Southsea resident Malcolm Reeves became locked in a bitter seven month battle with TalkTalk when the communications giant refused to cancel his contract after he complained about their snail’s pace fast broadband speeds.
The retired architectural assistant’s extended spat with the firm began last January when he moved half a mile down the road from Clarence Parade to a new McCarthy and Stone apartment block.
The loyal TalkTalk customer of some 12 years’ standing had no reason to believe the transfer of his landline and broadband connection would be anything but a doddle.
At the firm’s insistence he signed up to a new two year contract. But it soon turned out to be nightmare experience when the broadband package stubbornly refused to work properly.
‘I was expecting to get the same advertised internet speeds of a respectable 17 megabits a second (Mbps),’ he said, ‘but found it was only 0.4 Mbps when TalkTalk reconnected us.
‘Our new owners McCarthy and Stone knew about the problem but didn’t tell us before we moved in, but they’ve since tried to get BT to do some improvements but to no avail. Apparently it requires new cabling.
‘TalkTalk promised to improve the service, but even with a new modem they supplied it would only do 1.1 Mbps at best which soon dropped back to 0.4 or even nothing at times, and soon caused real headaches.
‘Neighbours had also complained that the broadband TV service was so bad that they’d been compelled to find an alternative and switch to using a wireless dongle connection.
‘The situation was subsequently investigated by TalkTalk engineers, but despite their best efforts, nothing better than 0.4 Mbps was achievable.
‘In frustration I finally spoke to the firm for an hour on the phone, being passed from pillar to post around their office only to be told we’d be charged £212.42 if we decided to leave and cancel the contract.
‘A neighbour with the same problem told me he’d persuaded BT to let him out of his contract for £60, but of course they’re not TalkTalk even though they use their engineers.’
Malcolm was determined not to be penalised for a situation not of his making and stand his ground.. He correctly reasoned that as the firm had admitted they couldn’t provide him with the advertised service they were in breach of contract.
To add to his frustration every time he got on the phone with his complaint he ended up talking to an Asian with a very broad accent who promised to look into the situation and call him back.
When the call was never returned he’d ring again, only to have to repeat the circumstances to another customer service agent who knew absolutely nothing about the previous calls and left him going around in ever decreasing circles.
It wasn’t just that he found it difficult to understand their agent’s barely discernible English. Its repetitive content made it seem they weren’t interested in helping him get the matter fixed but simply robots reading from a pre-prepared script.
After he’d tried calling on four separate occasions and just couldn’t get any satisfaction his patience finally snapped.
He called again to say he’d cancelled his monthly direct debit and signed up to an alternative supplier who was more than capable of providing him with an improved satisfactory service.
TalkTalk then agreed to accept his termination of service but still insisted on the £200 plus breach of contract penalty. The last straw was when he started to receive threatening letters demanding payment.
An angry and disillusioned Malcolm decided it was high time to call in Streetwise to help him fight his corner.
We checked with the regulator Ofcom and consumer watchdog Which? about where TalkTalk stood in the consumer complaints league tables.
They pointed us to their latest report which named and shamed the company as being bottom of the league for its poor broadband service. The volume of complaints was on the increase, and there was no material improvement in customer satisfaction standards.
Which? singled out TalkTalk for special mention saying they scored abysmally in their rankings coming bottom with a terrible customer score considerably worse than any other provider.
We’re always concerned when readers tell us about companies failing to adhere to their contractual obligations. It was irrefutable that TalkTalk were in breach of contract. The demand for an exit payment was unfair and clearly out of order.
After we put details of Malcolm’s dissatisfaction to them, they agreed to investigate. We had to chase them up for a reply but a few days later they called Malcolm with the news that the early termination penalty had been scrapped.
A company spokesperson explained that Malcolm had their fast fibre broadband at his previous property which provided a minimum download of 35 mbps. However it wasn’t t available at his new property so they’d been providing a broadband connection instead.
He said: ‘We’re sorry to hear about Mr Reeves’ experience. Unfortunately we are unable to provide fibre Broadband at the customer’s new property. We’ve waived the exit fee and the complaint has been closed to his satisfaction.’
Malcolm was relieved that his bruising battle with the firm was finally over.
‘Your magic worked,’ he said. ‘One of the bosses confirmed they wouldn’t be making any disconnection charges. It was clear your intervention did the trick. I just can’t thank you enough.