Broadband and digital TV service TalkTalk has introduced a stealth £4 a month charge for users of its television platform, a so-called “access fee” that applies even to customers who don’t sign up for one of the service’s premium TV boosts.
Customers have lashed back at the provider for the “underhand” and “bizarre” charge, which they feel is effectively a hardware rental fee for the TV box they already own, even if they don’t use it or only watch freeview.
According to ThinkBroadband, the charge will appear automatically on the accounts of any TalkTalk customers with the service’s set-top YouView box from 18 February. TalkTalk has advertised the additional fee as costing “just 13 pence a month,” but it totals up to an additional £48 a year, and customers are baffled about what they’re even getting for that charge.
Reportedly, the fee is being applied to the bills of customers who purchased a TalkTalk-branded set-top box, even if they bought it secondhand, and to anyone who took out a TV bundle with TalkTalk and then downgraded but kept the box. ThinkBroadband has described it as a fee just to "access the TalkTalk menus that let you add TV Boosts.”
To add to the confusion, TalkTalk has said that the £4 is optional and customers can opt out.
“You do not have to pay the TV Access Fee. If you do not specifically use any of the TalkTalk TV services or boosts you can request this fee is not applied,” a member of TalkTalk’s support team said.
“The Access Fee encompasses all of TalkTalk TV Services. I do appreciate that all customers receive the freeview channels one way or another as these are over the air, but having the TV box does then provide the ability to record these, in addition to pause and rewind live TV,” a TalkTalk Community Support Team Member, OCE_Karl, wrote on the community forum.
However, the onus is apparently on the customer to contact TalkTalk and have the charge removed from their accounts, and customers have reported mix luck.
Twitter user @TrevorTurvey1 reported that after receiving an email that he would now be charged £4 a month for his 10-year-old TV box, he contacted TalkTalk, which told him he’d have to return the box to have the charge expunged.
Customers were particularly confused because TalkTalk has a well-advertised “Fix Low Price Guarantee.” However, apparently the guarantee applies only to broadband and not TV bundles. As TalkTalk’s website says in the small print: "Other services such as our calling rates, boosts and TV service are not included as part of Fixed Price Plans and therefore subject to change.”
TalkTalk’s site also helpfully customers that it was waiving their £4 a month charge for multi-room TV, apparently replacing it with this charge.
TalkTalk also said it was giving its television customers a £5 voucher to be redeemed against thousands of films in Rent to Own, supposedly as a trade-off for this new charge.
“We’ve been investing heavily in our TV service over the past two years to deliver large-scale tech updates and product innovations that bring real benefits to the customer experience, as well as adding more great content. Whilst making such improvements has resulted in a price change, TalkTalk TV continues to offer fantastic value for money and customers can save up to £216 a year vs BT, Sky and Virgin Media,” the ISP said in a statement.
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