Opinion: leaving Virgin Media is far harder than it needs to be

Opinion: leaving Virgin Media is far harder than it needs to be

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?

Sue Hayward

Rights, Scams and Politics

Sue Hayward
Updated on 13 July 2023

I recently left Virgin Media and the process proved time-consuming and stressful.

I faced the frustration of call centre queues, had to explain numerous times why I wanted to leave and was warned I’d face slower speeds if I left.

After finally giving notice, my husband suddenly starting received daily missed calls from Virgin Media.

Fed up with Virgin? See the top Sky deals you could switch to)

Why I wanted 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, where I found a better deal with Sky (build your Sky package here) and signed 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.

Compare broadband packages with Broadband Genie

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 around, 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.

How Virgin’s Richard Branson makes and spends his millions

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 around!

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.

Slow broadband: 4 factors holding back superfast broadband for all

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.

Could you save with a Sky bundle? Compare TV & broadband deals

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 (fancy ditching Virgin yourself? Compare top Sky deals)

The UK's best and worst broadband providers

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.

This article was originally written in 2019

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.

Search for a cheaper broadband deal with Broadband Genie

*This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any sales of products or services we write about. This article was written completely independently.

Most Recent