TalkTalk has been found guilty of mis-selling landline services by the communications regulator.
Ofcom says the firm switched consumers to TalkTalk without permission and made it difficult for them to cancel, with victims eligible for compensation in some cases.
The six-month investigation, which closed last week, found that since 1 July 2010 TalkTalk has breached Ofcom rules.
TalkTalk has been ordered to change its practices within a month but Ofcom does not have the power to issue a fine yet.
What did TalkTalk do?
Ofcom found a string of abuses committed by TalkTalk, including:
- It mis-sold landline services by "engaging in dishonest, misleading or deceptive conduct by providing misleading information that is likely to affect a customers' purchasing decision".
- It used unclear language such as "enrolment process" to describe switching, which may have confused people into unwittingly signing up to its services.
- Customers faced difficulty trying to terminate contracts during the 14-day cooling off period and in one case a customer tried ten times to cancel their contract. Those who managed to end their deal during the cooling off period were also often wrongly charged for doing so.
- It was guilty of "slamming", where consumers were switched to it without consent. In some cases this occurred even when consumers had just terminated their contract.
Are you entitled to compensation?
If you're a TalkTalk customer affected by any of the abuses you can make a complaint to Ofcom.
But if you're owed compensation you should contact TalkTalk, though the company is refusing to provide a straight-forward reclaiming process.
Instead, you have to make a standard complaint by post, email or phone, while TalkTalk has only committed to offering redress on a "case-by-case" basis (see the TalkTalk complaints page).
What happens now?
Ofcom has given TalkTalk until 20 June to either prove it's stopped breaching the rules or to provide plans highlighting how it will resolve them. If TalkTalk fails, it could then be fined.
A TalkTalk spokesman says: "We're working with Ofcom to provide the information it requires before their deadline.
"We have processes to help employees be accurate and we invest heavily in training and monitoring of our sales and retention teams. †
"Improvements in the language used and the materials provided are constantly being made and we will provide Ofcom with detailed information about our ongoing programme to maintain the highest standards in all of our transactions."