The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

UK's TalkTalk Faces Huge Fine For Not Fixing Billing System

Sends debt collectors after customers who didn't receive any service

2 min read
UK's TalkTalk Faces Huge Fine For Not Fixing Billing System

In May 2009, UK residential broadband provider TalkTalk bought Internet service provider Tiscali's UK business for £236 million. This made TalkTalk, a subsidiary of Carphone Warehouse (Europe's largest independent mobile phone retailer), the largest residential broadband provider in the UK with over 4.25 million subscribers - about 25% of the UK market.

At the time of the acquisition, Carphone Warehouse CEO Charles Dunstone said he was happy about the acquisition, and was quoted in a ComputerWeeklystory as saying: "We know it well and the fit with TalkTalk is perfect."

CEO Dunstone may be rethinking that statement today.

According to various UK news reports like this one in the London Telegraph, TalkTalk is facing a fine of up to £139 million for sending out what the Telegraph says are bogus bills.

The UK communications regulator Ofcom says in its press release that it told "TalkTalk and Tiscali UK to stop breaching telecom rules or they could face further enforcement action, including a possible financial penalty." The companies have until 02 December to comply or face further action. Ofcom also told the company to cease using collection agencies or taking legal action against its former and existing customers for nonexistent debts, and to pay their legal costs.

Ofcom says that it has received over 1,000 complaints so far this year alone from people being billed for services that they did not receive from TalkTalk.

Ofcom says in some cases, customers who had canceled their subscriptions were still being billed two or more years later. When they didn't pay, their bills were sent to collection agencies.

According to the Telegraph, TalkTalk blamed the problem on a "legacy billing" error at Tiscali. However, this BBCarticle says the company blamed it on a new billing system it introduced after buying Tiscali.

Either way, TalkTalk also said the problem wouldn't be fixed until the end of the year.

The Conversation (0)

Why the Internet Needs the InterPlanetary File System

Peer-to-peer file sharing would make the Internet far more efficient

12 min read
An illustration of a series
Carl De Torres

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020, the world made an unprecedented shift to remote work. As a precaution, some Internet providers scaled back service levels temporarily, although that probably wasn’t necessary for countries in Asia, Europe, and North America, which were generally able to cope with the surge in demand caused by people teleworking (and binge-watching Netflix). That’s because most of their networks were overprovisioned, with more capacity than they usually need. But in countries without the same level of investment in network infrastructure, the picture was less rosy: Internet service providers (ISPs) in South Africa and Venezuela, for instance, reported significant strain.

But is overprovisioning the only way to ensure resilience? We don’t think so. To understand the alternative approach we’re championing, though, you first need to recall how the Internet works.

Keep Reading ↓Show less