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Talkali / Talk Talk Tiscali

Another FIASCO! Tiscali / Talkali / TalkTalk will have to do a lot of talking to talk their way out of this!

It was in December 2010, around the 16th, that I told the people at Tiscali about my plans and priorities. It's a little bit like moving house and telling the furniture removers that some items are fragile. Furniture removers generally have the good sense to believe you, rather than chucking the items to see if they smash.

In December 2010 here are the facts:

* I run a business which is a website, and having an Internet connection is important to it.

* I have done so well that I will soon be emigrating for tax purposes.

* The house will continue to be occupied and a good friend of mine will take on the customer account.


So, what do you think Tiscali / TalkTalk did?

They sent a letter, dated 17th December, with the wrong name on it even though they'd been told about that, titled "Cessation of Broadband services", and they said they would be cutting off the Internet connection on 30th December unless I phoned a special 5p/minute phone number.

I phoned that number and waited a considerable time listening to canned music. Eventually I got to talk to someone and I stated that I definitely did not want the broadband disconnecting. The person at TalkTalk said they would see to it and that it would NOT be disconnected.

However, a few days later, another problem letter arrived, dated 21st December, again with the wrong name on it even though they'd been told repeatedly about that, saying "We've received a request to transfer your service to another provider. We are treating this as notice to cancel your TalkTalk account. If you haven't asked or agreed to move to another supplier". The grammar was not good, but there was a phone number to call. This time is was an expensive 0871 number which are about 10p/minute, or more.

I phoned up and I found someone who promised me that the service would not be disconnected. They confirmed it would not be disconnected and that there would not be any break in the services.

On the night of the 23rd of December I was publishing the website. The website exists as a set of interlinked phases, and they are published in turn.

Suddenly, at about 2am on 24th December Xmas Eve, the Internet connection died. It had failed in the middle of the publishing of the website!

I stayed up all night publishing the last thousand files using a dial-up modem and various dial-up connections; an expensive and time-consuming task, made all the more annoying because of the unnecessariness of it. If Tiscali / TalkTalk had kept to their word, this would not have been required.

The publishing of Issue145 was complete at 07:30 on Xmas Eve and I went to bed as the sun was rising.

As it was now Xmas Eve and it was a Saturday, and as the next day was Xmas day, and after that it was a bank holiday, etc, the chance of getting to talk to anyone was not great. However, to their credit, there were people at work on Xmas Eve at Tiscali / TalkTalk and I spoke to those friendly people at The Retentions department.

The good news: They would compensate me with £30 of credit and restore the connection. The bad news: It would require that I sign up to a 12 month contract and sign over the line-rental to them. Well NO! That's not acceptable.

Incidentally, this also highlights Why you should have your Broadband with BT, because if you sign over the line rental to a company that behaves as badly as Tiscali / TalkTalk has done to me, you could be completely stuffed!

(Imagine if double glazing companies did this. Their reps could go around and throw a stone through your glass window and then say "Sorry! We'll give you a free window, provided you agree to have all of the windows in your house replaced and pay us for the whole contract etc").

To be fair to TalkTalk, at one point they did actually admit it was their fault, but at another point someone at TalkTalk claimed the thing that had happened was "slamming", which is where another company tries piratically to grab your account. However, when I asked "Which company did this?" they could not answer, and so the line on "slamming" was conveniently dropped.

After Xmas was over, I phoned Ofcom whose job it is to be a watchdog of telecommunications in the UK, as well as being expected to do all sorts of other things which they couldn't possibly do in a month of Sundays. The people at Ofcom were friendly, well meaning, and they tried to be helpful. Unfortunately, they had no power to do anything about bad practices of Tiscali or TalkTalk, or any other Phone Company. However, they did give me a complains e-mail address for Tiscali which was complaints@uk.tiscali.com . I wrote a message to Tiscali as follows:

Sender: Zyra
Date: 2010/12/29 12:45
Subject: A grievous complaint against Tiscali/TalkTalk

Dear People at Tiscali / TalkTalk,

Despite the dire nature of this complaint, I will of course keep this polite, as I know you have a hard job to do there dealing with the many complaints that come in from different people, some of whom are not as nice to you as I am.

I have been a customer of Tiscali for years, and I was there in the early days when having a dial-up and a free website was the thing. Since then I have upgraded to broadband with Tiscali and a full-scale hosting with Vivostar.

I have done so well with my website
www.zyra.org.uk (for example www.zyra.org.uk/shopping.htm ), that I am emigrating for tax purposes.

With something as big as this it's important that no mistakes are made. Yet, on the 15th or 16th of December, when I phoned and told people at Tiscali that I wanted to have the account adjusted so it was in the name of my UK representative rather than myself, while still keeping the broadband service running, it appears that some sort of bizarre confusion occurred.

A letter arrived dated 17th December, with the wrong name on it, saying "Cessation of Broadband services". To draw an analogy, this is like telling the furniture removers that an items was FRAGILE and then seeing them trying to smash it to see if that was true.

I phoned Tiscali (on the expensive phone number) and I pointed out that I did not want the service ceased. I was informed that it had all been a mistake and this would all be cleared up.

A few days later another letter (dated 21st December) arrived from Tiscali saying "We've received a request to transfer your service to another provider. We are treating this as notice to cancel your
TalkTalk account. If you haven't asked or agreed to move to another supplier". This is entirely wrong. I phoned on the premium-rate extortionate phone number and pointed out politely but in no uncertain terms that I did NOT want the broadband discontinuing, and in fact broadband was an essential requirement of my business. The people at Tiscali/TalkTalk stated that the service would not be ended, and someone actually CONFIRMED that it would not be ceased.

Having seen Tiscali/TalkTalk make such mistakes, I was keen to publish the website in case anything else went wrong. I was publishing the website on the night of 23rd December. At 2am on Xmas Eve the broadband went dead. I had been cut off. In fact, I had been cut off MID-PUBLISHING.

It's a bit like being the electricity supplier to a newspaper and cutting them off during the print run. They'd better have a back-up generator! Also, watch out for what is printed in the paper the issue after that!

So, the night of Xmas Eve, I was up ALL NIGHT publishing the last thousand pages of the site on DIAL-UPs. It was 07:30am by the time I got to bed, and the sun was rising through the miserable murk which passes for weather at this time of year.

To say I am dischuffed with Tiscali/TalkTalk would be putting it mildly. I regard what has happened as deplorable, and I would like it looking into seriously. Not only am I putting official complaints in, but I am also in the process of creating a page on my website telling the story so future customers can be forewarned!

The people at the Retentions Team have been very friendly, but the company is lacking in giving them any reasonable powers to do anything worthwhile that's not a "sprat to catch a mackerel". For example, being offered £30 discount but only if I sign up for a 12 month contract and sign over my line rental to TalkTalk is not exactly fair or appropriate, as I am, as already mentioned, in the process of leaving the country.

I would, however, like to see fair play, and I would like to be properly compensated, and then a happy ending can be put on this story so people can see it's a company that does the right things rather than the wrong things. Or is that not so?

Kind Regards,



Well, I might as well have wished them a Merry Christmas, because this is what I got back...

On 29/12/2010 12:57, Tiscali Customer Care wrote:
Thank you for contacting TalkTalk.

In an effort to improve the speed and accuracy of our email customer support we ask that all support contact requests now go through our online support area. http://www.talktalk.co.uk/help

If you have any questions on this and need help using the support area we have created some help guides, which can be found here by clicking the following links:

How do I raise a support ticket through the Knowledgebase?

How do I manage my support tickets from the Knowledgebase?

However, if you have already used our online support area and want to email us straight away you can go straight to the our “contact us” web form.

Yours sincerely,

TalkTalk Customer Support
TalkTalk Group Limited

Registered in England and Wales No. 6534112
Registered Address: 11 Evesham Street, London, W11 4AJ

This email and its attachments are confidential and intended for the exclusive use of the addressee(s).
This email and its attachments may also be privileged or protected by legal rules.
If you have received this by mistake please let us know by reply immediately and destroy the email and its attachments without reading, copying or forwarding the contents.

(A minor point about this: You are supposed to destroy the email before reading it. But how can you do that without reading the bit that says "without reading". Another point: I have it on reasonably good legal authority that such confidentiality clauses on emails have no legal basis. Also see legal contract clauses we don't agree to).

And then immediately afterwards, this...

An account was created automatically for you, but you can't log in until your password has been set.

Your username is: [email address]
Your registered email address is: [email address]

Click the following link to continue to a page where you can enter your new password.
[link address]

Please note that this link will expire 24 hours from the time that it was sent.

However, on clicking on the link, regardless of whether it was 11 hours later or 2 minutes later by experiment, the result was the same...

TalkTalkPermission Denied

The link that you used to access this page has expired.

To request another password reset message, please visit Account Assistance.

What?! Well it wasn't 24 hours! ...or to put it another way, either it's a bug in the system at TalkTalk, or they are cowboys who won't allow any complaints even to the special address handed out by Ofcom! Well, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and suppose that there's a bug in the system and for some odd reason the link expires instantly so you can't respond, then what? Well let's try the "contact us" form system.

Same message, pasted into the "Contact Us" form, which by the way has some annoying things about it. For one thing, it wants to know your date of birth, and for another it assumes you have a first-name last-name rather than a single name. Paranoia suggests the system is either badly designed or is a method to fish more information out of you. However, again we'll give them the benefit of the trout and see what happens.


Update: This is just the beginning of the stuff. There's loads more to write up. Either it will have a happy ending or it won't. However, you'll be able to see it on here. TalkTalk have cut off broadband for no apparent reason. Now let's see if they can explain!

Meanwhile, Ofcom have ruled that customers of Tiscali / TalkTalk shall be compensated. "Ofcom’s investigation into TalkTalk and Tiscali UK has resulted in almost £2.5 million in refunds and good will payments after thousands of consumers were incorrectly billed for cancelled services". More about this here: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2011/02/compensation-for-talktalk-and-tiscali-uk-customers/

Unfortunately, I have, as of yet, not been compensated. I would guess the Ombudsman Otelo is very busy. However it's July, and the problem has been outstanding since Xmas. TalkTalk Tiscali have so far got away with it, including not paying any compensation, and not even paying me back the money which they owe. I fear they may just go bust and then start again, as many disreputable companies have done, and then we the honest people, customers and creditors, will be left with nothing. Fortunately, we live in the Internet Age when malpractising companies do not get away with it because folk write about their experiences to warn new customers to beware! See what bad press Tiscali and TalkTalk get here now. It would have been considerably cheaper if they had been fair to the affiliate in the first place.

Update: As of November 2011, still no compensation. The Ombudsman Otelo proved to be a washout. The Ombudsman's decision was that TalkTalk/Tiscali shall only pay the money they owe and not even the derisory amount that had offered. I can see why Tiscali/TalkTalk have chosen Otelo as their representative, as customers quite likely often fare badly. In my opinion Otelo is an excuse of an Ombudsman, and has failed to do their duty to see fair play in the matter of misbehaving companies.

To put the decision of Otelo in perspective with an analogy, supposing Otelo were the Ombudsman of supermarkets, and you bought a packet of breakfast cereals from a supermarket and when you'd eaten half of the cereals you found a rotting dead rat in the box, Otelo would order that the supermarket pay you the price of half a packet of cereals. This is the type of service that you get.

Therefore, in absence of any proper justice (such as Tiscali/TalkTalk paying, say, £900 as a gesture of goodwill for the nuisance and trouble caused), I call for the winding-up and bankruptcy of Tiscali/TalkTalk, and I urge customers to leave them and move to other places.

Since the recent publishing of this Issue of the site, TalkTalk/Tiscali customers have found that the Internet is being restricted, censored, and that many websites do not appear. This means, in effect, that if your Internet service provider is TalkTalk, there are a great many websites that you can not see, whereas your friends who have BT Broadband CAN see those websites.

This page also highlights the importance of having BT as your phone line provider, as explained in this BT Broadband Recommendation

2011/11/10: I believe that the Internet would be improved by the bankruptcy and winding-up of Tiscali/TalkTalk. Let's hope that happens soon!

I can also see why Tiscali/TalkTalk has Otelo as their Ombudsman. Otelo seem to be a pet ombudsman which supports the wrongdoers such as Tiscali/TalkTalk whatever. It's like something from the bad old days before the Internet. Unfortunately for Tiscali/TalkTalk and for Otelo, some of us have websites and we can tell the world about these things so folk can be warned to avoid such problems.

In case you're interested, as of February 2012, over a year after the problem and many months after the judgement of the Ombudsman, Tiscali / TalkTalk haven't even refunded the money which they owe me, money which is an account credit.

Justice will be served if you read my pages and learn by my mistake. Avoid Tiscali TalkTalk!