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Friday 17 August 2007

Virgin Media: No good bums and liars [DrDave]

Ever been stuck in a customer service loop that you can't break out of? Ever suffer the indignity of having to repeat your eternally lengthening tale of woe and miscontent to yet another uninterested, minimum wage monkey? Ever get the feeling that your concerns are never noted, seldom acted upon and frequently binned? If so, there's a very real chance that you're a customer of Virgin Media.

I signed up with Virgin at the beginning of July, when I moved house. Since I'm now a home worker, I decided to go for their top of the shop, VIP package. Sounds good on paper, £85 a month gets you all the TV channels, sport, movies, phone line with virtually free calls, 20Mb broadband, the works. And since it was the primo-package, I thought that maybe they'd treat me nice like. I wasn't really expecting to have a Thai masseuse come around of a night, cup my gonads and sing "oh what a loverly bunch o' coconuts". But some degree of efficiency in dealing with issues seemed to be indicated. I was, after all, a Very Important Person with a Very Important Package.

The reality of the situation started hitting home on install day. TV and broadband went in fine, but the engineer had trouble with the telephone signal - a fault somewhere between my house and the green street box apparently. Not to worry though, he kindly offered to cancel the phone line (so I wouldn't end up paying for it) and raised it with HQ, who would send out a team of engineers to fix the line. Great!

A week passed, and of course I heard nothing about my rescheduled telephone line fix. So I got on the phone, spoke to a nice Scottish girl and she promised to raise the issue with installs. I would hear back from them shortly. Okay!

Another few days passed, still nothing from installs, but I did receive my first monthly bill. £110. Clearly some mistake, I thought. £110 for an £85 a month package seemed to be a little... cheeky. But there it was, a breakdown of services: TV, Broadband, sports, movies. All adding up to £110. Of course, it was obvious what had happened. When the engineer cancelled the telephone line, the system knocked me out of the VIP package since I was no longer receiving a component of it and instead had me paying for each service seperately.

Needless to say, I was on the phone like a ferret up a drainpipe. I was calm, the customer service rep was helpful. He agreed there was a mistake and credited my account with £35, taking the bill down to £75. While I was there, I inquired what had happened to the telephone install. The rep said nothing, and offered to raise it with installs. I would hear back from them shortly. Yay!

A week passed, still nothing from installs, but I receive a letter from Virgin telling me that I had an outstanding debt of £75. Odd, I thought, since I'd set up a Direct Debit and it looked fine from my bank's point of view. So I get on the phone (a task that would be a lot easier if I actually had a phoneline). I end up speaking to an Indian fella. He claims that he has no idea what went wrong, I'd have to check with my bank. Grr. I'm in a rush, so I tell him I'll pay the balance by debit card and we'll sort out the DD later. He agrees and tells me he's going to take £110...


Calmly, I point out that I have already agreed the discount and even have a letter from Virgin in front of me saying I only owe £75. Nevertheless, my cold, calm logic has no effect on him and he is adament that his screen says £110 so £110 is what I shall be paying. At this point, I am getting somewhat irked. I ask him to read out what package I am subscribed to. "The VIP £85 a month package", he dutifully replies. I ask him how much I owe. "£110", he replies. I ask him if he thinks this is a little weird. He doesn't.

So I tell him, in no uncertain terms, that I am going to pay him £75 quid there and then and he is seeing no more money from me. I may have even said "goddamn money", I was that het up. He relents, and takes the money. He also offers to raise my missing telephone situation with installs. I would hear back from them shortly. Cough.

Weeks pass. No word from installs. I receive my second monthly bill. £145. I take a couple of seconds to wonder exactly how high this spiralling monthly £85 bill will go, before reading the breakdown. TV. Broadband. Sports. Movies. Outstanding balance from previous month. GNGH!!

Dave. Phone. Scottish rep. Explain. Once again, rep #247 agrees there is a mistake, credits my account with £70. I manage to regain my calm and decide we need to get to the bottom of it. I ask him to find out where my telephone line install is (reasoning that the problem is caused by having no telephone, so if I somehow manage to get a telephone line it will all go away). He spends a couple of minutes doing something and comes back: "I'm sorry sir, I can't book you a telephone line install". I ponder this, waiting for him to offer a reason, but he offers nothing. I ask why and he replies, "there's an IT fault on your account". There's an awkward moment of silence between us where neither one wants to speak. I break first, and ask him what exactly needs to be done. He replies, "it needs to be fixed". I calmly, politely ask him if he expects me to fix it. I'm pretty sure he considered asking if I might not mind, but instead he came back with "I will raise it with IT". I ask him what would happen next, he tells me that once the fault is fixed he would raise it with installs. I would hear back from them shortly.

It is, at time of writing, now five days later. I haven't heard from installs. Nor have I heard from the manager I demanded to speak to. Nor the IT department who were going to fix my account. I don't expect to. I do expect to call again on Monday, go through the same process, talk to the same monkeys, end up with a lie about installs phoning me. I expect to get a bill next month for £175 and go through the same process again. I expect to shout at Indians and Scottish people. I am, after all, a Very Important Person with a Very Important Package.

Clan, help me. What can I do to sort this out? Who should I call? Who should I threaten to call?


  1. Your course of action is simple: leave Virgin.On the tube this morning, there was a huge poster extolling the virtues of their awesome service; with the end line that if you ever speak to anyone who doesn't do anything but weep with joy at their Virgin experience you can "go with someone else". Thanks for the pointer Virgin, I always thought it was you guys or no cable/tv/phone at all...What you are describing is of course symptomatic of the customer service malaise that seems inherently part of these telco monsters; I noticed that one of the business credit companies downgraded Virgin Media's credit rating this week from stable to negative, following a 78,000 strong exodus of customers pretty much all of whom cited appalling service, billing issues and so on. It might be time to add yourself to that statistic because frankly what you describe is wholly unacceptable.However, don't fall into the apathetic consumer trap where you simply give up trying to resolve it and end up paying through the nose for a worsening service/experience. Just get your MAC address off them, refuse to explain why you are leaving, and then give them the boot. Don't bother writing letters, or going through their complaint escalation and resolution service (it clearly doesn't work anyhow) just get out.


  2. I've been on broadband with NTL in this house for 9 years now, it's a great service. But they still think I'm on dialup, charge me for BB but think otherwise internally. So I can't access the BB+ area where you get free digital picture prints everymonth and other stuff.

    I've only had two outages in that time, once I came back from ireland to find they had unregistered my CM mac address. the other was a general fault which affected the entire area.

    I'm dreading the day I have to deal with that stuff. I'd recommend hitting their retention team and saying you're leaving. They'll quickly bend over backwards, just say you're going to sky and you want to terminate this frankly underwhelming contract.

    Doubtless you'll get a whack off your bill and resolution PDQ, 0800 052 0184 is their landline according to , so that should save a few sheckles on the old mobile from the 0845 number.


  3. I had a problem with the same company four years ago, although calling it the same company is perhaps only partially accurate. Telewest and NTL merged to create Virgin Media, at the time Telewest didn't actually have the legendary poor customer service and ineptitude of NTL. I guess it would seem that rather than them sorting it out, they simply dropped to the lowest common denomenator.

    I have no idea if this will help you, but what I did was basically writea shotgun letter to their executive to complain. It's really no use coming in through customer service because they're institutionally demotivated, lazy and incompetent. Of course it's absolutely pot luck if something gets through to any level of management at all.

    I think if I was in your position I'd want to expose myself to the least of this company as possible, and I'd probably get them on the phone, get them to understand what has gone wrong and arrange to cancel everything but the cable modem and only put down the phone when they agree how much you owe for that now and ongoing. Then grab Sky and BT for the other stuff since they basically just work.


  4. Needless to say, they never called back.

    What happened instead was that I got yet another hyper-inflated bill through last week. So, I picked up the phone and resigned myself to explaining the situation for ten minutes to a disinterested Indian before being transfered to the UK to spend ten minutes explaining the situation to a disinterested Scotsman.

    But while the countless options for fuckwittery were reeled off by the automated menu system, I had a sudden inspiration. Fuck billing, their lies bored me. I figured I'd give retentions a go, reckoning that if they realised that I off, they might jump into gear.

    This turned out to be a good choice. The CS operative I got put through to was Awesome Lorna, a teesside lass by the sounds, and a purebred problem solving machine to boot. Lorna was not only the most helpful, interested and downright NICE Virgin Media rep I've yet spoken to, she was the only one that sounded as though she actually cared. She took about a minute to absorb the situation, then launched into a flurry of activity. She made all the calls that needed to be made, spoke to all the people that needed to be spoken to, all while I was waiting on the phone. At the end of it, I had the golden chalice, the holy grail, a telephone installation appointment for two days hence.

    So alls well? Well, not quite. Despite Awesome Lorna getting shit going, despite her best efforts to avoid just such a thing happening, the engineer who came out ran into the exact same problem as the previous one - a problem with the wire running under the garden to my house. It looked for a minute as though he wasn't going to be able to fit it and I would be cast back into the system. But luckily this fella was more MacGuyver than the last one, and slung a temporary cable from the street to my house across my tasteful shrubbery.

    And that's where I currently am. Back awaiting a call from installs to have a properly qualified cable puller come out and remove the postman-entrapment-device I currently have blighting my greenery.

    Still, Lorna for PM though!


  5. Some of you may remember a rather legendary trip to Corney & Barrow many years ago, where we bid farewell to another Lorna - the Plus Size Model who was also our champagne pourer for the evening.

    It is therefore quite clear: Lornas FTW!