Marriage separations are rarely easy and they should not be made harder by a television and broadband provider. But that appears to have been the case for a reader named Liam.
“I have spent two months trying to transfer the name on the Virgin account from my own to that of my ex-wife,” his email starts. “I do not know whether my consumer rights have been infringed or whether I have any grounds for legal complaint, all I know is that it has been extremely poor customer service, which has caused a certain amount of distress at what is already a difficult time.”
In the lead-up to the couple’s formal separation, which involved him leaving the family home, his ex-wife and he set about transferring various accounts associated with that address into her sole name, in order, among other things, to allow them to close their joint accounts.
“This went smoothly in the main. City Bin instructed us that the account needed to be closed and a new one opened, which they did in a five-minute phone call. The TV licence asked for an email” and then made the change.
They phoned Virgin Media in November and were told they had to ask for his wife's name and email address to be added to the account. Then they were told to send a letter with both their signatures to Virgin Media requesting that his name be removed.
“This we did. The first letter did not arrive, but the second one did. I found that my new address could be served only by Virgin, so I set up a new account.”
He then received an email from Virgin Media that appeared to misunderstand completely what he wanted to do.
In any event, he was told in an email that Virgin was “not able to change the name on an existing Virgin Media account. What we can do is set up a new account under the new name”.
So Liam phoned customer care, “where the support person did not understand what I was looking for, and I asked that the call be escalated. I received no follow-up, but when I got a survey on my interaction on Christmas Eve, I expressed my disappointment and asked to be contacted. I received a further survey on my new account on January 8th and filled it in the same way.”
In the middle of January, he got a response to the survey form he had filled in. It said: “I can see that you have since spoken to a member of our customer care team and your issue has been explained to you. Thank you for taking the time to complete the survey, we value your feedback. Thanks for choosing Virgin Media.”
So he replied that he had had no contact from Virgin Media since answering the survey and asked to be contacted.
A couple of days later he got a call from the author of the most recent email. She said that although the company had a policy that allowed for the name to be changed in the case of the death of the account holder, they did not allow for this in the case of separation or divorce, and that the only solution was to close the account and for his ex-wife open a new one, with new equipment.
“Apart from the waste of perfectly functioning hardware, I noted that the new Horizon box did not have a Scart output, and so would not work with the existing AV set-up. I was told that was the policy. I told her that the policy was dreadful and that they might want to rethink it. I asked again to be contacted by someone in her management team.”
Virgin called him back and said there were two options. “The simpler was to add my wife’s name to the account, along with mine. The other was to sort out a new account, keeping the old equipment but losing all the recordings.
“I was taken aback that Virgin Media’s solution was to name a separating couple on the same bill, and expressed surprise that this had even been suggested. I was informed that she was only trying to help.
“When I asked, by the same logic, would Virgin Media suggest to a bereaved spouse that their name be added to that of the deceased in order to continue service, I was reminded that the policy was different in that regard.”
He says the idea of suggesting to a former spouse that they remain an item in the eyes of Virgin Media because their policy did not allow for separation “beggars belief”.
“Also, over the course of the two months I have been misinformed, talked down to and ignored. It is as though they want to lose business.”
We contacted the company, which quickly apologised for “any inconvenience” to our reader. A spokeswoman said that the company had made contact with him “and resolved all outstanding matters”. She said the company now understood that “this interaction with us was not successful for our customer and, looking back on how matters were progressed, we really could have made things easier for him. We should have better understood his instructions and reacted more promptly to his requirements in helping him to get matters resolved. We will definitely bear this case in mind and we’re grateful to the customer for raising this issue as a concern.”