Questions Of Cash: Tiscali get their wires crossed in phone line blunder

Q. Two years ago, I bought a flat for my son. We wanted to use Tiscali as an internet provider, but could only do this if we had a BT line installed. BT installed the line and sent me the bills. Then, in March, BT wrote to me regretting that I was leaving them. My son and I knew nothing about this. We spoke to BT, which said the instruction had come from another provider, but the staff did not know which. I was asked, for the legal record, whether I wished to leave BT and I said no. In April, the phone line was cut off. I spoke to BT, which told me to speak to the new provider – but I didn't have a new provider! I transferred to another BT operative, who said she could set up my number again. A couple of days later, my son rang his number to be told that it was a Tiscali answering service. I phoned Tiscali and the operative said there were two addresses attached to the phone number: one was ours, the other belonged to someone else entirely. She said there had clearly been a billing error, but that I would need to speak to the accounts department to resolve this. When I spoke to them, I was told the Data Protection Act prevented any information being given to me as my name was not on the account. I asked to speak to a supervisor, but this was also refused on data protection grounds. I spoke to BT again, which said my number could be recovered the following month. But the next day BT phoned to say it could not give us the line back as Tiscali refused to release the number as it was not attached to my name. KR, Surrey.

A. We have had numerous complaints about Tiscali, but this is one of the worst and has probably been the most difficult to resolve. We were repeatedly promised that progress was being made, or that a solution found, when this was untrue. The background to this problem is that Tiscali's systems confused your account with that of another customer – sadly another reader recently had a similar experience. "In the process of upgrading a current Tiscali customer who used to live at the same address with the same telephone number, our systems upgraded the wrong number and, in effect, seized it back," explained a spokeswoman. Tiscali has now arranged with BT to release the number back to you. Tiscali has also agreed to pay for all costs, including mobile phone calls, that you incurred in pursuing your complaint. It is also sending you £100 as compensation and an apology for its failures. Tiscali describes its customer service in this case as having been "unacceptable": we agree.

Q. My 87-year-old mother-in-law moved rooms within a care home, which required her phone line to move. In October, I requested the line to be moved across the corridor. As a line already existed, I was told by Pipex, which supplied the phone service, that this would take about 10 days and cost over £35. I asked if it could be done more urgently, as the phone is my mother-in-law's connection with her family. When I phoned to check on progress I was told that the order had been cancelled – as the address of the new line was the same as the existing account. I was then told that the reconnection would involve a visit from a BT engineer, a charge of over £80 and a wait of a further 10 days. Next my mother-in-law had a letter saying that the costs would be £38.50 to transfer the line, plus another £116 for a Pipex engineer to upgrade the line. By now my mother-in-law was becoming upset, so I arranged to handle matters on her behalf. I then made several calls to Pipex, where the staff could not help me, so I cancelled the contract. I went on holiday for three weeks and when I returned, I found that my mother-in-law had received a series of threatening letters because she had not paid a bill and had been charged an extra £25 because of the lack of payment. My calculation is that Pipex in fact owes my mother-in-law £3.70 for prepaid rental. JN, Southsea.

A. Pipex is now part of Tiscali. Eventually, Tiscali has resolved this. It promised your mother-in-law a payment of £20 as an apology back in October for messing things up. But it carried on messing things up and failed to make the £20 payment. It has now closed the account and paid her £50. Tiscali was recently acquired by the Carphone Warehouse, which used to have similarly poor standards of customer service. As we have not had any complaints against Carphone Warehouse recently, we assume it has greatly improved its service. We hope it can perform the same trick with Tiscali.

Q. My friend took out a Sky subscription two years ago, after I recommended her as part of Sky's "refer a friend" offer. Under the terms of the deal, I was entitled to get M&S vouchers for the recommendation. My friend did everything correctly to get these vouchers, but I am still waiting. JH, Watford.

A. You are not alone in this problem. Sky says there were problems with its IT system, following an upgrade. A spokeswoman says: "Unfortunately this meant a small number of customers did not receive their vouchers within an acceptable time-frame." It has now sent your vouchers and promises that it has changed its processes "to help ensure that future offers are delivered on time". Sky has also given you a credit of one-month's free viewing as a goodwill gesture to recognise your "patience and tenacity" in making sure you get what you are entitled to.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at:

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Paul McCartney backs the
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

    DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

    Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

    Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, Finance, MSc, PhD)

    £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Financial Technical Consultant (C++, C#, F...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone