13 January 2021- Virgin Media - What is going on ?

I have used Virgin Media as my ISP for several years now. In my home we have, from time to time, up to seven people, all of whom may individually be Zooming, streaming movies, using the Web, and in my case Remote Desktoping onto servers in various locations around the world. For this reason, I need a decent amount of bandwidth, and I pay a considerable amount of money every month for Virgin's "Totally Unlimited 200Mb Superfast Broadband". Currently in my area Virgin are the only provider offering anything like these speeds, as they use coaxial cable from the street cabinet. Everyone else uses twisted-pair phone lines, and the maximum bandwidth advertised by the closest rivals offering me service is just 67Mb.

For several years, everything was fine, and I reliably received at least the advertised bandwidth, in fact often a little bit more, at pretty much any time of the day. However, for the past year, their level of service has just gone down and down, and the current state of affairs can only be described as abysmal. I just checked my speed (using Ookla Speedtest, on a dedicated clean-built PC connected to my router via Cat6 cable and Netgear Gigabit Ethernet switches). Ping time was 63ms and Download Bandwidth 12.63Mb, which is less than ONE FIFTEENTH of what I am paying for. I have been checking regularly for the last few weeks, and it is utterly inconsistent. Sometimes, occasionally, I might get 200Mb, then trying again a few seconds later it could be down to 60 or 70. The only consistency is that it is up and down like a Yo-yo, and regularly drops out altogether. So, I just tried to call them on their advertised Customer Service number 0345 454 1111, to be greeted with a recorded message "This person's phone is currently unavailable. Please try later, or send a text". So I tried to send them a text on that number and guess what, the number does not accept text messages. I have never, ever known the like from a supposedly reputable company

I would not mind quite so much if this had only been a problem recently, but it has been the whole of the last year, including before the Covid-19 pandemic started to impact the UK. What this has meant apart from anything else is that I have had to upgrade my mobile data contract with Vodafone to unlimited data, making it even more expensive than the fixed broadband, just to be able to use it as a fallback. I have complained to Virgin Media several times over the year, and their response has been thoroughly unacceptable. First of all, when you call them you have to get through their long-winded automated call handling system - "press 1 for this, 2 for that" etc., and most of the paths through end up with them telling you to go to their website, then hanging up on you. The trick, it seems, is to ignore all requests for input, at which point it does say it is putting you through to speak to someone. However, you will then be kept on hold for an average, in my experience, of around 30 to 40 minutes.

Eventually, you will get through to a person located in a foreign call centre. I have no problem with that per se, and indeed am very used to working with people from all over the world. However, when you are paying for a service in the UK that is not working properly, it is reasonable to expect to be dealt with by someone who 1) has the capability to converse intelligibly in English and 2) has the necessary technical knowledge to help with your problem. Each time that I have spoken to them, I do not believe either of these to have been the case. Despite my explaining that I am an IT professional and can demonstrate that the local network I have built in my home is robust and performant, one of their operatives wanted me to start dismantling and re-wiring it. I had neither the time nor the inclination to do this, not least because it would be futile. It was clear that this person did not know what they were talking about, and were clearly following a script, which seemed designed to deflect blame from themselves and/or make me give up and go away. Another time, as I happened to be using a CAT-5e cable rather than CAT-6 between the PC I was testing on and my Network Switch (just because I happened at the time to have one made up that was long enough - I have since made up a CAT-6) I was told that the fault was mine because maximum speed that any Cat-5 cable could support was 100Mbps. This is simply untrue - Cat-5e supports 1Gbps. Plus even if it were true, it would not explain why I was only getting about 20Mbps out of my broadband connection. Neither would it explain why I had been getting the reliable 200Mbps previously using the same cable. On another occasion, a different operative tried to tell me that it was my own fault because I had downloaded a lot of data in the last month. When I pointed out that what they were selling was advertised as "totally unlimited" and having no "fair usage" caps, and that if that was the case then they were in breach of contract and guilty of fraudulent advertising, she tried to row back, although the "explanation" of what she had just said was pure waffle and made no logical sense whatsoever.

Over the year I have also been made several separate promises along the lines of "we know there is a problem, work is in progress to fix it, and this will be complete by such-and-such date". I even recently received an email from them claiming that everything was now fixed and that "We’ll...be keeping an eye on the connection between your Hub and our network, to help make sure you’re getting the broadband speeds you pay for”. However, this time, the same as all the previous times, the problem is very much NOT resolved, and in fact the last time I spoke to them I was told, once again, "we are fixing it, and that will be completed by 24th February". In short, you cannot believe a word that they tell you.

Most recently, knowing that trying to phone them is very time-consuming, indeed today actually completely impossible, and gets you absolutely nowhere, I have also written to their published complaints address, which is:

Virgin Media,
SR43 4AA

For my trouble, I have received a letter in response, which says that they will investigate my complaint and respond in writing within 28 days. They also claim that "a member of the customer service complaints team" will "take ownership of my complaint" and "be in contact shortly by phone or text". That letter has no date on it, but was received about a week ago, and as yet no one has tried to contact me.

The other thing to mention is that in addition to all the above, I have also had issues with their hardware, with no less than three routers in about as many months simply dying for no apparent reason. The so-called engineers that they have sent round were no use whatsoever. In the end, I tested my own hypothesis that the electronics in their hardware is of rather cheap quality and cannot cope with providing WiFi AND having devices plugged directly into all 4 of its built-in Ethernet ports at the same time, by buying another Netgear switch and having only one cable connected directly to the router. The problem has not recurred in the several months since, which tends to rather support my hypothesis.

Oh, and it's not just me. See HERE for many more unhappy customers.

I will continue to post here with updates if and when there is any movement, but in the meantime I would advise anyone thinking about subscribing to Virgin Media to think very carefully, because it definitely does NOT "do what it says on the tin".