Friday, 23 March 2012

Like a Virgin.

The broadband service obtained via Virgin Media became slower, and slower, and slower and virtually packed itself up. This was some weeks ago. I was left without Internet access for several weeks, because at first I thought it was my computer and it cost me £50 to confirm that it wasn't.
Fair enough.
But then Virgin Media told me there would be a charge of £170 to call out an engineer if that same engineer decided it was not a Virgin Media problem after all.
On the advice of the computer technician who had identified the problem I decided to change to BT broadband. He knew of other people in this area who had experienced the same problem of Virgin Media service slowing to a standstill, and had the same problem of the threatened call-out charge.
Fair enough, still?

I did the right things. Virgin Media supplied the MAC code to enable the change, and the process went ahead with only a few glitches.
Then I received a message from Virgin Media Payments, saying I owed them just over £30, about £6 for telephone calls, the remainer as a cancellation fee. I wrote back, enclosing a cheque for the £6 worth of calls, although I did point out that these were incurred by making calls to their Customer Services department, where I received repetitious, inaccurate information. I also pointed out that, according to Virgin Media's own terms and conditions, the cancellation fee did not apply in my case, as the MAC code had been supplied by them and used in the setting up of the new account.
Still fair enough?

No, apparently not.
This letter was deemed to be a Complaint, and was sent from Virgin Media Payments to Customer Complaints. I have now been promised someone who will take personal ownership of my complaint, attempt to resolve it in full, and make contact with me within two weeks. They want me to be a happy Virgin again.
Unfortunately no one at Virgin Media Customer Complaints seems to be in contact with Virgin Contact Management who, within six days of my letter and cheque, are threatening to send The Boys round to collect what they reckon to be their money from me, in person, at my home.

I telephoned Contact Management, explaining that someone in the same firm, different department, was investigating the situation. Was it reasonable, I wondered, to threaten in this way while a complaint was being investigated? Especially as I had paid what I actually owed?
Could I be given any sort of guarantee that these threats against me (there are more than just sending in The Boys) would not be implemented while there was an investigation apparently in process?
No, there are no guarantees. It's standard Virgin practice, I was told.

I am a fairly articulate 72 year old, living alone, but with two very large sons, one of whom is a lawyer, and the other with amazing strength gained by wild-water swimming. Both of them are exceptionally tall.
Don't mess with My Boys, Virgin Media.

But even I, with all these assets, feel threatened by the idea of a stranger arriving on my doorstep, demanding money. It is ridiculous to fear a knock on the door in the evening, but I do now.
And if I can be made to feel this over £24 which I reckon I don't owe anyway, what must more vulnerable people feel?
It is tempting to simply pay to get rid of the bullies. This is how bullies always work, by frightening people into submission.

So I write this nasty little cautionary tale on behalf of others who are bullied and frightened into submission, while I try not to be so myself.

Six hours after publishing this I received a message from Virgin Media Customer Complaints to say that I no longer owe them any money.
Thank you, Customer Complaints, but have you told Virgin Media Contact Management this, or is there still a risk of The Boys coming round to visit and attempt to collect payment?

And, just for the record, I didn't owe you any money in the first place.


Molly said...

Shame on Virgin. It's so frustrating when the right hand of a huge company has no idea what the left hand is doing. And bullying you? Triple shame! I hope your boys are close at hand, or can, perhaps [especially lawyer son] take over and read them the riot act. Are there no laws in the U.K against harassment?

Jane said...

Yes, we had problems cancelling our Virgin account when we moved house (it had been Blueyonder but Virgin took them over. We did shut them up eventually. John recently had a letter from a debt collecting agency saying he owed quite a large sum to Paypal. He was horrified as a quick trawl of Google brought up loads of similar totally unfounded cases featuring the firm. He ignored the instruction to ring them immediately but wrote at once to Paypal and the Agency threatening Solictor involvement and stating the truth - he never used paypal to purchase. They backed down and apologised but a lot of people would have become embroiled in the phone calls and possibly have paid up. It is just bullying and quite reprehensible.

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly and Jane: thank you for the supportive comments. I am rather shocked at myself for nearly giving way to threats and bullying. It is very intimidating, and obviously it works as a technique for getting money out of people.

Mouse said...

I never did like Richard Branson, he looks too much like the creature in Alien to me, all teeth and sucking you dry!

But yes, Bullies intimidate us into feeling fearful and small. Good for you for standing up to them!

Watchdog, Ann Robinson. I would write to Auntie Ann and send her all the details and a picture of you looking fragile and feeble (can you DO fragile and feeble for the photos?)

Relatively Retiring said...

Mouse: thank you for the support and advice, but I have absolutely no chance of doing fragile and feeble! Think white-haired Miranda Hart.

Fire Bird said...

may I recommend the Phonecoop?

Relatively Retiring said...

Firebird: thank you - that's really interesting, and I wish I'd known about it a few weeks earlier.

Zhoen said...

Bullies are everywhere, and very hard to fight. That they lose in the end doesn't make much difference to all those they hurt on the way.

Relatively Retiring said...

Zhoen: corporate bullying seems very well organised. Virgine Media obviously have a system devoted to it.
If I had caved in and paid up I wonder if some other system might have flagged up that they had made a mistake in charging me?
I think we both know the answer to that one.

Anne said...

The whole thing is absolutely outrageous. But it made an intensely satisfying read. You really let them have it. I hope lots and lots of people read it and decline their services (or lack of service.)

I send that lawyer son after them for sure!

Anne said...

I should proof read. Of course I meant I'd send etc.

Relatively Retiring said...

Anne: thank you for reading and commenting.
Entertainingly, I've now had a somewhat confused and confusing letter from Virgin Complaints Dept, stating that I was NOT charged for the MAC, when the whole point of the complaint was the fact that I had been! They trust this resolves all my issuea and say they will never write to me again.
Well, that suits all of us, then!

Relatively Retiring said...

P.S. And now they have written to me again, to tell me that they won't be writing to me again. This is becoming a touch surreal.

Leslee said...

Ugh, how do they have any customers at all? I hope you are completely free and clear of these people very soon.

Relatively Retiring said...

Well, they keep writing to tell me they are not writing to me any more!

Anonymous said...

i'm afraid this seems to be very familiar Virgin joined up thinking and quite a nasty streak.not good people to deal with. ann mcgee.