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ISPs accuse TalkTalk of hijacking customers

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PlusNet has called on Ofcom to investigate claims that the BT-owned ISP’s customers are being unwittingly switched to TalkTalk services in violation of industry codes.

Several other ISPs are reporting the same "slamming" behaviour from TalkTalk, part of the Carphone Warehouse group.

In a post on its community site, PlusNet said it had noticed an increase in calls in the last few weeks from customers complaining that their connection had stopped working. No faults were found on the lines, and with further investigation the Sheffield-based outfit discovered that it no longer owned them in BT's systems.

The common factor was that the dozens of missing subscribers had all recently switched their home phone away from BT to TalkTalk's phone package, but had not authorised broadband migration. PlusNet told The Reg it had confirmed 20 instances in June so far. Business specialist ISP Zen said it had traced a few missing lines to TalkTalk in recent weeks.

PlusNet estimates that TalkTalk is slamming 2,500 customers a month from other ISPs.

While noting that new home phone customers will be unable to get broadband from anyone else via its local loop unbundling (LLU) equipment, TalkTalk's terms and conditions state:

Unless you have agreed previously to take our Broadband Service, we will seek your express consent before transferring you to our LLU network if you take a broadband service from another provider on the same telephone line at the time of transfer.

PlusNet's charge is that TalkTalk is not obeying the rules, and so mis-selling its services.

In a second charge, PlusNet claims TalkTalk sales agents punting the telecom's broadband service are telling callers they do not need a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC). One agent we spoke to on Friday did request a MAC, however.

PlusNet's community scribe wrote: "I can't personally believe, in this day and age, that Ofcom are allowing this to happen without any consumer-driven processes (i.e. the MAC key process) to take place. This is really unfair-play if you ask me. Not to mention the impact this is having on customers."

PlusNet told us it had been in informal discussions with Ofcom over the last month, and was now preparing an official complaint against TalkTalk. A spokesman for the regulator said it would consider a formal dispute as and when it was brought.

TalkTalk has made huge gains in broadband since launching its "free" offer last year. It struggled to cope with demand for the deal, and was widely lambasted for poor service, but has recently claimed the problems are behind it and that it expects subscriber numbers to continue to grow.

It had not responded to the slamming accusations at time of writing.®

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