Virgin Media set debt collectors on dead woman
Company displayed ‘total indifference’ to death and seemed irritated dealing with it
“It is not how we treat customers who come to us to let us know about a family bereavement.”
We hear many consumer complaints every week but rarely do we come across big companies pursuing their customers beyond the grave. This week is an exception.
“My mum passed away on March 6th,” began a mail we received from a reader recently. The woman lived alone in Co Dublin and our reader, as her eldest son, “took responsibility for managing her affairs. As bills arrived I called the various utility providers and explained the situation. All were respectful and sympathetic,” he says.
There was one exception: Virgin Media.
In most cases when our reader made contact with the utilities he was told that it was simply a case of putting the outstanding bill in the name of the estate of his mother.
“In the case of Virgin Media the representative who seemed to be from out of State simply asked me whose name to put the bill for €420 in other than my mother. I informed him that as the house was empty and she had been dead for a month prior to renewal date we simply wanted to cancel the contract.”
The person in the Virgin call centre said the company had a unit which dealt with such matters and our reader was assured that the unit in question would make contact with him. They did not and a “few weeks later a further demand for payment arrived again addressed to my late mother and I called their helpline number again”.
This time he spoke to an Irish person.
“She explained that they had attempted to contact the account holder at the number on the account, as this was the only number they could call. They accepted that the number of my mobile which I had given them was in the notes on the account, but they had only called the land number at the house which obviously was not answered as the house is not occupied.”
Our reader was then told Virgin would now disconnect the signal, cancel the account and he was told that his mother would be billed for the amount now owing. She also mentioned a 30-day notice period. I asked them how can a deceased person give 30 day notice of their demise.”
That was all bad enough but the story does not end there. Several weeks later a fresh bill for €59.68 arrived. And again it was addressed to our reader’s late mother. He ignored it.
It gets worse again.
“I then received a demand for payment still addressed to my late mother from Credit Management Outsource Solutions for €68.63. I contacted them and explained the circumstances. They were totally sympathetic and expressed condolences on the death of my mother and asked me to send them on a copy of her death certificate, which I have now done,” he says.
“What I find most distressing about how Virgin Media dealt with my interactions was the total indifference to her death and the seeming irritation at dealing with the fall out. How can an international company of this magnitude continue to write invoices to a person after they have been notified of her death on at least two occasions?”
We contacted the company to see what it had to say. In fairness to it, it was contrite from the outset.
“I would like to begin by saying how truly sorry we are to learn about this particular case and customer experience,” a spokeswoman said. “It is not how we treat customers who come to us to let us know about a family bereavement.”
She said she wanted to reassure readers that the company aims to “treat each customer with respect, sensitively and with care under such circumstances”.
She went on to say that “sometimes we can get it wrong and we will hold our hands up on this one. Quite honestly it was down to human error (in the manner in which the nature of this matter was initially logged) which caused the original error and unfortunately created an ongoing effect which is not up to the high standards of sensitivity and concern that we would usually provide in the unfortunate event of a bereavement. Suffice to say, we have contacted the family and the matter is now resolved.”