Well, a fun start to the weekend, being confronted with a £300 online bill by Virgin Media is always a wake up call. Let me explain…
A couple of months back, I needed to transfer the name on my Virgin Media account and the Direct Debit details, nothing else. I’ve always been pretty happy with the VIP package that I have, including 20MB broadband with no limits, V+ with Sky Sports and Sky Movies and ESPN (and previously Setanta), an extra digibox, plus the landline phone. The V+ service by itself is far better than Sky + and generally, the Virgin customer services and service availability have always been pretty agreeable.
So where did it all go wrong? Well, when phoning to transfer name and DD details, I was told they would need to post a pack out for me to complete, they couldn’t do it over the phone. Fair enough I thought, signatures would be needed, so it seemed fair.
When the pack arrived it mentioned that there was a £20 service charge for the transfer. Now, I’m not tight, but £20 to change two things? Hmmm, could that be because if you don’t pay by DD you get charged £5 a month to pay over the phone or online, so they need to recoup the money somehow?
Anyway, I completed all the relevant forms and sent them off. Pretty quickly, I received back a letter saying thanks, received, everything sorted, but also mentioned that on the day that the transfer actually went through, there may be a short cut out of my services. I phoned Virgin Media to check what this meant exactly and they said it wouldn’t be noticeable.
So, I came home from work one day, tried watching a recording on the V+ box, only to find a message saying I wasn’t subscribed to V+. Why should any of this have changed?!?!? I phoned again, went through the usual drill of pulling out the V+ card, re-inserting, etc etc, eventually it was sorted. I then got onto my laptop to find no broadband. Okay, so I didn’t need to call again but I did have to re-install my broadband service.
I then thought it was all sorted. My first bill came in and was slightly higher than normal, but mainly because it is billed in advance so I expected it. The payment was due out by DD last week, according to Virgin Media “on or after” a particular date. I checked my bank account a few times but it hadn’t appeared which I thought was odd but presumed it was just more of the “after” than the “on.”
Then yesterday, I received another email saying my new bill was ready, and that I owed over £300!!!
When I checked my online bill I had been charged a £10 late payment fee, £5 per month non-DD charge plus none of my VIP package discounts had been applied.
I phoned again and, to give them credit, I was connected straight away. I explained that the supposedly simple transfer for which I had paid £20, obviously hadn’t worked. The guy apologised but basically said he couldn’t do anything as I was late in my payment. After arguing the toss, he advised me to speak to customer care and threaten to leave – he said he shouldn’t really tell me to do this but there was no option. Does this mean that frontline Virgin Media advisers are often put into this position by processing issues beyond their control?
Anyway, he put me through to Jim in the Sheffield office who looked at the account, admitted straight away that it was a mess and asked if he could phone me back in three minutes.
He did just that and advised that no Direct Debit was set up, none of my VIP discounts had been applied and so he re-worked it all to reduce the cost considerably.
Upon asking if the transfer fee had also been refunded, he said it wasn’t possible, until I pressed harder and eventually got it taken off. How could they even think about charging for a mess of a service?!?!?
I have now paid half of what was outstanding and will pay the other half later this week. Only once the balance is zero can they set up the DD ready for January’s bill.
Total mess, and I expect this happens more times than they would care to admit to. Luckily I class myself as suitably tech savvy that I would notice all these errors, but how many people would not and so Virgin Media could get away with all of this.
I think that Virgin Media are really dropping the ball. Their service, generally is superior to Sky’s and their UK advisers have always been helpful and efficient. I don’t hold it personally against these frontline guys but surely Virgin need to look at serious issues in their processing if they are ever to consider themselves a real challenge to Sky’s dominance?