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Breaking: OFCOM investigating VM over difficulty cancelling VM contracts

Super solver

Ofcom has today opened an own-initiative investigation into Virgin Media’s compliance with its contract termination and complaints handling/facilitating appropriate access to ADR obligations during 2022/23, following complaints received from consumers.

You can help Ofcom in its investigation by letting them know all about your cancellation experience with VM here.

None of this will come as a huge surprise to those who have battled with offshore CS, endless retention conversations, abrupt call terminations, and the extraordinary expediency of being required to resort to snail mail to beg for a cancellation.

More background here

Cancel VM here
Complain to VM
Demand compensation from VM here
Demand your call recordings here
Monitor the state of your VM connection here

Dialled in

They need to also investigate them over missing emails and lost data. The ICO are involved, but Ofcom should also step up.

Alessandro Volta

An excellent find Cardiffman282.

For anyone who has read these forums for any significant time, this is long overdue.

The OFCOM links need to be signposted on all future topics complaining about VM's sub-standard complaints and cancellation processes.

On our wavelength

Complaints from people who cant cancel there contracts.

On our wavelength

Virgin Media is being investigated by the telecoms regulator over complaints that it is too difficult for customers to cancel their contracts.

People told Ofcom they struggled to speak to a customer services agent by phone, with some calls being dropped and others facing long waiting times.

Others said they had to make repeated requests to cancel their services.

Virgin Media said complaints relating to "difficulties leaving" had halved over the past year.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for the media giant, which has come under fire in recent months over disruption to its services. That led to an apology in April when thousands of people in the UK reported they were unable to access the internet twice in one day.

In June, some Virgin Media email users were left unable to send or receive emails for 36 hours, and while this issue was resolved, some customers still could not access their inboxes two weeks later.

The BBC has asked Virgin Media whether this disruption to emails has been fully resolved.

All of this comes after telecoms companies raised their prices substantially in April, with Virgin Media telling customers they faced an average 13.8% increase in their bills.


What are my rights for changing my broadband supplier?

  • If you're near the end of your contract, you could benefit by switching to a different supplier altogether, or if you're good at negotiating you might even be able to get down the price of your current deal by calling
  • If you're not out-of-contract and you're struggling to pay your bill, there is support available
  • You can arrange a payment plan with your provider, or you might be allowed to switch to a cheaper internet package without paying a penalty fee
  • There are also broadband and mobile tariffs available which are meant to help people on universal credit and other means-tested benefits
  • Virgin Media is one of the suppliers offering a "social tariff" for £12.50 per month
  • There are no charges for getting a social tariff, no fee to leave before the contract expires, and the price won't increase midway through

Ofcom is also investigating how Virgin Media has handled complaints, and whether customers knew their rights.

It said companies should tell customers that they have the right to escalate their complaint to an independent ombudsman.

'Unnecessary barriers'

"Our rules are there to protect people and make sure consumers can take advantage of cheaper deals that are on offer," said Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes.

"That's particularly important at the moment as households look for ways to keep their bills down.

"We're taking action today, on behalf of Virgin Media's customers, to investigate whether the company is putting unnecessary barriers in the way of those who want to switch away."

Ofcom said it was important for customers to be able to switch providers easily in order for the telecoms market to remain competitive.

This means people can take advantage of better deals elsewhere, and potentially save money.

If it finds Virgin Media broke the rules, the company could face a fine and be told to change its procedures.

"Any allegation that Virgin is making it tough for customers to cancel its services is a very bad look for the UK's third-biggest broadband provider, particularly in the midst of a bitter cost-of-living crisis," said Alex Tofts from comparison site Broadband Genie.

"If Ofcom's investigation finds the company in breach of its rules the damage to its reputation is likely to far outweigh any fine."

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: "We are committed to providing our customers with excellent service, supporting them with any issues and giving clear options should they wish to leave.

"Complaint rates relating to 'difficulties leaving' have halved over the past year, showing the progress we're making, and we will keep working with Ofcom throughout its investigation, while making further improvements in how we handle customer complaints to provide a better overall experience.

I get where you are coming from, but this is an entirely different matter and isn’t really within OFCOM’s remit. They are concerned whether VM are adhering to the rules regarding compensation, easy of leaving, company practices etc. which VM agreed to.

So, for example, in the great email debacle of 2023, OFCOM can’t actually intervene in how they provide a service, only whether or not they pay the proper level of compensation - of course that is to be decided! However, if, and it is a big if, VM have been negligent in looking after customer information then I promise you that the ICO can inflict fines and damage to a level that will make anything that OFCOM can do, look like child’s-play!

Alessandro Volta

A big fat fine doesn't seem to be first choice in the ICO's proposed new approach to enforcement though

@goslow wrote:

A big fat fine doesn't seem to be first choice in the ICO's proposed new approach to enforcement though

Absolutely true, except imagine a government, not doing too well in the polls, thinking ‘you know what, if we were to (unofficially) lean on a organisation to impose massive fines and we can claim how much we are on the consumer’s side and in evidence claim ……’

Personally, if I were Lutz, I wouldn’t necessarily be sleeping too well tonight.*

* except, of course, whatever happens, VM’s senior management will walk away with a big payout and any fines will eventually be carried by the poor customers - such is the way these things work.

Alessandro Volta

I don't imagine that the sleep of any VM executives is disturbed in any way at all by any of the above!

Alessandro Volta

@goslow wrote:

A big fat fine doesn't seem to be first choice in the ICO's proposed new approach to enforcement though

That's correct, I work for a regulator (not Ofcom, be assured), and fines are a last resort.  Monetary penalties and prosecutions are long winded, slow, open to legal challenge, what a regulator seeks is compliance.  So they'll be trying to understand what the facts are, why cancelling is difficult, what VM have been doing about it, and what needs to happen to make things different in future.  Helping a non-compliant company into a compliant position is always quicker and potentially more effective than extracting a few quid from them.  From a business perspective, fines are a corporate expense and are never paid by the parts of the business that create a problem.  Unless there's direct criminality nobody will be help personally to account.  So whilst I'd dearly like VM to be fined squillions for this long running, deliberate, and unacceptable behaviour, I don't think that will happen.  The ideal outcome would be as somebody commented earlier, a simple "cancel my contract because I hate you" button in MVM.  Other industries manage it, VM and other telcos should be forced to provide that  However, where Ofcom are a pushover, I expect that all that will happen will be VM are found to have made things difficult, but will get away with a mumbled "dint meen it, won't do it again much" apology, before trying to get back as close as possible to the previous behaviours without breaking the letter of any promises to Ofcom.  

On the plus side, a regulatory investigation is difficult and very expensive for companies.  I shall contact them and provide my observations during my time as a VIP, others may wish to consider whether they have anything to add for Ofcom.

You EARNED this Virgin Media, now OWN it.  Hahahahahhahahaha!