Broadband prospects declare they’re trapped in pricey contracts with Virgin Media 5 months after the telecoms regulator launched an investigation into the corporate’s cancellation procedures.
Ofcom introduced its inquiry in July after complaints that Virgin was inserting “pointless limitations” in the best way of consumers who wished to change to cheaper suppliers after their fixed-term contracts had expired.
Many have confronted tariff will increase of greater than 50% on the finish of their broadband deal after the corporate introduced record-breaking value rises.
5 months on, Ofcom has no updates on its investigation. Within the meantime, extra prospects report being overlooked of pocket due to an incapability to cancel.
Joe Stafford spent a month attempting to finish his broadband contract when the month-to-month tariff soared by 52% after his minimal time period expired.
“I initially tried to make use of their net chat service, however after leaving it open all day for 2 consecutive days, I gave up,” he mentioned. “I then spent hours on maintain to their helpline which is completely ‘exceptionally busy’, and was lower off 4 occasions after I bought to talk to someone.”
When his cancellation request was lastly accepted, he was erroneously charged a £49 early termination charge. He mentioned his name to buyer companies was lower off once more after a two-hour wait when he was linked to an adviser. Virgin refunded the charge and a month’s service prices after intervention from the Guardian.
Not like suppliers who use the rival Openreach cable community, Virgin Media doesn’t permit its six million broadband prospects to cancel expired contracts on-line. Thirty days’ discover is required earlier than any change.
Complainants say that calls are left unanswered or lower out and that advisers tried to hard-sell them new packages.
It took Hagen Schumacher 40 days as an alternative of the contractual 30 to cancel his £77.50 a month contract after the minimal time period. He was then threatened with debt collectors until he paid prices accrued through the 10-day delay.
“The decision centre agent first tried to promote me one other bundle. After I declined I used to be placed on maintain and after an hour’s wait the decision disconnected,” he mentioned. “I attempted their Stay Chat which is manned by a chatbot and bought lower off after ready 83 minutes for an agent. I then despatched a registered letter to cancel.” Virgin Media admitted a delay and refunded the additional charge after contact from the Guardian.
The buyer recommendation web site Broadband Savvy, mentioned it had been “inundated” with complaints from prospects struggling to flee Virgin’s record-breaking value rises.
“Some have been attempting to cancel their connection for 3 months or extra, solely to surrender after spending hours of their life on maintain, and being repeatedly disconnected whereas ready to talk with somebody,” mentioned founder Tom Paton.
Households nonetheless in fixed-term contracts, in the meantime, face a triple whammy subsequent 12 months when modifications to Virgin Media’s phrases and circumstances come into impact.
The amendments permit annual inflation-busting value will increase, take away the best of affected prospects to terminate their contract with out value and abolish the present cap on early-exit charges which might quantity to a whole bunch of kilos on contracts with months left to run.
In August, the patron group Which? requested Ofcom to intervene, after the corporate introduced annual value rises could be 3.9% above the retail costs index (RPI). Different suppliers use the decrease client value index. This 12 months tariffs rose by 13.8%, the second highest within the sector. One other double-digit rise is anticipated subsequent April and prospects will now not have the ability to terminate unexpired contracts at no cost to keep away from them.
Ofcom final week introduced proposals to ban mid-contract inflation-linked value rises, stating they trigger “substantial quantities of client hurt”. Its ultimate determination shall be printed subsequent spring.
Virgin mentioned it accepted that it’s the solely large-scale supplier to hyperlink value rises to RPI. It mentioned that early disconnection charges are charged by different corporations and that as most prospects see out their contract, only a few incur them.
A spokesperson mentioned: “We’re dedicated to giving [prospects] clear choices ought to they want to depart. Criticism charges regarding ‘difficulties leaving’ have halved over the previous 12 months, exhibiting the progress we’re making, and a current Ofcom report confirmed that we lowered name ready occasions from virtually 4 minutes in 2021 to only over three minutes final 12 months.”