|Type||Public limited company|
|Traded as||LSE: TALK|
|Headquarters||London, United Kingdom|
|Area served||United Kingdom|
|Key people||Charles Dunstone
|Products||Fixed line and mobile telephony, Internet services, digital television|
|Revenue||£1,670 million (2013)|
|Operating income||£184 million (2013)|
|Net income||£100 million (2013)|
TalkTalk Telecom Group plc (commonly known as TalkTalk Group, trading as TalkTalk) is a company which provides pay television, telecommunications, internet access, and mobile network services to businesses and consumers in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 2003 as a subsidiary of Carphone Warehouse and was de-merged as a standalone company in March 2010. 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 brand, 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. Since August 2012, TalkTalk has become the UK's second quadruple play service after Virgin Media, offering TV, broadband, phone, and mobile services.
The Carphone Warehouse's acquisition of Opal Telecom in November 2002 gave it its own switching network providing access to BT Wholesale's landline network. An initial trial was conducted in the Manchester region, and three months later, TalkTalk launched with a guarantee that calls would be cheaper than with their perceived chief competitor BT.
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.
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). 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.
On 11 April 2006, TalkTalk launched a new broadband service which was promoted as "Free broadband forever" and which offered 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 for a minimum 18-month contract and a £29.99 initial connection fee. That same year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) challenged the legitimacy of TalkTalk's claim that this service was truly "free". Due to the high number of customers who signed up to the free broadband service, the "Free broadband forever" 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, TalkTalk chairman 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 in the time since the service launched. 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." TalkTalk allowed customers to escape the binding 18-month contract for broadband "if it had failed to keep its service commitments in their case". On the BBC programme Watchdog (October 3, 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". 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." A customer satisfaction poll by uSwitch in November 2006 placed TalkTalk and Orange joint bottom for customer satisfaction.
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. The Carphone Warehouse purchased the UK ISP business of AOL in October 2006 for £370m and renamed it AOL Broadband.
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. At the time, TalkTalk confirmed that the new Phorm system, when implemented, would be a strictly opt-in service. 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.
In June 2009 a £236 million deal to purchase Tiscali UK by Carphone Warehouse was approved by the European Union Competition Commission. The acquisition was completed on 6 July 2009, with the business becoming part of TalkTalk. 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.
According to the January 2009 financial announcement by Carphone Warehouse plc, TalkTalk had 2.7 million customers. The Carphone Warehouse's full-year earnings statement in November 2009 revealed the TalkTalk customer base had risen to 4.1 million following the purchase of Tiscali UK earlier in the year. TalkTalk was the sponsor of the sixth series of the The X Factor, which started on 22 August 2009.
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. On 7 January 2010, Tiscali UK closed to new business and the company's portal content was moved to the TalkTalk website.
In January 2010, TalkTalk a part of premiumchoice.com announced it would protest against the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2010. TalkTalk released a video protesting against the law called "Home taping is killing music". Upon the passing of the bill TalkTalk issued a statement on the company blog confirming it would resist attempts to use the bill against their customers.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Though TalkTalk never offered its services to customers in the Republic of Ireland, the company maintained customer service centres in Waterford and Sligo. The Sligo centre, originally opened for Toucan, closed in 2010 with the loss of 160 jobs. Some employees were transferred to the centre in Waterford, which at the time was advertising 60 positions.
On 7 September 2011 it was announced that the Waterford call centre would cease operations within 30 days. There was speculation in the Irish press that the jobs would be relocated to Southeast Asia and the UK. The Government of Ireland and its agencies criticised how TalkTalk and its subsidiary TalkTalk Ireland Ltd. dealt with the job losses. The TalkTalk call centre in Waterford closed on 7 October 2011, with the loss of over 570 jobs.
Broadband and fixed-line telephony
The company has operated broadband and landline telephone services since it first launched. These services are also provided under the AOL Broadband brand, which is used under licence, following the purchase of the UK ISP division of AOL. Some AOL content partnerships are available for TalkTalk customers.
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. 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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