TalkTalk, Tiscali UK fined 3m for incorrect billing
Thursday, August 18 2011, 10:09 BST
By Mayer Nissim,

TalkTalk and Tiscali UK have been fined 3 million by Ofcom for wrongly billing tens of thousands of customers for services they had not actually received.

An investigation was first launched by the telecoms regulator in July 2010 after more than 1,000 consumers had complained about TalkTalk and its Tiscali UK division.

TalkTalk and Tiscali UK were found to have wrongly issued bills - particularly to individuals who had closed their accounts - with more than 62,000 cases recorded between January 1 and November 1, 2010. A legally-binding notification was given to the companies at that time and a deadline of December 2, 2010 was given to resolve billing problems.

A second Ofcom probe was launched that month, but despite some steps being taken by the companies, a further 3,000 consumers were incorrectly billed between December 2, 2010 and March 4, 2011.

Ofcom confirmed that its financial penalty is meant to "reflect the seriousness of their breach of the rules" and also "act as a deterrent" to TalkTalk, Tiscali UK and other companies.

The regulator noted that the fine was lower than it might otherwise be because of the steps taken by the companies to make up the damage to consumers and change their rules. Ofcom has the power to fine companies up to 10% of their relevant revenue for such breaches.

Over 2.5 million has been paid by TalkTalk and Tiscali UK in goodwill payments and refunds to more than 65,000 affected consumers.

Responding to news of the fine, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "It's good to see a regulator showing its teeth - a 3 million fine clearly shows Ofcom is ready to take meaningful action against telecoms companies that break the rules.

"TalkTalk and Tiscali UK made repeated mistakes, billing customers for services they hadn't used. This fine recognises the impact billing errors have on customers, and hopefully it will spur other companies on to ensure their systems are fit for purpose and kept fully up to date."

He added: "We'd also like to see companies respond more quickly and effectively to customer complaints, without waiting for the regulator to get involved."