and even reconnection fees.

Im informed that this practice is called Slamming, a Carphonewarehouse sales agent informed me that they have been told to get everyone off ONTEL and onto a new TALK TALK contract.

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