TalkTalk directed disability complaints to non-existent helpline


The phone company TalkTalk has apologised after telling disabled customers who wanted to lodge complaints to call a helpline that has been disconnected for the last 12 months.

Some customer services staff have been directing disabled customers who want to complain to the number – which is also displayed on its website – even though it was cut off in March 2010.

Less than six months ago, the communications watchdog Ofcom published “shocking” research which found phone companies – including TalkTalk – were providing “inadequate, misleading or non-existent information” about the services they must provide for disabled customers, such as priority fault repair, alternative format bills and free directory enquiries.

In the wake of the research, TalkTalk promised Ofcom it would review all its staff training, induction materials and courses.

Mark White, who runs the campaigning website The Political Cripple, has been trying to lodge a complaint with TalkTalk about his telephone bill.

Because of his impairment, he cannot file a written complaint, and wanted to lodge his complaint over the telephone as a reasonable adjustment.

But he has repeatedly been told by TalkTalk’s customer services department to phone a dedicated telephone number for disabled people, even thought it has been disconnected since March 2010.

A TalkTalk spokeswoman said the “disabled and elderly” support number was disconnected in March 2010 “following internal reviews showing low call volumes”. The company decided instead to train all its customer service staff to assist disabled people.

The spokeswoman said TalkTalk was “disappointed” with the service White had received.

She said TalkTalk had now launched a review of how to “improve the way we offer access to our disabled customers. Once this review has been complete, we will send reminders out to all of our agents about the correct information that they should be providing.”

An Ofcom spokeswoman said it was concerned to hear that disabled people had been directed to a disconnected number, and would raise the issue with TalkTalk.

White said: “The complaints system is inaccessible. They say they have trained all their staff but their staff don’t know anything about disability.

“I have been denied access to the statutory complaints procedure because they have cut the line off. What they are doing is discriminating against disabled people left, right and centre. The problem with TalkTalk is they don’t listen listen.”

17 March 2011