Virgin Media pledges no exit fee for loyal 20-year-old customer… then charges £250: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is the Financial Mail on Sunday’s investigator, battling readers’ corners, exposing the truth behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left behind. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms MR writes: I was a customer of Virgin Media for about 20 years, until I moved to an area not covered by it.
As my contract was coming to an end, I called the company. The customer adviser said he couldn’t offer a rolling contract covering the months until the move, but advised that if I took an 18 month contract I would be released with no exit fee as Virgin could not provide any service in my new area.
I signed but when we moved Virgin charged a £250 exit fee.
Penalty: Virgin Media erased recording of Ms R’s phone call
Tony Hetherington responds: Rub salt in the wound, when you protested the exit fee, Virgin revealed you could have had a continuing contract after all.
Nevertheless, you paid the £250 penalty over the phone – only to find the next day that Virgin had collected the same £250 from your bank account using the direct debit you had set up to cover running bills.
And things got worse. You complained about the double debit and Virgin sent you a refund check for £250, but the check was in your maiden name and you’ve been married for years. Virgin demanded proof of your married name, which you provided, but when you contacted me several weeks later you were still waiting for your £250 refund.
I have asked Virgin Media head office staff to review what you told me and the bad advice you received. If you could have a continuous contract to cover the months leading up to your move, why would you ever accept an 18-month contract with high penalties if you quit?
Virgin Media told me: “Ms R has agreed to a new 18 month contract and, as it was made clear to her at the time, an early termination charge may apply if she terminates her contract early.” But Virgin said they no longer have a recording of the phone conversation with you. He’d sent you a copy of the new contract, but of course that wouldn’t prove what the counselor had or hadn’t told you on the phone.
Regarding the £250 charge which was collected twice, Virgin refunded £250 and added £50 as a “goodwill gesture”.
But that leaves me wondering how Virgin can force you into a deal made over the phone, not knowing what its own adviser said to convince you to agree, since Virgin itself erased the recording. Not a happy outcome.
Eon rounds my bills
SJ writes: In the past three months I have called Eon three times to report that my monthly electricity bill was incorrect. £125.7051 was charged £125.73. £136.2275 was charged £136.25. £106.5393 was charged £106.56.
This is not a rounding error, as it would only round up to the nearest cent.
In each case 2p was added. A few cents multiplied by a few million customers is a lot of money.
Enlightening: Apparently the prices are to three decimal places, but only two decimal places are indicated on the invoices.
Tony Hetherington replies: You helpfully signed a letter to allow Eon to give me his explanation, having calculated that if 2p is added to every bill it could add up to around £68,000 nationwide every time bills are issued to its approximately three million other customers. Eon’s explanation is that this flare doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone.
Apparently the prices are to three decimal places, but only two decimal places are shown on the invoices. For example, one of your bills shows that you used 567 units of electricity at 18.79 pence each, which you think should produce a bill of £106.5393. Eon says the unit price is actually 18.793p, meaning the bill should really be £106.55631 – and it’s that figure that’s rounded up to £106.56.
A spokesperson told me, “It’s commonplace in our industry.
It’s clear that every penny counts, and some pennies count double!
We’re Watching You
Control: Ricky Burgess of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex
A company which raked in more than £1million from investors after publishing a glossy brochure filled with lies and misrepresentations has been dissolved by the High Court and the official receiver has been appointed liquidator.
Exmount Construction Limited offered 9.12% annual interest on its three-year bonds and 10.35% to investors who tied up their money for five years. The company claimed to be a property developer, led by Joe Mason, an experienced chartered surveyor who had worked internationally and whose previous projects included industrial parks, shopping malls and office buildings. In fact, Mason was a self-employed gardener from Tilbury in Essex.
He refused to co-operate with Insolvency Service investigators, who found that between March 2018 and July 2019 around £1.1million had been paid in by investors, but there was no record of money used for real estate projects. Around £800,000 was taken by people connected to Exmount or handed over to third parties. Fake Exmount bonds were marketed by sales companies that used high-pressure cold calling to trick victims.
One of the most active was Asset Backed Management Limited, controlled by notorious investment fraudster Ricky Burgess, 31, of Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. I warned in 2016 that Burgess was behind a scam selling diamond investments. He was then banned from acting as a company director until 2031, and last May was jailed for two years on charges of conspiring to defraud Coutts Bank of £1.2million.
In January 2018, City of London Police raided the office of Asset Backed Management and seized brochures and sales records from Exmount showing that Burgess’ company and its cold-calling staff received up to 40% commission on the bonds sold. Officials from the Financial Conduct Authority were present but took no action to prevent other companies from marketing Exmount bonds, with sales continuing for 18 months.
If you believe you have been the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at the Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected] Due to the high volume of inquiries, no personal response can be given. Please only send copies of the original documents, which we regret cannot return.