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Consumer

Virgin slower than HRT?

Today we have seen the end of one of the most tightly fought Formula One World Championships ever, and the end of the first season for three new teams, Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and HRT. Now, before all you Formula One fans take issue with the title as being the exact opposite of the season just ended, it’s just a convenient analogy for the subject of this blog. Sorry motor racing fans, this isn’t about Formula One.

Today also marks six months since we had Virgin Media Phone, TV and 10Mb Broadband installed. In the 185 days since then, we have only had adequate (i.e. more than 2Mb) broadband between mid-day and midnight for approximately 83 days. I’ve tried working with the support line (an Indian call centre, working from a script, who blamed our Anti-Virus software – Incorrectly), the support forum (who took several attempts to convince that we had a problem), and the Twitter support team (who, in turn, have involved the complaints team, and from whom we are awaiting a response to my last e-mail, which we’re told on Twitter “is being dealt with by Pete”).

When we first started, everything was wonderful. Broadband speed was a minimum of 8Mb, and usually more. Our first V+ HD box had a power supply issue, but this was quickly and easily replaced by a Virgin Media engineer within a couple of days. During the World Cup, we had a few broadband performance drops during matches, but they recovered after the games and I put these down to the whole internet being hit hard by people streaming matches etc., which seems to be borne out by some of the internet traffic  statistics.

Then, in around mid July (around the time the school term ended), our performance started to drop off between mid-day and midnight. I thought this may be the usual issue of the kids being off school and ‘hitting’ the net, but decided to check the support forum just in case there were any other potential issues. I discovered that several users on the same ‘exchange’ as us were having performance issues which were being addressed by the support team. I therefore contributed my ‘two pennith’ and awaited any response on these threads. Silence, and no real resolution to any of the problems ensued.

Once the school term restarted in September, I decided to start my own thread in the forum, compiling all the outstanding fault tickets and asking if any were affecting us. The forum thread, has continued since then, with only a temporary solution to the problem occurring for a mere 16 days, before we experienced further problems after two days of drop outs on both TV and broadband.

In the meantime, I’ve also had some correspondence with the Twitter team, who have involved the e-complaints team (well, that’s what their e-mail address implies). The one ‘informative’ part of the e-mails was the usual “we’ll try to wriggle out of giving you a refund as our terms of service let us get away with you guaranteeing to pay for a service we don’t have to guarantee to provide”. Let me just quote this wriggle out in full:

In terms of us giving you a refund for the fault with your service. It’s not within our normal practice to provide a refund or compensation for any loss of intermittent service you may experience, as per our terms and conditions. We’ll aim to provide and deliver a fault free service but it’s not something we can guarantee. If any faults or issues occur along the way, we’ll take the necessary action and steps to fix/address them as soon as we can.

However saying that, we appreciate you’ve been paying for a service you’ve not been able to achieve the full benefit from. So in this type of circumstance we’ll always look at what we can do in order to give you something back in terms of service charges for the time your service has been affected. So once we know everything is back to normal and you’re happy, we’ll take care of applying the relevant credits to your account.

So, on current form, we might just get a credit on our account, but it probably won’t be for the full three months (so far) of appalling broadband performance we’ve had in the first six months.

Our next step is starting to annoy the CEO by e-mail, and seeing if Ofcom, Watchdog and The Gadget Show are interested. Watch this space.

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