Mum Heidi Ogden has been a loyal customer of TalkTalk for more than eight years.
But when her home entertainment and broadband package went down unexpectedly, her loyalty was rewarded with three months of frustration and an increasingly bitter fight for compensation.
I was never once able to speak to the same person. It was just a nightmareHeidi Ogden
Towards the end of last September her TV package stopped working.
It went on the blink preventing her from watching films, or pausing and rewinding programmes.
Then the broadband service dropped out but Heidi had no concerns that they would quickly get it fixed.
But little did the 36-year-old Farlington lettings agent know she was about to face the frustration of months of customer care indifference just to receive the service she was paying for.
She said: I’d never had a problem with my service before and therefore I’ve never had to deal with TalkTalk on a one-to-one level, but this issue was just crazy.
‘Every single phone call I made, they gave promises that someone would call me back. They never called me back, not once.
‘I must have spent seven or eight hours on the phone overall just waiting or trying to get through to somebody.
‘These were calls I shouldn’t have had to make because they kept telling me they’d call me back and let me know what was happening.’
Because BT provides the network infrastructure to TalkTalk, it was up to its engineers to try to restore the service, but its efforts were literally all TalkTalk and no action.
And despite being assured there would be no call-out charge, her frustration turned to fury when she noticed that she’d been billed £50 on two occasions for engineer visits that hadn’t fixed the problem.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, her mobile phone bills also started to rocket because her nine-year-old son couldn’t access the material on the internet he needed to complete his school homework assignments.
Each time she downloaded data for him it exceeded her agreed limit and left her racking up a total of £92.50 additional network charges.
Weeks turned into months, Christmas came and went without access to their favourite TV programmes and still TalkTalk couldn’t restore a satisfactory service package.
But for Heidi the last straw was losing a half-day’s pay staying at home waiting for a third BT engineer turn up, leaving her twiddling her thumbs all morning when he didn’t show up.
She fired off a string of complaint letters to TalkTalk’s customer service centre in Southampton, including a demand to refund her loss of wages.
When she finally got through on the phone she ended up blue in the face arguing with their customer services, who told her they couldn’t be expected to pay for lost customers’ time.
When it drew an offer from the firm of a measly £20 for inconvenience, Heidi hit the roof and decided to contact Streetwise to see if we could help.
TalkTalk and BT consistently top watchdog Ofcom’s list of the most complained about networks, so our first stop was TalkTalk’s press office team.
We gave them a blow-by-blow account of Heidi’s experience and asked them to investigate her complaint.
Within 24 hours TalkTalk had contacted her and after some discussion made an improved offer.
It agreed to provide three months’ free service to make up for the outage, and upped the compensation from £20 to £50.
The offer still didn’t anywhere near cover Heidi’s additional mobile phone costs or the loss of wages.
She remained angry and dissatisfied at the outcome of her bruising battle with the firm but none the wiser why her years of customer loyalty apparently counted for nothing.
She said: ‘I agreed to settle just to bring the episode to an end.
‘Their customer services are absolutely appalling.
‘I was never once able to speak to the same person. It was just a nightmare.’
TalkTalk told Streetwise it had been working to resolve Heidi’s complaint, but despite being given the opportunity didn’t comment further.