21 July 2021- Virgin Media - Update

Virgin Media never honoured any of their promises. No one "took ownership of my complaint", no one "contacted me by phone or text", and I never had any further response by letter. The final straw for me about 6 weeks ago (June 2021) when I tried phoning them yet again and was told that my complaint had been closed. So, there you go - don't expect anything from Virgin Media's complaints resolution process, they will lie to you and then close the complaint without any action, presumably in the hope that you will just forget about it.

Thankfully by this point a suitable alternative was at last available in my area - Three 5G Broadband. I have posted separately about this, but the headline is that it is better and cheaper. This meant that I could finally free myself from the clutches of Virgin Media and go after them for the refund that I so strongly deserved.

Since 2001, the UK Communications market has been regulated by a body called OfCom (a contraction of The Office of Communications). Ofcom is a Quango - A Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation - meaning that it purports to be independent but is in effect an arm of the Government. Their remit currently covers TV and Radio, Phone services, and, most relevantly here, Broadband services. Ofcom lay down rules for communications providers, intended to protect consumers from poor service and unfair practice. In my opinion, these rules are not strong enough, and neither is the enforcement, which is why companies like Virgin Media tend to behave like they are a law unto themselves and why, therefore, such appalling treatment of their customers persists.

Ofcom lay down the rules, but they do not handle consumer complaints. Instead, this is subcontracted out to another organisation called the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR). This is a London-based mediation and alternative dispute resolution body, founded as a non-profit organisation in 1990, with the support of The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), to encourage the development and use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and mediation in commercial disputes. The process itself for resolving disputes relating to communication and Internet services is known as CISAS. Again, in my opinion, this is not adequately robust, but short of expensive direct legal action, it is the best option that the consumer has.

I submitted a complaint about Virgin Media to the CEDR on 11 June 2021. Given the monthly cost, that I had received nothing like the service for which I was paying for over a year, and that this had caused me extreme inconvenience, not least an impact upon my ability to do my job AND necessitated me paying my mobile provider a considerable amount for Mobile Data to use as a fallback, I felt that Virgin should refund me around £1160.

Virgin Media deigned to respond on 30th June 2021, submitting a "defence", the long and short of which was that they aren't actually obliged to provide "continuous service", and that because I had received SOME service (note only VERY rarely was it anything like what I was paying for) then actually they had done nothing wrong and shouldn't have to refund me anything. It also contained inaccuracies and downright lies. For example, one paragraph says "whilst the Customer may have experienced some WIFI related issues; the company argues that the customer has had the benefit of those services under the provision of the contract". WiFi has been absolutely nothing to do with it as I connect to my Router using Cat6 cable and Gigabit Ethernet switches, something, I might add, which I had explained to them repeatedly. Another phrase used, at the same time ludicrous, infuriating and absolutely laughable, was:

"...it remains the company’s position that the service offered to the Customer is fit for purpose and complaint with its terms and conditions which specifically state that due to the nature of the internet, it cannot guarantee specific levels of performance for internet access and that it cannot be liable for interruptions or other problems with the services which are beyond its reasonable control."

In other words, that the miserable bandwidth I received for over a year was not their fault at all, it was "the Internet". That is a cynical and deliberate lie. Were it true, then the alternative Mobile Data connection that I was forced to use, at great expense, in order to do my work, being also a connection to the Internet, would have been equally affected. It was not.

Taking everything together, this absolutely demonstrates that their policy as a company is to blame everyone and everything else for their own gross deficiencies, in order that they can keep taking large amounts of money from their customers every month without actually providing a corresponding level of service.

The final adjudication came from CEDR on 15th July, and stated that Virgin must repay me a total of just £141 and write me a letter of apology. Here is the letter that Virgin Media sent me:

So, "Virgin Media always aim to provide the best service possible", "Virgin Media will aim to improve this in future", and they "look forward to providing me with an improved service in the future". Do I believe them ? Not in the slightest. Will I ever touch anything with the Virgin brand on it again ? Certainly not.