TalkTalk Group

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TalkTalk Telecom Group plc
(trading as TalkTalk)
TypePublic limited company
Traded asLSETALK
IndustryTelecommunications
Founded2003 (Leeds)
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Area servedUnited Kingdom
Key peopleCharles Dunstone
(Chairman)
Dido Harding
(Chief Executive)
ProductsFixed line and mobile telephony, Internet services, digital television
Revenue£1,687 million (2012)[1]
Operating income£233 million (2012)[1]
Net income£138 million (2012)[1]
SubsidiariesAOL Broadband
TalkTalk Business
TalkTalk Technology
Websitewww.talktalk.co.uk
www.talktalkgroup.com
 
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TalkTalk Telecom Group plc
(trading as TalkTalk)
TypePublic limited company
Traded asLSETALK
IndustryTelecommunications
Founded2003 (Leeds)
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Area servedUnited Kingdom
Key peopleCharles Dunstone
(Chairman)
Dido Harding
(Chief Executive)
ProductsFixed line and mobile telephony, Internet services, digital television
Revenue£1,687 million (2012)[1]
Operating income£233 million (2012)[1]
Net income£138 million (2012)[1]
SubsidiariesAOL Broadband
TalkTalk Business
TalkTalk Technology
Websitewww.talktalk.co.uk
www.talktalkgroup.com

TalkTalk Telecom Group plc (commonly known as TalkTalk Group, trading as TalkTalk) is a company which provides pay television, telecommunications and internet access services to businesses and consumers in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 2003 as a subsidiary of The Carphone Warehouse plc[2] and was demerged as a standalone company in March 2010.[3] It is headquartered in London.

Originally just a provider of fixed line telephony services to consumers, TalkTalk now offers fixed and mobile telephony and broadband services to consumers under the TalkTalk and AOL Broadband brands, and telephony and broadband services to business customers under the TalkTalk Business brand. Like some other UK broadband providers, TalkTalk has invested in its own exchange infrastructure, known as local-loop-unbundling (LLU), with 92% of its customers base unbundled as of December 2012.[1]

TalkTalk is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

Contents

History [edit]

TalkTalk launched in February 2003 after the acquisition of Opal Telecom in November 2002. The acquisition meant The Carphone Warehouse now had its own switching network providing access to BT Wholesale's landline network for the first time. An initial trial was conducted in the Manchester region. Three months later, TalkTalk was launched with the slogan "landline calls for less", and a guarantee that calls would be cheaper than with their perceived chief competitor, British Telecom.

Several high profile TV advertising campaigns commenced in 2003, initially under the first TalkTalk brand utilising the former public face of BT, Maureen Lipman. It appeared that TalkTalk was going head to head with BT with the slogan "It's good to Talk, but it's better to TalkTalk", mocking BT's "It's good to Talk" slogan. In the following years TalkTalk invested heavily in TV advertising and has won several awards for creativity. TalkTalk Broadband was launched in November 2004.[4] The free broadband offer was later launched in April 2006.[5] The company was criticised several times for making exaggerated claims such as "Free Broadband Forever" which later turned out to be misleading.[6]

The acquisitions of the UK operations of Tele2 for £11.5m and One.Tel for £169.6m culminated in TalkTalk now having 2.5m customers.[7] The Carphone Warehouse purchased the UK ISP business of AOL in October 2006 for £370m and renamed it AOL Broadband.[8]

In June 2009 a £236 million deal to purchase Tiscali UK by The Carphone Warehouse was approved by the European Union Competition Commission.[9][10] The acquisition was completed on 6 July 2009 with the business becoming part of TalkTalk.[11] At the time Carphone Warehouse announced that TalkTalk would be spun out from the group as a separate listed company, with the Tiscali, AOL Broadband and TalkTalk brands all coming together as one brand eventually.[12][13][14]

According to the January 2009 financial announcement by Carphone Warehouse plc, TalkTalk had 2.7 million customers.[15] The Carphone Warehouse's full-year earnings statement in November 2009 revealed the TalkTalk customer base had risen to 4.12 million following the purchase of Tiscali UK earlier in the year.[16] TalkTalk was the sponsor of the sixth series of the The X Factor,[17] which started on 22 August 2009.[18]

TalkTalk announced that a Tiscali UK service centre originally opened for Toucan in Sligo would be closed in 2010 with the loss of 160 jobs.[19] Some workers from the Sligo centre were transferred to Waterford while the company also advertised 60 new positions at Waterford.[20]

In March 2010, TalkTalk and Carphone Warehouse demerged becoming publicly listed companies . Dido Harding became CEO of TalkTalk and Roger Taylor CEO of New Carphone Warehouse.[21]

In 2011 TalkTalk launched HomeSafe, a network-level online security and website blocking system aimed at parents who want to filter web content such as pornography or violence.[22]

In August 2011, TalkTalk was fined £3 million by the independent telecommunications regulator Ofcom for incorrectly billing over 65,000 customers between 1 January 2010 and 4 March 2011. The company had been overcharging customers for services that had not been received which resulted in the company paying an additional £2.5 million in refunds. Ofcom warned TalkTalk in November 2010 to rectify their billing problem after 62,000 incorrect bills were issued and were given a deadline which they did not meet.[23]

TalkTalk Ireland [edit]

Though TalkTalk never offered its services to customers in the Republic of Ireland, the company maintained a customer service centre in Waterford until October 2011,[24] which was originally set up for AOL UK and provided services for both companies. On 7 September 2011 it was announced by Talk Talk Ireland Ltd. that the Waterford call-centre would cease operations within the next 30 days.[25] It had been speculated in the Irish press that the jobs would later relocate to South-East Asia and the UK.[26] The Government of Ireland and its agencies have criticised how TalkTalk and its subsidiary TalkTalk Ireland Ltd. dealt with the job losses.[27] The TalkTalk call centre closed its doors in Waterford on 7 October 2011, with the loss of over 570 jobs.[28]

Previously, TalkTalk announced that a Tiscali UK service centre originally opened for Toucan in Sligo would be closed in 2010 with the loss of 160 jobs.[19] Some workers from the Sligo centre would be transferred to Waterford while the company is also advertising 60 new positions at Waterford.[29][30]

Operations [edit]

Broadband and fixed-line telephony [edit]

The company has operated broadband and landline telephone services since it first launched. Following the purchase of the UK ISP division of AOL, broadband services under the AOL Broadband brand are also provided, with some AOL content partnerships available for TalkTalk customers.

Tiscali UK provided telephone and broadband services both bundled and separate until being rebranded on 7 January 2010. On this day the company closed to new business.[31] TalkTalk announced in December 2009 that customers with just broadband services would be encouraged to subscribe to a telephone service or pay an extra £5 monthly charge.[32] The Tiscali portal content moved to the TalkTalk website, while the company name remained Tiscali UK Limited trading as TalkTalk.[33]

Mobile telephony [edit]

In late 2010 TalkTalk launched a mobile telephone service called TalkTalk Mobile, which operates as a mobile virtual network operator on the Vodafone UK network.[34] TalkTalk have also launched a mobile broadband dongle which allows users to access the internet on the move although you already need to be an existing TalkTalk customer to sign up to these services.[35]

Television [edit]

TalkTalk inherited an IPTV service from Tiscali and renamed it TalkTalk TV in January 2010. The service had originally launched in London as Homechoice in 2001. TalkTalk stopped selling the service in 2010.

TalkTalk is one of seven partners in TV venture YouView and launched its new YouView service "TalkTalk Plus TV" in August 2012. [36]

TalkTalk Business [edit]

TalkTalk Business is a subsidiary of TalkTalk Group, it is a business broadband, telephone, mobile phone and IT support provider, also providing MPLS network solutions and high bandwidth ethernet. TalkTalk Business has its origins in many business divisions of telecommunications companies that have been taken over including Pipex, Opal Telecom, Freedom2surf, Nildram and Tiscali.

TalkTalk Technology [edit]

TalkTalk Technology is a subsidiary of the TalkTalk Group which is responsible for the TalkTalk network and information systems and also for developing next generation technologies across the TalkTalk Group.

Opposition to UK anti-piracy laws [edit]

TalkTalk have openly stated that they will refuse to send warning letters to their customers, or hand over any of their personal information, even if it became a legal requirement for them to do so.[37][38] TalkTalk say that the UK "government's plans to punish people suspected of illegal downloading are an assault on human rights",[39] and pledged to fight government anti-piracy laws.[40] In 2010, TalkTalk launched a major campaign, Don't Disconnect Us, against government plans to disconnect users suspected of repeat copyright infringement.[41]

TalkTalk MailController service and Webroot Inc [edit]

In 2010 the company signed an agreement with internet security firm Webroot, to supply the Webroot email filtering service to TalkTalk’s customers. The service, named TalkTalk MailController, was aimed at the company’s larger business customers. On 10 June 2012 TalkTalk announced that the MailController service was no longer going to be sold and that support for the service would end on 30 November 2012.[42]

Controversies [edit]

Complaints [edit]

Although TalkTalk's reputation for customer service was poor even before that date, both TalkTalk and analysts tend to trace the ISP's poor record to 2009, when the provider took over Tiscali.[43]

Sponsorship [edit]

In 2004, TalkTalk won the sponsorship rights to Big Brother from the UK mobile firm O2. Sponsorship continued until the racism controversy of Celebrity Big Brother 2007 after which the company retracted its sponsorship agreement.[44]

Telecom sales [edit]

In 2005 TalkTalk was accused of using the practice of telephone slamming (changing consumers' residential phone line over to a new provider without their consent).[45] Some cases were linked to instances of mis-selling by sales people on the doorstep or by telephone; other consumers reported that their personal data had been misused after buying mobile telephones from Carphone Warehouse.[46] These sales techniques exploited a loophole in British law which allowed consumers to change telecom service providers more easily. In 2011, it was again accused of the practice of slamming, a fact reported on the BBC's Watchdog programme.[47]

In November 2012 the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) publicly listed TalkTalk as one of a number of companies that it had concerns about due to unsolicited telephone calls for marketing. The concerns were based on complaints. In response, TalkTalk said that it was working with the ICO to address any issues, that the ICO did not plan any enforcement action against it, and that the number of complaints about its telephone marketing calls had fallen.[48]

"Free" broadband [edit]

In 2006 TalkTalk launched a promotion offering free broadband. The promotion attracted criticism when demand outstripped supply and the network systems were unable to cope with the consumer response.

On 11 April 2006, TalkTalk started offering a free broadband service (up to 8 Mbit/s with a 40 GB monthly usage limit) for life to all subscribers to their Talk3 International telephone tariff at £20.99/month. Conditions included signing up to a minimum 18 month contract and a £29.99 connection fee.[5]

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged TalkTalk on their free broadband offer.[49] Soon after this challenge, TalkTalk began to offer free broadband on their cheaper Talk3 tariff. This allowed people to have unlimited telephone calls, broadband and line rental for £19.99 a month. This offer was available to new and existing customers, though broadband was only free for customers connected to a Local loop unbundling (LLU) exchange. As of July 2006, TalkTalk claimed that free broadband was available to 70% of the UK population. They hope that this figure will increase as BT allow the unbundling of their remaining exchanges. Customers not on an unbundled exchange are charged a monthly fee for broadband access. Many users of TalkTalk Broadband do not experience the full 8 Mbit/s speed, as this depends on the extent to which the user's local exchange has been unbundled, and (as with all ADSL services) the distance from the exchange. Users not on unbundled exchanges get a fixed speed service at 0.5, 1 or 2M and not "up to 8M".

Some experts predicted this might provoke a UK broadband price war.[50] Shortly following this report, Orange began to offer free broadband to users of their monthly mobile phone contracts, and Sky also began offering a variety of free or very cheap broadband packages to their subscribers.

Due to the unexpectedly high number of customers who signed up to the free broadband service, the launch suffered complaints with regard to a long waiting list to join the broadband programme and many difficulties in contacting TalkTalk customer services. In a Sunday Times interview, Charles Dunstone admitted that Carphone's TalkTalk business was "struggling to cope" with the more than 400,000 customers who signed up for high-speed internet access since the service launched in April. He also compared TalkTalk Broadband to "a little baby who’s waking up every two hours and is disturbing the family and making our lives a nightmare."[51]

TalkTalk allowed customers to escape the binding 18-month contract for broadband "if it had failed to keep its service commitments in their case".[52]

On the BBC programme Watchdog (3 October 2006), Charles Dunstone stated "I got it wrong. I didn't realise that free broadband was going to have the effect on people it has."[53] To the Mail on Sunday, Dunstone stated "In about 20% of customers there is some kind of problem with the phone exchange, the line, or something else. There is no point trying to pretend everything is all right. Our business exploded and we compressed the problems everyone in the industry has had into a few months. It has given customers nightmares and I just can't ignore complaints."[54][55] A customer satisfaction poll by uSwitch in November 2006 placed TalkTalk and Orange joint bottom for customer satisfaction.[56]

The published figures show that by the third quarter of 2006, 540,000 users had been subscribed to TalkTalk broadband of which 132,000 were (TalkTalk) LLU lines.[57] In the third quarter trading update, the published figure was 413,000 customers unbundled, including 281,000 AOL Broadband customers.

Roger Taylor (CFO) reported that the number of TalkTalk Broadband customers was lower than expected, but was forecasting 700,000 customers on unbundled lines (LLU) by March 2007.[57]

Data pimping [edit]

In early 2008 it was announced that TalkTalk had entered into an agreement (along with BT and Virgin Media) with the former spyware company Phorm to intercept and analyse their users' click-stream data, and sell the anonymised aggregate information as part of Phorm's OIX advertising service.[58][59] At the time, TalkTalk confirmed that the new Phorm system, when implemented, would be a strictly opt-in service.[60] In July 2009, Charles Dunstone, CEO of TalkTalk Group announced that TalkTalk had withdrawn plans to introduce Phorm, along with a similar announcement from BT in the same week.[61]

Broadband speed [edit]

In a study carried out by UK telecoms regulator Ofcom in 2010, TalkTalk was found to have average speeds of 7.7-9.3 Mbit/sec, while it was advertised as 'up to' 24 Mbit/sec.[62]

Digital Economy Bill [edit]

TalkTalk has been the most vocal ISP against the introduction of the Digital Economy Bill.[63] TalkTalk released a video protesting against the law called "Home taping is killing music"[64] Upon the passing of the bill TalkTalk issued a statement on the company blog which made it clear that the company would resist attempts to use the bill against their customers.

We stand by our pledges to our customers:

  • Unless we are served with a court order we will never surrender a customer’s details to rightsholders. We are the only major ISP to have taken this stance and we will maintain it.
  • If we are instructed to disconnect an account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rightsholders we’ll see them in court.[65]

URL interception [edit]

On 26 July 2010 The Register reported that TalkTalk had begun harvesting URLs accessed by TalkTalk customers as part of a new anti-malware system it is developing in conjunction with Huawei, the manufacturer of its network servers. When a user accesses a web page, the URL is harvested and the servers issue the same URL request with the intention of checking the site for malicious code. TalkTalk claims[66] that no personally identifiable information is being harvested however, like Phorm, some users argue there are some potential legal issues with this harvesting of information. Under relevant UK legislation, URLs are deemed communications content and interception without permission is prohibited.[67][68]

See also [edit]

References [edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Annual Report 2012". TalkTalk Telecom Group plc. 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Carphone TalkTalk Launch Press Release, February 2003
  3. ^ Potter, Mark (29 March 2010). "Best Buy eyes May UK launch; Carphone demerger". Reuters. Retrieved 29 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Carphone Warehouse launches TalkTalk Broadband" (Press release). The Carphone Warehouse. 1 November 2004. Retrieved 8 August 2006. 
  5. ^ a b "Free broadband forever" (Press release). The Carphone Warehouse. 11 April 2006. Retrieved 8 November 2006. 
  6. ^ ASA Adjudication
  7. ^ "Annual Report 2005" (Press release). The Carphone Warehouse. 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2006. 
  8. ^ "Carphone Warehouse buying AOL UK". BBC News Online. 11 October 2006. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Carphone buys Tiscali's UK broadband business for £236m Daily Tepegraph
  10. ^ UPDATE 1-Carphone wins EU approval for Tiscali UK buy Reuters. 30 June 2009
  11. ^ RNS - Completion of Tiscali Acquisition
  12. ^ Carphone Warehouse plans to split BBC News. 22 April 2009
  13. ^ Carphone to purchase Tiscali UK BBC News. 8 May 2009
  14. ^ Carphone to unveil TalkTalk chief Nick Clarke. The Independent. 28 November 2009
  15. ^ Carphone Warehouse plc - Interim Management Statement - January 2009
  16. ^ "Carphone raises profit forecast". BBC News Online. 27 November 2009. 
  17. ^ TalkTalk sponsors The X Factor to push 'brighter' brand Marketing, 3 August 2009
  18. ^ TalkTalk announces sponsorship of The X Factor TalkTalk Press Centre. 3 August 2009
  19. ^ a b "300 jobs to go in Sligo closure and Cork cutbacks". Irish Times. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  20. ^ "Talk Talk to create 60 jobs in Waterford". Irish Times. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  21. ^ Carphone puts demerger details on the table Sean Buckley. Fierce Telecom. 1 February 2010
  22. ^ "TalkTalk launches HomeSafe website filter". Which[[{{subst:DATE}}|{{subst:DATE}}]] [disambiguation needed]. 9 May 2011. 
  23. ^ "TalkTalk and Tiscali UK fined £3m by Ofcom". BBC News. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  24. ^ Kane, Conor (8 October 2011). "End of the line for TalkTalk workers". The Irish Times. 
  25. ^ Roche, Barry (8 September 2011). "Southeast shocked at decision by Waterford call centre to close with loss of 575 jobs". The Irish Times. 
  26. ^ "Talk Talk: 600 jobs go to Asia where wages are 90 pc lower". Irish Independent. 8 September 2011. 
  27. ^ "Talk Talk decision 'devastating' - Kenny". RTÉ News. 8 September 2011. 
  28. ^ "TalkTalk call centre shuts doors". Irish Times. 7 October 2011. 
  29. ^ "Talk Talk to create 60 jobs in Waterford". Irish Times. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  30. ^ "TalkTalk Waterford jobs after Sligo closure". RTE. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  31. ^ Carphone announces death of Tiscali UK David Meyer. ZDNet UK. 7 January 2010
  32. ^ Tiscali to rebrand as TalkTalk in January Which? 18 December 2009
  33. ^ TalkTalk UK Information entertainment broadband email and internet access TalkTalk
  34. ^ "TalkTalk and Vodafone UK announce new MVNO partnership". 
  35. ^ "Do I have to be an existing customer to take mobile services?". 
  36. ^ Strategy update and Q1 Interim Management Statement
  37. ^ Talktalkblog.co.uk, Digital Economy Bill. It's a wash up.
  38. ^ Electricpig.co.uk, TalkTalk boss says it will fight government anti-piracy plans.
  39. ^ Broadbandchoices.co.uk, TalkTalk says piracy law infringes human rights
  40. ^ Electricpig.co.uk
  41. ^ Dontdisconnectus.us
  42. ^ Abtecnet.com, TalkTalk MailController service ends on 30 November.
  43. ^ Choose.net
  44. ^ The Register, Carphone Warehouse Pulls BB Sponsorship
  45. ^ Brignall, Miles (23 April 2005). "When slamming the phone prompts a row". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2008. 
  46. ^ "Phone scam hits thousands". Daily Mail. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 30 April 2008. 
  47. ^ BBC Watchdog, 24 May 2011
  48. ^ Core, Kevin (16 November 2012), Commissioner names firms over 'nuisance' marketing calls, BBC News, retrieved 8 February 2013 
  49. ^ "ASA Upholds 3 TalkTalk Complaints". ISPReview. 19 July 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2006. 
  50. ^ "Phone firm launches net price war". BBC. 11 April 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2006. 
  51. ^ Durman, Paul (23 July 2006). "Broadband 'nightmare' for Talk Talk". London: The Sunday Times. Retrieved 11 November 2006. 
  52. ^ "TalkTalk customers break contract shackles". The Register. 29 September 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2006. 
  53. ^ "Watchdog viewers have been complaining all summer about Talk Talk. It seems the company's broadband revolution stalls on customer service.". Talk Talk broadband. BBC. 3 October 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2006. 
  54. ^ "The Sunday interview: Charles Dunstone (the TalkTalk man)". Mail on Sunday. 5 November 2006. Retrieved 6 November 2006. 
  55. ^ "TalkTalk Free Broadband "a disturbing nightmare" says CEO". CNET. 8 November 2006. Retrieved 8 November 2006. 
  56. ^ "Punters suffer in broadband price war". The Register. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 14 November 2006. 
  57. ^ a b "Carphone gets mixed reception as broadband stalls". Reuters. 12 January 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2007. 
  58. ^ ISP data deal with former 'spyware' boss triggers privacy fears
  59. ^ How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection
  60. ^ TalkTalk make Phorm Opt-In
  61. ^ Phorm stranded as BT and Carphone pull plug on online ‘spying’ technology The Times, 7 July 2009
  62. ^ Ofcom | UK fixed broadband speeds, November/December 2010
  63. ^ Barnett, Emma (26 January 2010). "TalkTalk 'would fight Digital Economy Bill in court'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 24 May 2010. 
  64. ^ Youtube.com
  65. ^ Talktalkblog.co.uk
  66. ^ TalkTalk responds to anti-malware security questions
  67. ^ TalkTalk turns StalkStalk to build malware blocker
  68. ^ Customer outrage over TalkTalk monitoring web use

External links [edit]