I am beside myself with frustration at TalkTalk. I have got my phone and internet from the firm for years, and at the start of 2022 they phoned to sell me an upgrade.
It offered me a deal with phone and faster, full fibre broadband as well as a free Eero router – a device which is supposed to make WiFi connection faster and stronger. The salesperson said the first six months would be free and I would pay £29.99 per month after that. It was only £2 more than I was paying so I accepted.
But after the six months ended, my monthly bill was £45. It turned out that the new package was for an internet-connected phone, not a traditional wired landline – which I hadn’t been told – and as I had still been using my old landline I was being charged for that, too.
Phone problems: The reader was given an internet phone connection, but it stopped working
After that, my landline began crackling while on calls, and eventually stopped working. I have been without a phone since July.
When a BT engineer was sent out, they said the issue was that the phone line was still going through the copper wire and not the internet connection as intended, and that I needed a special component to make it work.
TalkTalk initially insisted that it was indeed running through the internet – but after two months and many requests it did eventually send me the component I needed. After that, it took weeks to get TalkTalk to send someone to fit it – and when he turned up, he said the adapter wouldn’t fix this issue anyway.
I’m still paying £45 a month for a phone that doesn’t work, and had to pay a £50 call-out charge for an engineer that couldn’t fix the problem. TalkTalk gave me a £30 bill credit which I think is totally inadequate. S.S, via email.
Helen Crane of This is Money replies: It may not surprise you to learn that TalkTalk’s motives in offering you a tantalising new deal were not entirely altruistic.
As fewer people use landlines, the copper cables that they run on have become expensive for telecoms firms to maintain – so they are trying to convince their customers to switch to connections that run via the internet instead.
CRANE ON THE CASE
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But there is a big problem, in that internet-powered phone connections simply aren’t quite as good. They won’t work if the WiFi goes down, or there is a power cut.
This has resulted in some dangerous situations, as our sister title Money Mail has reported – such as one where a pensioner’s rural home burned down because the internet was down and he couldn’t call for help.
You have a mobile phone, so have still been able to keep connected throughout these persistent phone problems. But that’s not the point: you were sold a product you didn’t want, and have been paying TalkTalk for a landline that doesn’t work.
Because you weren’t told at the outset that this was an internet phone, you didn’t fully understand how it worked. This was made worse by the fact that the customer service staff you spoke to didn’t seem to understand how it worked, either.
When you tried to get help, the firm’s approach was all TalkTalk, and no action.
TalkTalk trouble: S.S says the telecomms firm sold her an internet phone line she didn’t want – and then couldn’t fix it for months when it didn’t work
You were pushed from pillar to post on the phone, plagued by cancelled and rescheduled visits from engineers, and faced a battle to receive a piece of tech that would supposedly sort the issue – only for the engineer who turned up (at a cost of £50) to tell you that you needn’t have bothered.
It was at this time you called for my help. After I got in touch, TalkTalk sent an engineer within days to sort the issue, connecting the phone line to the internet and allowing you to make calls.
You have also been awarded a total of £661 in compensation – a huge improvement on the paltry £30 you were offered before.
You do still have an internet phone that you didn’t ask for, but it does now work.
Of course, you are free to switch at the end of the contract if there are any more problems – or if you decide to vote with your feet as a result of TalkTalk’s shoddy service.
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.
Hit: Now the Government has u-turned on its two year energy bill cap and is only guaranteeing financial help for everyone until April, many people are more worried than ever about their bills.
At the end of September, there was a rush for households to submit their gas and electricity readings to their supplier in an effort to show use was at a lower price ahead of the higher price cap being put in place on 1 October.
Failed energy firm Bulb came in for some unlikely praise this week as a This is Money colleague praised it for reviewing her account and reducing her payments accordingly
Some even got stuck in Glastonbury-ticket-style queues on their suppliers’ websites, as so many people logged on to submit meter readings online.
But my colleague said she managed to dodge the situation entirely, as Bulb appeared to review her account and adjust payments on her behalf.
She received an email from Bulb before the start of the month with the happy news that, based on her previous meter reading and account credit, the monthly payments would be going down – before she had even had a chance to submit a new reading.
Perhaps it is taking inspiration from Octopus Energy, which is in talks to take it over and which regularly receives positive reviews from its customers.
I won’t call this a hit – but it is nice to see a small win for customers in the middle of a big mess.
Miss: Ofcom has published its quarterly naming-and-shaming list of the internet and phone companies that customers rate the most poorly.
Shell Energy garnered the most Ofcom complaints this quarter
Shell Energy continues to generate the most broadband and landline complaints, with the regulator saying that the number received was three times the industry average.
The most common reason for these was because of how it handled customers’ complaints.
Meanwhile, Sky received the fewest broadband and landline complaints.
When it came to pay monthly mobile phones, BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile were the most complained-about, while Virgin also topped the tables for paid TV packages.
Interestingly, the volume of complaints for broadband and home phone decreased slightly this quarter.
I’d like to hope that this was because firms are getting better at listening to their customers – but I suspect that, with phone and internet bills now paling in comparison to other expenses such as energy bills and mortgages, consumers are simply focusing their complaining energies elsewhere.
I’d love to hear about readers’ experiences with phone, internet and mobile providers – good or bad. You can reach me on email@example.com.