CONSUMER: Gosport couple angry after row over TalkTalk’s £256 broadband ‘break’ charge

Dave Worsfold and Susan Bowyer had a demand for �256 from TalkTalk Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170328-1)
Dave Worsfold and Susan Bowyer had a demand for �256 from TalkTalk Picture: Ian Hargreaves (170328-1)

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Gosport couple Susan Bowyer and Dave Worsfold were left angry and upset after a row over a cancellation charge from internet provider TalkTalk.

They claim they were repeatedly let down by the firm’s poor broadband service, then slapped with a £256 charge for switching to another provider.

Diabetic Sue, 69, can become disorientated and has a progressive hearing impairment. She relies on e-mail for conversing with people on important matters, leaving partner Dave to deal with her phone calls.

But last October it was the end of the line for her after the broadband service had repeatedly let her down and she found it nigh on impossible to converse with a communications firm that couldn’t communicate.

Retired carpenter Dave told Streetwise she was forced to dump TalkTalk because the broadband service had become so unreliable.

He said: ‘Sue just couldn’t get on the internet. I’d phoned them up three or four times, it would work for a few days, then it would just vanish again and she couldn’t get back on it.

‘She’d been with them for just over two years so the rolling contract had just been renewed. To be fair the phone service was good, but the internet was terrible.

‘When I phoned up to complain I got put through to people I couldn’t understand.

‘If I asked for a supervisor, I got put through to somebody who was just as bad. They seemed to be reading from a script, but didn’t know what they were doing.

‘I eventually got through to a UK office and received a call from someone who left me a message, but spoke so fast I couldn’t understand her.

‘It took me six or seven attempts to decipher what the phone number was.

‘I had to call back and leave a message to ask her to speak slowly and clearly. I complained about the terrible broadband and the internet service, but she was adamant it was just my opinion – like it or lump it.’

Dave, 74, said that after trying on a number of occasions to get the problem sorted, they were so frustrated they decided to switch to another provider.

Subsequently a letter arrived from TalkTalk’s head of customer loyalty threatening to land them with a big bill if they went ahead with their decision to switch.

Before they could even answer, Sue got a final bill summary demanding a £256 ‘contract breakage’ fee.

The couple are of a generation that always settles any debts on time and tries hard not to be beholden to anyone if possible.

So a disgusted Dave rang TalkTalk’s head of ‘credit risk, collections, and fraud department’ to tell them Sue was a pensioner and just couldn’t afford to pay the fee outright.

They offered to accept payment in two instalments and as goodwill gesture would deduct a £10 final settlement discount.

However Dave’s disgust turned to fury when, after settling up as agreed, a red reminder arrived insisting on payment of the £10 discount.

The couple complained to Streetwise about what they considered to be unfair treatment, and we agreed that there was a potential breach of contract issue about providing a reliable service that needed to be settled.

We put it to the firm that, as the couple had repeatedly complained about a number of service outages, the appropriate remedy was to refund the entire contract breakage penalty.

After some discussion TalkTalk refused to accept it had fallen down on its side of the contract, but agreed to cancel the £10 settlement demand.

It insisted that after Sue complained about the broadband service shortly after she joined them, they’d only had one other service complaint on record, and therefore they were entitled to impose the penalty because Sue had walked away without informing them.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry that Mrs Bowyer decided to leave TalkTalk, but she did not report any long-standing or ongoing issues with her service whilst she was a customer. We can confirm that her account is now closed.’

On being told of TalkTalk’s decision, a furious Dave said: ‘I think they’re an appalling company.

‘If there was a zero rating, I’d use it.

‘Apart from the phone service, the broadband and internet is unreliable and has absolutely nothing going for it.

‘You can’t understand anyone when you complain, the customer support is uncaring and unhelpful, and their admin is a shambles. I wouldn’t recommend TalkTalk to anyone.’

Hundreds of customer reviews online echo the couple’s experience. Unreliable poor speed broadband, endless complaints, unresponsive robotic customer care and the imposition of unfair contract breakage fees when switching to an alternative provider.

The Consumers’ Association Which? puts the firm at the very bottom of its latest satisfaction survey and recommends that it should be avoided.

Streetwise urges anyone who has a service issue with TalkTalk to keep a record by putting it in writing to its head of complaints at PO Box 344, Southampton, or use the online e-mail form.

Complaints can also be directed to the free Communications Ombudsman Services at: https://www.ombudsman-services.org/contact-us-communications.html.