'˜My broadband stopped working so I tried to switch provider - and got charged more than Â£170'
Pensioner Brian Santy was left speechless after his phone and broadband service stopped working and he was slapped with a penalty of Â£177.43 when he switched to another provider.
The retired engineer from Gosport hadn’t exactly get off to a good start with telecoms giant TalkTalk soon after he’d signed up with the firm three years earlier.
It was unable to get the landline and broadband service up and running, so sent out an engineer to get Brian connected. He wound up with a call-out charge of £50 because TalkTalk couldn’t get him linked up to the network just a matter of days after he’d signed on the dotted line.
A rattled Brian, 82, let that pass and remained fiercely loyal to the firm, even when its customer database was hacked by fraudsters in 2016 and subscribers’ security information compromised.
But the goodwill was rapidly exhausted when in mid-March Brian’s communications service suddenly stopped working again and TalkTalk couldn’t get the disconnection sorted.
Brian said: ‘I’ve had nothing but trouble from day one. On the second occasion I was without a phone or an internet connection for 25 days.
‘That’s what made life so difficult because they couldn’t get in touch with me and I couldn’t contact them.
‘The first warning I had was when a message came up on the phone to say the network was down and to check the phone line.
‘I waited the whole day thinking it was just a blip, but nothing happened so the following day I had to use a friend’s phone to ring the call centre, which I believe was in India. A guy spent quite a bit of time checking for me.
‘I must have been on the phone for three-quarters-of an hour.
‘He asked me to take a cover off, but I had to explain to him I wasn’t in my own premises and I couldn’t do anything because I hadn’t got a line.
‘After another two days without a connection, I phoned again and spoke to another guy.
‘He asked whether it was about the original complaint, but after nothing further happened for seven days I wrote the company a letter to say it was in breach of contract because the service hadn’t been fixed quickly enough after it stopped working. I was cancelling my direct debit and I wanted nothing more to do with it.’
Having decided to take the bull by the horns, Brian arranged to switch to Vodafone, but it couldn’t complete the changeover until mid-April.
To make matters worse, he was unable to communicate with the firm, other than by letter.
Initially TalkTalk wrote apologising profusely for the way it had let him down.
Then when he made it clear he wasn’t going to rethink the switch to another provider, the tone of the correspondence took on a significantly more ominous stance.
The increasingly angry exchange wasn’t moderated when the day arrived for the switch to Vodafone, which went without a hitch.
However to Brian’s surprise the defective TalkTalk line was simultaneously restored.
In the meantime the firm apologised for letting its standards slip, but confirmed it was billing him with a contract breakage fee.
Anxious to know where he stood, Brian contacted Streetwise for advice.
We agreed with him that the loss of his broadband and phone service for the best part of a month without any offer of compensation amounted to a serious breach of contract.
We spoke to Ofcom the telecommunications regulator, which told us its research indicated Brian was just one of 5.7 million cases each year of customers experiencing a loss of their telecommunications service.
They were in the process of consulting with the industry to ensure people were automatically compensated for service outages prior to the introduction of new rules in the autumn.
We also contacted TalkTalk’s chief executive’s office and asked what the firm had to say about Brian’s complaint.
Following our intervention, to its credit TalkTalk quickly had a change of heart.
It told us it had 28 days to fix a service fault before a customer’s termination fee was waived, but we found no evidence of such a stipulation in its ‘small print’ terms and conditions.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry that Mr Santy decided to leave TalkTalk, and apologise for any confusion caused once he had cancelled his account. We have waived all outstanding charges and his account is now closed.’
Brian said he was relieved the dispute had finally been resolved.
‘To be honest, I’ve never been without a phone and what upset me most of all was TalkTalk’s complete lack of interest’, he said.
‘I felt so elated that Streetwise was on my side.
‘I can’t thank you enough for your part in bringing this excellent result about.
‘You’re the best thing that’s happened to me this year.’