In January 2017 I downgraded my Virgin Media TV and Broadband package to Broadband only, meaning I no longer had need of the Tivo box. I was advised during the call I made to downgrade my package that I must return the Tivo box otherwise I would be charged for it, and to allow me to do that I would be sent some packaging to allow me to pack it up and drop it off at a parcel collection point. This packaging would be sent to me towards the end of February 2017 when my package actually switched over and my TV contract came to an end. Fair enough.
However, whilst my package switched over and TV service did come to an end at the appropriate time, I didn't receive the packaging to return the Tivo box. So I waited and waited until the 20th of March and when I still hadn't received the packaging I gave VM a call, getting through to their overseas call centre.
I explained the problem, that I'd never received the promised packaging and that I didn't want to be charged for not returning the equipment. In response I was told that some packaging had been sent to me, which I confirmed again that I'd never received and was told, no problem, we can get you some more packaging sent out, and we've also made a note on the system stating that you never received the first packaging so you won't be charged for not having returned the equipment yet. I should say that I waited in the queue for almost half an hour before getting throw to speak to someone, but I thought, well at least that's sorted.
However, the very next day on the 21st March, I received a text message from VM (from telephone number +447537410420, from which I have received numerous texts from Virgin so I know it's a genuine number) saying "HI, It's VM, you don't need to return the kit you're disconnecting. Just take it to a recycling centre, find your nearest one at www.recycle-more.co.uk."
I also received an email the same day (from email address EquipmentReturns@virginmedia.co.uk) saying;
Just to let you know, you don't need to send your disconnected equipment back to us.
I was told I'd be charged if I didn't return my equipment
Don't worry – you won't be charged a penny. We might have told you about charges for unreturned equipment, but these no longer apply to you.
What should I do with the equipment?
You can either keep hold of it – in case you want to join Virgin Media again – or recycle it. You can find your nearest recycling centre at www.recycle-more.co.uk
The Virgin Media team"
So, based on that text and email, a week later I took the equipment along to a recycling centre (you're not supposed to dispose of electrical equipment in your rubbish and it seemed like an expensive piece of kit to simply throw away, so recycling centre it was!).
However, I then received another email and text on the 3rd of April, both saying that I still needed to return the equipment to avoid a charge using the prepaid packaging that had been sent to me - which I still hadn't received, despite my call on the 20th March, which was irrelevant anyway as I'd recycled the equipment! I should also say that this text and email was sent using the telephone number and email address (EquipmentReturns@virginmedia.co.uk).
So I tried giving VM a call to ask them what the hell was going on but after waiting in the queue for another half an hour I gave up, thinking to myself if they charge me then they can sort it out.
I then heard nothing more until today (19th April) when I received another text and email (again from the same telephone and email address) stating that if I failed to return the equipment in 9 days then I would be charged.
So I got back on the phone and got through to one of the UK based call centres today, where I spoke to a very helpful lady with a Scottish accent. I explained the situation and in repsonse she asked me if by any chance I still had the email that I'd been sent on the 21st March, which I confirmed I did. She then explained to me that they had had a lot of calls from other VM customers with a similar complaint - they had received emails and texts telling them that VM no longer needed the equipment to be returned to them so they had therefore recycled it, only to then receive a subsequent email/text telling them they were going to be charged for not returning it - however, out of all of these other customers who had been affected by this (I can't give a number but she stated that there had been quite a few) I was the first customer that had actually retained the email to be able to send a copy to VM to confirm that they had received this message from VM.
But here's the shocking part - those other customers who hadn't retained the mail and therefore couldn't send a copy to VM for confirmation were then actually charged for not returning the equipment!
I was told that this wouldn't happen to me as I had been able to send them a copy of the email - which as stated above had actually been sent to me by their equipment returns department the first place. But i was only able to confirm that as I actually still had the email, unlike those other poor customers that were charged.
So I got off the phone (my mobile it set to record all telephone calls so I have a recording of the complete conversation, just like I had a recording of the previous call on the 20th March) and I thought to myself, hold on, this really isn't fair...
This call centre operative had just told me that they had received quite a number of calls from other customers stung by this same racket. But, as they hadn't been able to send VM a copy of the the email they received, they were billed for not returning the equipment. Now if that had been been one or two customers giving the same reason for not returning their equipment, you could forgiven VM for thinking well, this could just be an excuse. However, the customer service assistant told me that there had been quite a number of calls and complaints about the same thing, so why didn't they take this seriously, treat it as a genuine complaint and concern and carry out a prioper investigation, bearing in mind, the emails had actually originated from VM's own system as confirmed by the email I received and returned back to them.
But no, instead VM decided to ignore this (again, this situation was obviously common knowledge amongst the customer service operators) and go ahead and charge customers for not returning the equipment, which is absolutely shocking!
Hence my posting this here and I'll also post a copy of this over on some other forums, MSE etc.
As a result of my call with VM this morning, at the very least I would expect VM to carry out a full investigation and reimburse all those customers that they inappropriately charged as a result of what appears to be VM's mistake - as according to the customer service operator I spoke to , the equipment is very expensive and Virgin do want it back, hence those customers that have been billed for the equipment would have received a very steep charge! I would also say that those customers that have been incorrectly charged for this would also have good grounds for requesting some compensation from VM, especialy as it appears they were aware of some issue at the time these customers were actually billed for this.
Oh, and as far as the packaging was concerned, I asked about that too, as to this day I've never received any and I work from home and I'm taking delivery of packages and parcels almost every day so there's no way I could have missed it. In response I was told that THREE lots of packaging had actually been sent to me, which I was amazed at, as I'd only asked for it to be resent to me once and hadn't received any. then, after getting off the call I checked the email I received this morning again, telling me I'd be charged if I didn't return the equipment in 9 days and at the bottom of that email, it actually states that some packaging had been sent to me and if I wished to check where it was, here's a link... which I clicked on... yup, Yodel was the delivery company (say no more) and the delivery was marked as 'successful' saying it had been delivered to me on the 24th Feb, which I'm sure I would have noticed!
Absolutely crap CS from VM (although the call centre operator I spoke to today was very friendly, polite and professional), but shocking to think that there are a bunch of VM customers out there that will have been charged for not returning and disposing of equipment as a result of VM's mistakes!