TalkTalk customer outraged after being left for six weeks with duff phone and broadband

Longstanding TalkTalk subscriber Michael Hollis was left speechless when his phone, and broadband service packed up shortly before Christmas and the firm took five weeks to fix it.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 12:16 pm

An outraged Michael said he was disgusted at the communication giant’s customer service which had consistently let him down, saddling him with a string of broken promises and a prolonged frustrating fiasco trying to get his landline back up and running.

The phone outage couldn’t have come at a worse time, and had tarnished a good trading relationship with the firm going back around 15 years.

His spat with the company kicked off a week or two before Christmas when he got a phone call on his partner’s phone to ask if he was okay. The concerned caller said he’d been trying to ring his Gosport home number for a few days, but couldn’t get a reply.

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Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

On being alerted his phone was on the blink he tried it out, but there was no dialling tone so the former electrical fitter first checked his home wiring to make sure nothing was amiss.

When that drew a blank he bought a new phone, but all that confirmed was the sound of silence.

Michael, 78, said: ‘On Monday, December 23 I decided to go online to the TalkTalk webpage and told them I couldn’t make or receive calls on my landline.

‘The customer service people asked me a few questions but after a short while I got cut off, so I went back online again, answered some more questions.

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‘They ran some checks and also warned me my broadband was intermittent, but nothing was done about it. All I was told someone would ring me on my mobile between 4pm and 6pm, but I didn’t get the promised call back.

‘On January 1, I posted off a letter of complaint containing my full contact details including my mobile number and got in touch with Streetwise.

‘It took a further two weeks for TalkTalk to reply but when you contacted them I received a phone call to say I’d get a new modem from them on Monday the following week but it didn’t arrive.

‘I phoned again on the dedicated line they’d given me, but couldn’t get an answer. They rang back sometime later while I was driving and unable to take the call, so I called back when I got home, but still couldn’t get an answer.

‘”Sorry we missed you” said the automated reply, and they’d call back later.

‘I waited in all day expecting the call, but nothing happened until I decided to go out at 5.30pm-ish believing that would be the end of their working day. They rang about a half hour later again while I was out in the car.

‘When I rang back, I got the very same message as before claiming sorry we missed you we’ll try again later.

‘The following day I rang them yet again at midday and 5pm but got the same out-of-office answer, and to leave a message. I left a message but nothing happened.

‘Then finally on February 3, I got a call from them to say they’d get a BT engineer to ring me to make an appointment to come out to my house, but yet again no such call was received.’

Streetwise checked out TalkTalk’s customer satisfaction ratings with the regulator Ofcom and found it was criticised for scoring below the industry average for broadband and phone services on a number of measures.

It said their customers were more likely to have reason to complain, less likely to have their complaint resolved on first contact, and less likely to be satisfied on how their complaint was handled.

And so it turned out to be.

When we initially got onto them they reacted promptly enough, but the first calls to Michael mistakenly went to his defective phone line, then to his mobile number while he was driving and not in a position to answer.

On attempting to return the TalkTalk calls he found the line was engineered solely to make outgoing calls. Incoming calls were greeted with a pre-recorded message promising the call back. A classic case of don’t call us, we’ll call you.

No doubt this was to control when it was convenient for the firm to communicate with complainants, but was hardly conducive to good customer relations.

In an effort to resolve the communication breakdown, we contacted the firm again, pointing out Michael was at his wits’ end, tearing his hair out in frustration simply trying to find out when his landline phone service and broadband would be back up and running.

We pointed out the breach of contract, and the requirement to compensate him in accordance with their commitment to Ofcom for the protracted shambles.

The further intervention resulted in a call to his mobile with a firm promise that a BT Open Reach engineer would phone him to let him know precisely when he’d call to get the job done.

Once again no phone call was received but Michael, who’d first reported his defective landline 42 days earlier, was finally relieved to find an engineer had turned up to get the problem fixed.

TalkTalk graciously admitted they’d got their corporate underwear in a bit of a knot, and should have responded far sooner.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are sorry that Mr Hollis experienced these problems with his landline and are pleased they have now been resolved. In recognition of the inconvenience, we have provided the customer with free services for one month which has been accepted.’

But Streetwise pointed out Michael had been short-changed.

The proposed compensation fell well short of an agreement they’d signed up to with Ofcom in April 2019, and we asked for an explanation before the expiry of our publication deadline.

To comply, he was due £8 a day for the 42 days he was without his landline, and the £49.50 for breach of contract, which we calculated made a grand total of £385.50.

Our request for a further comment drew a blank, but we’ve assured him we won’t be backing down.

An exasperated Michael said: ‘Everything appears okay when things are running all right, but when you want the talk from TalkTalk it’s just like talking to a brick wall.

‘Thank you very much for all your help and assistance.’

TalkTalk has since confirmed that it has re-examined the case and will be offering Mr Hollis a total of £336 in compensation.

A spokesperson said: ‘Despite our attempts to contact the customer in January, we fully acknowledge there were to a number of errors on our side that led to a delay in resolving the fault.

‘We have therefore decided to calculate the fault as continuous from December 27, 2019 until resolution on February 6 (42 days) so Mr Hollis will be offered a further £160 in compensation plus the £176 already offered.

‘We will contact him today to apologise for the error and we’ll ensure lessons are learnt where due process was not followed.’

The compensation breaks down as £49.50 for one month’s free service, and £336 under auto-compensation for 42 days without service.