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Alzheimer's man cut off for forgetting to pay bill

Thursday, March 12th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

The son of a man with Alzheimer's disease has hit out at TalkTalk after the provider cut off his father’s landline, leaving him isolated and unable to contact anyone.

Mark Oosterveen’s 80-year-old father was cut off after forgetting to pay his bills, despite his son warning Talk Talk of his condition.

It was only after Mr Oosterveen spent hours on the phone to customer service representatives that he got his father’s line reconnected.

TalkTalk has now apologised to Mr Oosterveen, who has made a complaint about the “appallingly unhelpful” service he received trying to resolve the situation.

Mr Oosterveen said he had told TalkTalk in August that his father, who lives alone and refuses to use direct debits, suffers from Alzheimer’s and asked them to contact him if there were any problems with his bills.

“I have previously contacted them, explained my father's health issues and told them to contact me if he doesn't pay his bills, rather than cut him off and isolate him,” he said.

But when he arrived to visit his father, who lives alone, he realised the landline had been disconnected.

Mr Oosterveen does not know how long the line was cut off for, as his father cannot remember. But without a mobile or internet access, the 80-year-old was left with no way of contacting the outside world.

Power of Attorney

Mr Oosterveen has Power of Attorney giving him the legal authority to make decisions on his father’s behalf, but he said TalkTalk initially refused to accept proof via email and insisted it was sent in the post.

“Obviously I didn't want my dad isolated for days but they refused to provide a simple email address.”

After several hours on the phone, he finally managed to get a customer service operator to speak to his father, who lives in St Leonards, near Hastings in East Sussex, to authorize him to pay the bill and get the line reconnected.

Mr Oosterveen, an actor and voiceover artist, has now registered a complaint for the “appallingly unhelpful” service he said he had received from Talk Talk.

He said he now plans to set up direct debits for all of his father’s bills to prevent similar solutions, but said he had still tried to warn Talk Talk of the situation, to no avail.

A TalkTalk spokesperson said: “We are sorry we did not offer Mr Oosterveen the right information when he asked to pay his father’s bill.

“Like all providers we require relatives and friends to pass identity checks or post a copy of a Power of Attorney document if they are acting on a customer’s behalf, but we could have accepted a payment into Mr Oosterveen’s account without these checks.”

The Alzheimer’s Society has a fact sheet on its website advising steps relatives can talk regarding financial and legal issues.

Measures include using direct debits, creating a power of attorney, and setting up a third-party mandate allowing someone else access to their bank account.

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