Switching broadband services should be easy when everything is digital, so why am I having such a battle to switch from Virgin Media to Sky?
I’ve recently been trying to pull the plug on Virgin Media, which has proved both time-consuming and stressful.
I’ve faced the frustration of call centre queues, been quizzed multiple times about my reasons for leaving and warned I’ll face slower speeds if I go.
After finally giving notice, my husband suddenly starting received daily missed calls from Virgin Media.
Why I want out
This all came about when our broadband contract came to an end and I rang up asking if they could offer a better deal or a lower price (as you always should).
Despite taking the ‘thinking of leaving us’ option, the ‘best’ deal they came up with saved a measly £2 a month and meant sacrificing broadband speed.
So, I decided it was time for us to switch providers, prompting us to shop around, find a better deal (with Sky) and sign up.
Leaving isn't straightforward
But the next step of giving Virgin Media its required 30 days’ notice proved tricky.
I called customer service who insisted only my husband, the official account holder, could cancel the service, which could only be done over the phone.
Now, when the account was first set up, we asked for it to go under joint names, but were told this wasn’t possible.
The solution was to set up a password giving me full access to the account, but clearly my powers stopped short of actually closing the account.
One morning in late September, with my husband on the sofa beside me, I called back yet again.
Layers of red tape
Once again, we took the ‘thinking of leaving us’ option, featuring constant automated messages apologising for the delay, citing ‘high call volume’.
When we finally got through, I now faced a double whammy as I had to go through two layers of Virgin Media red tape as two separate people both wanted to quiz me on why I was leaving.
First time round, I was questioned on my reason for leaving.
I patiently explained I’d like to leave as we’d signed up with another provider but was told I had to speak to someone else in customer relations to give the required 30 days’ notice to cancel the account.
Yet again, I got the same question about why I was leaving, same answer from me, followed by an offer of a half-price deal.
I was so fed up at this point that I bluntly told the advisor I no longer wanted the service, even if they were going to give it to me for free.
Warnings over slower speeds
Finally, they got the message but then warned me I’d lose my email account by switching providers, (though I’d already found you get 90 days grace), along with a warning I could face much slower speeds by switching.
And to top the lot, despite Virgin Media originally insisting my husband was the only person who could cancel the service, when I asked if he needed to get on the phone, my word was good enough this time round!
But that’s not the end of it.
Since we gave notice to switch, my husband has had seven missed calls on his mobile over the last four days from Virgin Media, but no messages were left.
A clean break really is difficult, it seems.
Why is it so hard to cancel?
In most cases, you don’t actually need to tell your current broadband supplier you’re leaving, as your new one does this for you.
But according to communications regulator Ofcom and our new provider, Sky, if you’re switching from a provider that doesn’t use the Openreach network you need to cancel your service yourself.
Does Virgin Media play fair?
Ofcom has set out conditions that providers must comply with.
It said providers must ensure “customers who are leaving do not face additional barriers or hassle compared with those who are signing up for new services.”
“Prolonged retention activity may act as a disincentive for leaving and providers should ensure they don’t act as a ‘disincentive agent' against changing contract providers,” commented Ofcom.
In other words, don't make leaving so difficult people simply can't be bothered.
I'm committed to ditching Virgin, but given my experience I can understand why some people might decide it's not worth the hassle.
What does Virgin Media say?
Contacting Virgin Media as a journalist was tricky and I sent two emails before they got in touch.
On my case, a spokesperson said the customer service advisor had "followed protocol" and added: "Like many businesses, Virgin Media ask customers for information about why they want to switch to a different provider.
"This is so we have the opportunity to resolve any issues they may be experiencing or offer them a package that’s more appropriate for their needs."
Even though I’d claim it was a bit more of a ‘hard sell’ at the point of leaving, what do they say about those seven calls to my husband after we'd given notice to leave?
Virgin Media say its customer care team may contact customers after they’ve cancelled to try and ‘address the reasons why they’re leaving’ and once again, try and offer a ‘new package that best meets their needs.’
But they do acknowledge that seven calls seemed excessive – apparently it was down to advisors trying to follow up on an earlier complaint as well.
Have you ever encountered problems leaving a broadband provider? Is there anyone you'd particularly like to commend for their service? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.
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