Virgin Media customers plagued by phone problems WILL receive compensation
Virgin Media customers whose landlines were dead for up to three weeks are being offered enhanced compensation – thanks to the News & Star.
The firm last week told one Carlisle man whose phone was dead for 11 days that he would be given less than £4 in compensation – despite him having to repeatedly use a pay-as-you go mobile phone to contact a poorly relative.
But company bosses relented after the News & Star intervened, confirming that it will now fully compensate all 800 or so of its Carlisle customers who were forced to depend on mobiles because their landlines were inactive.
The good news came as fresh evidence emerged of Virgin Media's chaotic service, with another Carlisle customer discovering that the postal address on the firm's own company letterhead was wrong.
Peter Whytock, 63, made the discovery after he tried to register his 90-year-old father in Belle Vue, Carlisle, as a priority customer because the pensioner is in failing health and depends on his son in emergencies.
Both men were left without working phones for weeks.
Mr Whytock sent Virgin Media a completed Virgin priority customer form, complete with an endorsement from his father's medical practice. All such vulnerable customers are supposed to get accelerated fault repair – with an engineer working on the problems within a maximum of four hours.
But the completed form was to Mr Whytock unopened at his Sanderson Close home in Lowry Hill with a note saying the Virgin Media address was invalid.
“Fortunately, I sent the form by recorded delivery, thinking as I sent it off that would be the end of the matter,” said Mr Whytock. “I was ringing up Virgin Media almost every day and their deadline for repairs kept moving.
Peter Whytock's returned letter
“Nobody there could give me any live feedback on what was happening since the phone went dead on September 13.
“Then, two weeks after I sent it, my completed priority customer form for my father came back unopened.
“The Post Office said that would be because the address was not valid. When I rang Virgin Media, and told them I'd send the letter to the address on their letterhead, they told me that the address was wrong.
“They gave me a new address, the postcode SA7 9ZJ. So they're sending out correspondence with a wrong address. I only found out because I sent the form by recorded delivery.
“So a lot of people who have registered as priority customers won't be on their system because people are being given the wrong address.
“When I asked them if I could email them a computer-scanned copy of the form they told me I couldn't, saying: 'We don't do email.'
“When I asked him how I could check that my father was on the scheme all he could suggest was that I ring back in a couple of weeks. It's almost as if they're trying to make things difficult by design.”
Like other customers, Mr Whytock took time off from work for a scheduled engineer's visit to check out his phone – but nobody showed up.
Disappointed customers did get some good news.
Patrick Tracey, 72, from St Edmunds Park, Carlisle, led calls for Virgin Media to properly compensate customers after he spent £25 keeping in touch with his elderly 89-year-old mother-in-law when his phone fell silent for 11 days.
He was initially offered £3.70 in compensation by Virgin Media.
But when the firm was challenged by the News & Star, bosses there agreed to increase the compensation for the hundreds of Carlisle customers to cover the costs they incurred by having to switch to using a mobile.
“I'm chuffed that you've managed to get that out of them,” said Patrick.
“When I asked them for compensation I was palmed off with a comment that it was their standard process. When it happened, we were trying to find a care home for my mother-in-law and the places we looked round couldn't contact me.
“It's good that they've decided to reimburse the cost of the mobile phone calls I've had to make but what about the stress and inconvenience that they have caused for me and so many other people?
“Their customer service has been appalling. This shows the power of the local press once again. I'll donate the compensation I get to the Friends of Brampton Cottage Hospital where my mother-in-law has had wonderful care.”
Mr Tracey added: “To add insult to injury, I've now had a letter from Virgin Media telling me that from November 1 my bill will be going up by £2.63 – an increase of 6.43 per cent.”
In a statement, Virgin Media said: “We can confirm the cabinet fault affecting landline service for some customers in Carlisle has now been resolved and service has been restored.
“In regards to Mr Tracey, the amount of compensation credited is based on the length of time he was without service.
“This is a standard process. However, as a gesture of goodwill, we will also review additional costs incurred by customers and refund accordingly. We will be talking to our customers individually in this regard.”
On the issue of Mr Whytock's returned customer priority form, she added that an investigation had been launched into why the letter had been returned unopened.
She said both postcodes he was given for the form were actual Virgin Media address but she could not at this stage explain why the form was returned and why Mr Whytock was given the altnerative address.