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“The Mother of all Broadband. It’s fast. It’s fibre optic. It’s half price. It leaves all the competition behind.” – Virgin Media
“If something sounds too good to be true it probably is.” – Unknown
So you’ve seen the website, read the promises and have decided to sign up to Virgin Media and are now looking forward to your services being installed. Well the easy part is over, you’ve potentially now got weeks of phone calls, lies, immense frustration and broken promises to look forward to! The following is an account of my personal experiences with Virgin Media and I cannot comment on how other users have been treated. However, I can point you to Review Centre which at the time of writing has 72 reviews for Virgin Media with the average ratings below:
Customer Service: 2.6/10
Speed Consistency: 4.6/10
Value for Money: 3.4/10
Overall Rating: 2.7/10
Wow – doesn’t look too great does it? So you must be asking what would drive somebody to be so annoyed with a company that they would create a website detailing their experiences? Well, the following story explains the ordeal that I’ve had with Virgin Media which started around a year ago. If you get bored at any point, feel free to jump to the alternative broadband supplier’s page.
In September last year I moved into a student house with a group of friends. We did a bit of research and decided to go with Virgin Media for broadband, telephone and television services as they were offering 20 Meg broadband, which seemed very appealing as we would be sharing a connection between us. We went onto the Virgin Media and started the sign up process. Unfortunately, the Virgin Media website wouldn’t allow us to sign up for a telephone service without giving them our current phone number. Slightly bemused as to what to do as there was no phone service connected to the property, we decided to give customer services a ring. Realising a 30 minute phone call to the sales department from a mobile phone would cost us around £5, we asked our neighbours if we could borrow their landline. They kindly let us and we spoke to a very helpful sales person who gave us what we thought was a great deal at just over £30. We agreed to this over the phone and they even honoured the online discount as their website wouldn’t let us sign up online.
It took around 3 weeks for the services to be installed which was very annoying as we were living and working in the property, and not having broadband was a major inconvenience. Finally when the services were turned on (the house already had cable installed we just needed to be connected), we couldn’t connect to the broadband. I phoned up customer services and was told that we’d done something wrong and would have to phone support on 09… Realising this was a premium rate number; I said that I would like them to transfer me to avoid paying extortionate rates for their mistake. They refused to do this, but did say that if they were in the wrong they would refund the cost of the phone call to the account. I phoned them up and they told me that we’d been given the wrong PIN number and an incorrect phone number. £10 credit was put onto our account which hardly makes up for the 4-5 hours that my housemates and I spent trying to get things sorted out. Finally everything was set up and working ok!
After a few months, we looked at the bills and couldn’t work out why we were paying so much. Phoning customer services it seemed that we were paying £12/month more than we agreed to. Fortunately we’d made a note of the sales person we spoke to and the exact discounts we were offered, and the agreed price. The person at customer services said that if we didn’t want to pay the new price £12/month higher than we agreed, they would have to reduce the speed of our broadband to make up for it. Pointing out that we had signed a contract for £30/month and not £42, we refused to accept this. Eventually, we managed to get a refund on the amount we were overcharged and an agreement that the future price would be what we agreed to.
Throughout the year we suffered with slow broadband at certain times of the day and experienced multiple times where the services stopped working completely for an extended period of time.
At the end of the year we cancelled the account and then phoned up at the start of this new academic year to see if we could get the services at our new property.It was not my choice to go with Virgin Media again, but as I was not the account holder, the overall decision was made that it was worth the risk if we could get 20 Meg broadband again.
Virgin were contacted a week or two before the start of term so we could get the services installed before we had to start work. After agreeing to transfer the service over to the new property, we were told we wouldn’t get a refund on our previous cancellation charge as we were outside of the allowed time period between transitions. As such, we would have to agree to a new 12 month contract, even though we would only be in the property for 9 months. We agreed to this and signed up for the same package we had in our previous year and were told that we would be contacted shortly. After 10 days with no contact, the account holder phoned up Virgin Media and asked what was going on. They said that they had to ensure that the house could receive cable services as it hadn’t had them before. Despite the fact that we were in a terraced house and the neighbours either side both had Virgin Media services, somebody had to come and have a look at the property. We were informed that this could take up to 48 hours, but we would be contacted as soon as they knew we could get the services. After around 4 days having heard nothing, we phoned back and were told that the job of checking whether services can be installed is subcontracted to another company and they have no control how quickly the house can be checked, but we would be told as soon as they heard something. Even more time passed so I phoned up Virgin again to find out what was going on. This time I phoned up and explained that I wasn’t the account holder, but was phoning up on their behalf and that I had all of the security details. This was all fine, but I had to be transferred to another department to answer my query. I was transferred to the wrong departments a few times, but finally got through to somebody who could answer my query. What followed was a very frustrating conversation.
The woman I was speaking to told me that there was currently a backlog and that they couldn’t give me a date when the service would be installed. I asked her to give me an upper bound, but she was also unable to do this. I asked if it could potentially be a month or two and I was told that it could well be this long! Having spent 2 weeks of term without broadband waiting for Virgin to install their services which we had been led to believe would be installed shortly, I felt very insulted. I asked how it could possibly take so long to install and was told that there was a backlog. I pointed out that we were not informed it would take this long to provide us with the services when we initially agreed to sign up, but the customer services representative wasn’t helpful. I asked why they were taking on new customers when they were clearly unable to get through their backlog of customers waiting to be installed and her response was “well I can lie to you and tell you that you just can’t get the services if you want?”. Disgusted that a company as large as Virgin Media could provide such appalling customer service as this, I asked to speak to her supervisor. She refused my request saying that her supervisor would not be able to provide me with any more information than I had already been given. I said that the reason I wanted to speak to her supervisor was that I wished to make a complaint, but she said that I’d have to speak to the complaints department and not her supervisor. Naturally, I asked her to connect me to the complaints department, but I was told they didn’t accept telephone complaints and the only way to contact them was by post! I pointed out that there was an urgent rush for us to get broadband and that we couldn’t wait for a letter to arrive and then eventually get a response. As she couldn’t help solve the problem, I asked why we shouldn’t just go with an alternative broadband supplier. Her response was “well why don’t you then?”. I told her to cancel the account and we’d go with somebody else.
The following day we signed up for a BT landline and a few days after that, broadband from O2. The following day guess who phones up? Virgin Media wanting to give us an installation date for our new services! The account holder explained the situation that they’d taken so long that we’d gone with another company who could give a guaranteed installation date. Virgin said that they would be able to offer us an installation in a week’s time, £50 credit to the account and they would sort out the cancellation of the other services we’d signed up to due to their incompetence. Unfortunately, the account holder buckled to these terms and allowed them to go ahead with the installation on an apparently guaranteed firm date.
This brings us up to today, the day before our confirmed installation date. Virgin Media phone up saying they can’t install our services and that it will be another week before they can. This will make it 7 weeks since we first asked them to provide our services and we still don’t have internet, a telephone connected or digital television services. The only way to describe how we have been treated is disgraceful. Looking at the terms and conditions of the Virgin Media services, I can’t help but laugh at:
“Virgin Media’s Obligations
provide high standards of Customer Support seven days a week, 365 days a year;”
As students we have to take a 12 month contract even though we know we will only want 10 months, but with Virgin Media being 2 months late installing, we will now get only 8 months service out of our 12 contract, so effectively we have had to pay them for a service we have not had for the last 2 months.
My only recommendation to anybody thinking about signing up to Virgin Media is think carefully first. A list of alternative UK broadband suppliers can be found here.
Update: Virgin Media hae now pushed back the installation date by ANOTHER week. Still no broadband, phone or tv services and we’ve been told there are not enough engineers to install it for at least another week.
Update 2: We have now been stung for a £130 fine from BT as Virgin Media never payed the cancellation charge they promised to. Virgin are refusing to refund the money as we have no proof that they agreed to. They have since agreed that they do make agreements to pay the cancellation charges in certain circumstances. However, they do not understand the logic that we would not take out a BT landline and cancel it within 24 hours to go for an inferior company and pick up a large fine.
Update 3: They have now told us that the reason they will not pay the cancellation charge is that the Virgin Media account and BT landlines were under different names! We were told this was not a problem at the time as the property address was the same.