Friday, May 25, 2012

Virgin media threatens, fines and abuses dying customers and grieving families.

Virgin Media have a poor track record in dealing with customers who suffer bereavement. In 2011, one widow was billed £160, late payment fees and sent letters warning her that services would be disconnected because her husband had died and Virgin dragged their heels on switching the contract to her name (read about it here).

Just yesterday, another gentleman, Terence Allen, is aged 62 and has been told he has just 2 weeks to live, as he battles cancer. Virgin have refused to let him cancel his contract with them, and they insist he pays £160 outstanding (see here).

Another widow, whose husband died in 2010, has faced a 2 year battle with Virgin Media for them to refund the £36 of phone credit her deceased husband had left on his phone. As of February she had still not succeeded (read about it here).

In 2009, Virgin left a widow to organise a funeral without a telephone after they cut off the Virgin contract when they learned of her husband's death (see here). The same happened the Whitmarsh family in 2009, when Virgin charged the widow late payment fees and cut of services as they dragged their heels witching the contract to her name following the death of her husband.

None of this is anything new. Virgin have been systematically defrauding customers every penny they can manage for a couple of years now. Below, I list the 6 most common methods that Virgin Media and Talk Talk companies trade in an unethical manner.

1. Miss-selling: At the beginning of the academic term, Virgin Media sales reps went door to door selling a £32.00 p.m. package to students as the lowest possible deal on offer, when their internet clearly offering a £23.00 monthly price for a near identical package. Upon request, the students were denied information regarding the online package. This costs households £108 per year.

2. Not using direct debit: Virgin Media punish customers who prefer to pay at retail outlets by charging them an additional £5.00 penalty a month because they do not allow Virgin to take it direct from their account. This additional charging is wrong because customers are rightly scared Virgin will overcharge them without recourse for reimbursement. Thus, customers prefer to make the payment manually after they have corroborated the billing received.

3. Installation Charge: TalkTalk charge customers £50 in their first bill for installing services. This is despite the service having been available at that address before (thus minimal installation necessary). In some cases TalkTalk allow some of this charge to be deducted from the second bill which is welcome, but for the instances where the facilities are already available at that address no charge should be levied. 

4. Concealing Promotional Deals: TalkTalk currently offer a half price internet deal on their website. But if you phone to sign up to their services, the customer service agent will not offer you this deal. Instead, the internet service will be charged at full price costing the customer an extra £39.00 a year. Customer Service agents should be legally obliged to be fully transparent about the packages available for new customers.

5. Charging Customers for Sending Bills: Customers will tell you that a telecoms bill is gold dust. For those Virgin customers lucky enough to receive them, they are charged £2 a month for the privilege. For those unlucky souls who do not receive an itemised bill through the door, they are at risk of having their services cut off for non-payment of an e-bill. A stamp does not cost £2, and thus it is quite clearly overcharging customers to charge them £24 a year for posted bills.

6. Reconnect Fee: Should you ever fall foul of Virgin Media, they can at any moment cut you off without warning. In cases even where you do not wish to be reconnected (after settling outstanding sums), they automatically reconnect you, and charge you £10 for the privilege. Considering that at best reconnecting requires a simply tap of a keyboard key, the £10 charge is another form of punitive overcharging. 

Update: In terms of the miss-selling of their products, Virgin Media have been the subject of criticism from Ofcom & as well as myself below. I think they have miss sold products for years. In the course of my research today I came across the startling fact that a director on the government's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has actually declared Virgin Media as one of his registered interests (you can view it for yourself here)

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