Cancelling Sky: ‘I found the experience very threatening ’
Pricewatch: Phone calls and 28 days’ notice mean ending TV package can be a challenge
In the letter to Sky’s managing director in Ireland, the customer said he would cancel his standing order after the next upfront payment, which was due in the middle of October. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
“My name is Thomas McCullough, a 73-year-old pensioner, and I am having difficulty disengaging from Sky,” begins a mail we received recently. Thomas signed up with Sky for a simple package about 10 years ago but in recent years has found himself using their channels less and less and, with repeated price hikes, he decided to give them the heave-ho.
“I have never used their online services, in fact I have never contacted them since I signed the direct debit,” he says. “I have heard that they make it difficult to leave, that they would inveigle you to move to a cheaper service or confuse you with some sort of offer. I was nervous about exiting,” he continues.
So he inquired online about cancelling the service and was given to understand that he could do so by email or by ringing them and that he needed to give 30 days’ notice.
“As I said, I never signed up to their online service, and when I tried it they wanted my contract number, which I don’t have, nor do I know where to get it. To ring, I think it is a premium number so I was terrified that I would be talked into another package and with a 20- or 30-minute call I would be clocking up a bill while they bamboozled me into staying with them. I decided to write expressing my wish to cease receiving the service.”
Cancel standing order
So in the beginning of October he identified who the company’s managing director in Ireland was and wrote to him saying that he wished to unsubscribe his Sky account. In the letter, he said he would cancel his standing order after the next upfront payment, which was due in the middle of October.
A few days later he received a letter from someone on the Sky team “advising that Sky received my request to cancel my account and that they needed to speak to the named account holder and was unable to get a reply the day he wrote his reply. So I rang the 0818 number and after four minutes of automated interaction I was advised there would be a 20-minute delay before an assistant would be available. I judged that a wait of 20 minutes was unreasonable while I clocked up a phone charge for 24 minutes.”
A few days later our reader wrote to the man who had written to him outlining his experience with the phone number and in the letter he repeated the fact that he had notified Sky of his wish to cancel his subscription a full 39 days before cessation of service on November 4th, 30 days after his final payment in the middle of October.
A few days later he received a call from Sky. “I found the experience very threatening and officious. After checking that I was Thomas McCullough, [a Sky representative] introduced himself and advised that the call was being recorded. His tone was slow and measured as he stated that he needed details for identity purposes. He asked for the last four digits of my bank account and I gave him the final two digits, which were correct, as that was all I could recall as I felt fussed.
“He repeated the question two or three times, again in a slow, deliberate voice. I felt threatened and said I was unable to recall the four digits and again in this slow deliberate voice he asked for the last four digits. I said I would hang up. Quickly he said that if I hung up my subscription would not be cancelled. I reckoned that all the identity questions were correct to that point and the last two digits were also correct and that this person was only looking for an excuse to make it difficult for me to exit Sky. I hung up feeling very upset and bullied. Sky had received my request to withdraw having been given more than 30 days notice.”
Since he cancelled his standing order he has received two letters telling him that his subscription is overdue and letting him know that access to Sky will be resumed when he pays the overdue amount. “No letter made any reference to the above interaction with Sky and my wish to cancel the subscription. I replied to both stating I did not wish to continue with my subscription and referred them to my earlier letters of cancellation.”
Then, in January, a letter from Fidélité Credit Management was sent requesting payment of €84.25 to cover an outstanding balance. “I did not receive this letter until February 26th, as I was away. If I repay the €84.25 I still have to get the subscription cancelled, which takes me back to where I started last October. I have copies of all letters received.”
We contacted Sky and a spokeswoman said its procedures for identifying a customer – including looking for a password or the final four digits of a bank account number were “standard” and “in place to ensure that Sky is fully compliant and to also protect the customer”.
She said the company “endeavours to provide customers with an ease of working with us, however, in this case we appreciate the customer was frustrated as we couldn’t reach a resolution” and as “ a gesture of goodwill we have placed the credit on the customer’s account and the balance is now zero. Our contact centre has also contacted the collection team to notify them that the balance is cleared”.