Last month Virgin Media notified me that my monthly bill would increase yet again, this time by £3.50. This is a 9% rise which meant I could cancel my contract without incurring an early termination fee. When I tried, I was told by several customer service advisers that it was not possible. Eventually, someone admitted it was, and guaranteed that my service would remain for 30 days giving me time to find a cheaper provider.
Two days later, my internet failed. Virgin claimed I had requested immediate disconnection and told me I had to pay a £79 fee. After an hour on the phone it admitted an error and assured me it would be fixed within the hour. It was still down a day later, and, in another hour-long call, customer services again blamed me before admitting a mistake and promising reconnection within 24 hours. Nothing happened except that I was billed for the termination fee.
Reconnection was then promised within 72 hours. Nothing happened. This time I was told the reconnection had not been requested and I’d have to wait another 72 hours. By the eighth day, there was still no service and I was still being informed that neither my reconnection request nor my formal complaint had gone through and that I’d have to wait 72 hours for the former to be resolved and seven days for the latter. It seems a coincidence I never had any trouble until I requested to leave.
Under rules set by the telecoms regulator Ofcom, customers can cancel their contract without penalty with 30 days’ notice if price rises cause “material detriment”. This is generally interpreted as price hikes exceeding the Retail Price Index, which is around 3%. Virgin’s latest increases, the second in 12 months, come into effect in September and October and increase bills of some customers by 11%.
Last November the company was fined £7m by Ofcom for its extortionate termination fees. It was found to have overcharged almost 82,000 of those who ended their contracts early by nearly £2.8m.
The impasse in which you find yourself was finally broken by a call to the press office which confirmed that the 30-day notice period should have applied and that you are not liable for a termination charge.
With the prospect of a headline looming, the company managed to reconnect you within 24 hours and it agreed to waive charges for the 20 days of service still remaining.
“We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and poor service he has experienced and are pleased to have resolved the matter to his satisfaction,” it says.
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