Opinion

Ofcom's sanctions don't go far enough

Ofcom has rapped ISPs TalkTalk and Tiscali UK on the knuckles after they continued to bill end-users for cancelled services.

The pair were hit with a General Condition - a legally-binding notification - and must get their houses in order by 2 December or face the possibility of further action and financial penalty.

Under the terms of the notification the firms will have to refund money to customers who were billed for cancelled services since January, cease debt collection and withdraw from any in-process legal proceedings, and take steps to repair customer credit ratings.

But the industry needs to do more than just shuffle meekly into line, saying they "co-operated fully" with Ofcom, whenever they are caught being underhand. Deeper sanctions are needed, or this sort of thing will keep happening.

The Internet is fast becoming a vital service, and as providers of that service ISPs have a serious responsibility to the care of their customers.

I think that Ofcom, for its part, also has a responsibility to get serious about enforcing the rules.

I am equally perplexed as to why companies do not have adequate processes in place for ensuring that end-users are treated with honesty and fairness.

Maybe there's a disconnect between my expectations and accepted reality, but without being in charge of customer service at either TalkTalk or Tiscali, it seems that this is a case of one hand not talking to the other; someone had cancelled a service, but clearly nobody told the billing department.

Lack of communication within a communications firm? There's irony for you.

This was first published in November 2010

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