Rioting yoof aren't the only UK miscreants to be rapped unexpectedly hard over the knuckles this Summer. Also in front of the beak was communications service provider TalkTalk which has just received a £2.5 million fine from Ofcom for mugging its own customers. By Ian Scales.
Like the rioters - a couple just got four-year prison sentences for inciting violence via Facebook - TalkTalk claims to be a bit gobsmacked by the severity of its sentence. “We’re disappointed at the scale of the fine and feel that it is a disproportionate penalty," the UK press reports Chief executive Dido Harding as having said, displaying the same wounded innocence exhibited by the rioters. "But we will pay it," he said manfully, "and hopefully we can now draw a line in the sand on this matter.”
Indeed. After all, it was only a little bit of theft and we didn't mean nuffing by it.
In 2009 TalkTalk Merged Tiscali UK into its operations and in 2010 switched 1 million customers into its billing system in the process.
But by July Ofcom had opened an investigation into TalkTalk having received over 1000 complaints from customers who claimed to be billed for services they hadn't used. It quickly told TalkTalk that it had to fix the problem by December 2010 - or else.
TalkTalk set about making fixing noises, but still managed to wrongly bill another 3000 customers after the deadline had passed, hence the well-deserved fine.
In fact TalkTalk managed to charge up to 65,000 customers for services they had cancelled. That's 65 thousand attempts at relieving its customers of money it wasn't owed. Ofcom said the fine - the biggest ever imposed by the UK regulator - reflected the severity of the offense. It might have added - in keeping with the general public mood - that it wanted to send a clear signal to the community that such behaviour wouldn't be tolerated.
As TalkTalk had already paid out £2.5 million in customer compensation, the fine will bring its total losses from the fiasco to over £5 million plus the loss of an even greater amount of customer goodwill.
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