Home > internet, uk > Virgin Media: How to really annoy your customers

Virgin Media: How to really annoy your customers

I struggled to decide what title to use for this article, since it covers several aspects of a company that doesn’t seem to know its arse from its elbow. The important bit first is some advice for any existing customer of Virgin media, especially those with the £37 a month ‘Broadband XL’ package and a Virgin Media phone line.

Have a look at this page, then call Virgin Media’s customer services on 150 from your Virgin Media phone line, or 0845 454 1111 from any other phone line. Select option 2 to change your package, and tell the customer services person you want the same deal as new customers. They will say they can’t offer you that deal as it’s only for new customers (I was offered a package for £55), so tell them you want to cancel all your Virgin Media services. You will be transferred to the ‘retentions’ department, who should agree to move you to the new prices if you take a new 12 month contract.

I will explain this a bit better for those of you who aren’t customers of this company. I am a Virgin Media customer of 9 or 10 years, I can’t remember exactly how many since it’s been so long. I started on dialup internet and worked my may up through the packages to the current 20Mbit ‘Broadband XL’. I pay £37 a month for this, plus around £11 for a phone line plus calls on top. New customers now get the usual ‘cheaper for a few months’ deal and pay £21 plus calls for three months. After three months the price goes up to £31 plus calls, that’s £20 for broadband and £11 for a telephone line. And that’s the price it stays at. So existing customers will continue to pay £48+ for the two services while newer customers will pay £31+. Note that these are all broadband plus phone prices, as for some reason broadband XL without a phone line is still £37.

These new prices are what triggered the call to Virgin Media’s customer services, and I’m now saving £204 a year for the same phone and internet bundle. I don’t know how long the new customer prices have been in effect, but they were not that low when I wrote about Virgin Media on 22nd January this year. I haven’t received any offers of lower prices from Virgin, and I don’t know if Virgin Media intend to drop all customers charges in the future.

Anyone’s who has read some of my recent rants will know I’m not very impressed with the slow drop in quality and increase in cost of Virgin Media’s broadband service. I’ve been looking at other options for ‘unlimited’ broadband but the simple fact is that unless you are prepared to pay a lot more (and that means at least double the £37 a month charge from Virgin Media) there is no such thing as ‘unlimited’ broadband in the UK. You’re looking at business packages if you want true 24/7 unlimited usage. I don’t mean unlimited as in downloading 216 Gigabytes a day, since that’s the theoretical maximum a 20 megabit connection could handle. My idea of unlimited is downloading a Linux install DVD when I want, or using online backup services and not avoiding the hours of 4pm to midnight unless I want to slow to 5 megabits for the next few hours.

I found out about the new customer charges after reading a reality defying article at tech.co.uk. The story is that Virgin plan to make the BBC’s iPlayer content available through it’s set top boxes in April. That’s good for customers, and it looks like a promising step on the way to a modern content delivery system. But how much extra network bandwidth will it require? And will this impact the speed of the broadband packages? To quote the tech.co.uk article, a Virgin Media spokesperson said:

The two things do not affect each other. So if you have our 20MB service then you can be watching the iPlayer on your television and still have a 20MB broadband

Great, so we get extra on demand content with no impact to current services. Tech.co.uk asked about concerns with the increased use of services like iPlayer and youtube, but “Virgin’s stance is that is has the infrastructure in place to easily cope with any increased demands“.

That sounds a bit contradictory, since there’s a cap on download speeds if you use more than Virgin Media consider to be ‘fair’. Does this mean Virgin Media has been restricting usage to make way for the new services? The last part of the article is the best bit.

“We have seen a rise in traffic from things like iPlayer but we are in an excellent position in terms of bandwidth and we don’t have an issue with that type of traffic,” the spokesperson said. No Mention of what type of traffic they do have an issue with, but I would guess Bittorrent traffic is one of them.

“Ultimately we provide an unlimited service and whatever data people choose to receive, we will cope with that demand.” What? How is it unlimited if there are limits? And Virgin Media will cope with whatever data people choose to receive? Either this spokesperson is talking marketing speak (otherwise known as bollocks) or Virgin Media are about to undertake a big change in tactics. As a customer I choose to be able to download 2.5% of my maximum possible daily amount at any time of day I choose.

“That is our position with regards to our unlimited packages.”

I noticed a while back that the unlimited package details made no mention of the fair use policy and capping. Has this changed? From the broadband details page here, no it hasn’t. ‘Plus there are no boring download limits‘ and further down the page, ‘No download limits’. I guess this is down to your interpretation of a speed cap after hitting a set data transfer. I think that’s a download limit, but others don’t, as I have seen from previous comments.

I asked the person I spoke to in the retentions department if there were still any restrictions, since there has been a speed cap for usage deemed excessive. They answered that the speed cap is still in place. I asked if they could explain why the broadband XL details page says ‘no download limits‘ if there is a speed cap. They got a bit flustered at this so I apologised for asking awkward questions, as they’re only doing their job not setting company policy. I’ll email customer support and ask them the same question.

  1. March 15, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Good Layout and design. I like your blog. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. .

    Jason Rakowski

  2. Anonymous
    September 6, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Screw virgin media. The quicker that company dies, the better for all.

  3. May 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I hope you have better luck with their customer services than I did. The advertize a new “V-Stuff” service with storage space, backup facilities and photo storage with 25 free (YES FREE) photo prints each mpnth. The only trouble is that it doesn’t work, and their Customer Services took around forty mails to get one to ring me, we then spent half an hour trying to get it to work. He then said he would have to contact a technical department and would call me back that day. That was fifteen days ago, still no phone call, and still it does not work.

    I have used your technique to screw them for a great deal with all tv, telephone and broadband services so am loathe to leave them over such a triviality, but they keep advertizing this V-Stuff service and I even get ‘personal’ mails fromm Richard Branson (NOT) telling me how great this service is, yet it doesn’t work. These mails are infuriating as they are adding insult to injury.

    Oh well, got that off my chest on another blog.

  4. June 4, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Well I finally got so fed up with talking to idiots who told me there was no problem and I should look at the troubleshooting page (which has nothing on the service not working, and neither does the useless ‘Status’ page), I went to the top man CEO Benjamin Husdan. He tried to change my log in name, change my password and still it didn’t work. He finally got someone who is a bit more Techy (John Powel) who (after about 60 hours) worked out that there was a problem with the service. No, really, I would never have known. That is what I had been telling them for weeks, I even sent them a listing of the php log in script page that was failing to give me access. Two days later it is still broken, no word other than it might take a couple of days, which I assume is VM version of a couple of days and not minewhich is 48 hours.

    Still at least they have admitted this service does not work, but it still does not show in their status page nor in the troubleshooting guide. They bring a whole new level to the term “Waste of space”.

  5. basshead
    June 6, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    I have signed up for the ‘V-stuff’ service and found it to be intermittent at best. The storage space (10Gb on my XL package) is only PC compatible at the moment so no use to a mac user. The photo’s (50 a month on my plan) are worth having though. The service doesn’t work well with firefox , I usually get an error message VAS Lookup failed for vmUserId: ‘-1’ when trying to log in. I don’t know what that means, but the MyVirginMedia page works ok in safari, camino and flock. I bookmarked the snapfish photo page on a rare occation when it worked in firefox so I can get to it any time through firefox for my free photo’s.
    I guess half the offered services working is a big improvement over the previous Virgin Extra’s, where none of the freebies worked for me.

  6. Liam
    November 29, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    Forgive me for commenting on an old article.

    The “Fair Use Policy” is simply in place to curb the overhead expenses VM has to pay to external carriers (ie, connections into the main internet backbone, or Tier 1 providers as the techies will know them).

    VM has to pay for these connections and the downstream bandwidth (no doubt they buy in bulk, but the point remains: they pay for the bandwidth).

    That’s the fair use policy, that’s the “cap” – and that’s the reason.

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