Monday, October 29, 2012

My complaint to Virgin Media

I am posting this here along with the complaint address for the Virgin Media complaints department in case anybody else is looking for it. This letter was posted today and speaks for itself. I will update this page with any progress as it occurs. Some personal details removed.

Anyone who knows my background in customer service will know why this sort of thing annoys me so much. This has gone beyond the point where an apology will suffice.

Virgin Media
PO Box 333
Matrix Court

30th October 2012

I have been telephoned by somebody called xxxxxxx from a company called Moorcroft Debt Recovery who are looking for settlement of a debt to your company. I had previously had a call about this by a company called CSL. I had explained the situation to them and they had referred it back to Virgin Media. I have since heard nothing from them.

I have never received any letters from you about this and you have not provided me with any services so I am at a loss to understand why you are now pursuing me through a debt collection agency.

Here are the issues I need you to address:

1. Before I can consider settling this debt I need you to provide me with the legal basis for this charge. In other words, you are going to need to provide me with evidence of a contract and technical evidence you actually provided a telephone and ADSL service on the circuit number that serves my flat at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

2. I require you to pay me a sum as compensation for all the calls I made to your 0845 number on my mobile phone while trying to get the service to work in July. The sum is just under £30, but since then I have spent a lot of time dealing with Moorcroft and generally worrying about it, and you need to reflect this in any offer of compensation you make to me. This payment to be made by cheque or BACS, not in vouchers.

3. I require an undertaking that you will not make any report to any credit reference agency which is detrimental to my credit rating.

The background to this case is that when I lived at my old address - xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx -  I used your cable service (account number: xxxxxxxx). In June 2012 I ordered a move of service from you to my new flat, but you were unable to do this without a change to your “national” service as there was no cable service in my area. I agreed to this and it was all arranged. However, on moving to my new flat the service did not work even though you had contacted me to say it was. I called you on numerous occasions, running up a bill of nearly £30 on my mobile phone doing so, but got nowhere. You were even unable to locate my new account in your system.

It is clear that it had not been provisioned correctly at all:

  • The phone socket in my flat continued to be live on the previous owners number. 
  • I had been promised a modem from you. which never arrived, in spite of Yodel showing it as having been signed for (it wasn’t).
  • You have not been able to spell my name correctly.
  • At the time the move was ordered your operator had significant problems entering my new address, because your database could not accept my address format (they had to try and enter it manually). According to Moorcroft you have my address listed as “xxxxxxxxxxx”, which is incorrect.

In the end I had to contact BT and they were able to get me connected, but I was left without a phone line for six weeks - something which was entirely your fault. To be pursued by you now in this aggressive manner via a third party without so much as a letter is not the way to treat a long standing former customer who left his previous account in a positive cash balance.

This whole issue has been caused by a problem with your provisioning system. I did my best to resolve it and had a number of lengthy (and expensive) phone calls to you, followed by the inconvenience of being left without a phone line or Internet access for six weeks.

I await your response.

Yours etc.

Update 30th October 2012
Found an interesting web site here with a reader comment indicating that Virgin Media or their agents are leaving default notices on people's credit records even after the bill has been paid:

I wrote to customer complaints. They cut the bill in half and apologised. So I paid, wanting never to talk to them again.
However, what they wouldn't do was remove the default from my credit report. I have since spent days on the phone, written to everyone imaginable and still they refuse.
This is beyond incompetence and into malice. Completely vindictive and unnecessary persecution of an everyday consumer.
My credit record was impeccable. Now I can't even get a small loan. All because of Virgin Media. For a service I could never receive and for a bill that I have actually paid. Astounding.
RMC - 30-06-2012

Judging by all the stories documented there it looks possible that I might have to take preemptive legal action. Being no stranger to litigation this does not frighten me, but it should not be necessary when I am dealing with such a large customer facing organisation. We will see.

Update 6th November
I received a holding letter from Virgin Media. However, it was addressed to my old address not my new address - which was the address I sent the letter from. Fortunately I have a redirection from the old address.

I have also received a letter from Moorcroft Debt Management saying they have suspended their activity because I am in dispute with Virgin Media.

Update 12th November
Well, I got a very nice phone call from Virgin Media this afternoon stating that they can find no record of an account and con firming that they have never provided me with any services at my current address and they can find no trace of ever having done so. They will be writing to me confirming this and will tell Moorcroft to stop pusuing me.

However.... A few hours later I got home to find a letter from Moorcroft on my doormat which included this:

Further to your recent communication in respect of the above account, we write to confirm we have been in contact with Virgin Media who have advised us that the services were successfully installed at the property and that there is call usage on the bill which conforms this.

Of course, they have not forwarded me any of that evidence. I assume they can't as Virgin Media say they never installed the service. So who can Moorcroft provide me with copies of their correspondence with Virgin Media and can they provide records of these calls? I suspect not.

So I am back to square one.

I am now going to make clear to Moorcroft Debt Recovery that I will not be paying them anything without a court order and they should not bother contacting me again until they have obtained one.

Second update 12th November
I decided to call Moorcroft and make it clear I would not be paying them anything.

Here is an edited recording of the call. I have clipped out the name of the person I was speaking to, and the section where I had to prove my identity and a lot of gaps where he was typing up notes.

The section from 2 minutes onwards is very interesting. Their representative claimed that Moorcroft were not asking me for any money, that it was Virgin Media asking for money, until I pressed him very hard on this issue.

Or download the recording here.

I will be continuing to pursue my request for compensation from Virgin Media and will let readers know how I get on.

Update 16th November

I have now written a further letter to Virgin Media:

I refer to your letter of 1st November which was sent to my previous address rather than the address I had written from, and which is stated at the bottom of this letter.
I received a telephone call from you on Monday 12th November stating that you could find no record of me owing you anything and that you would attempt to recall the debt from Moorcroft. I returned home on Monday night to find a letter from Moorcroft stating that they had contacted you and you had confirmed that calls had been made on a line assigned to me and that I was therefore liable. This contradicts what you said to me.
In order to satisfactorily deal with this complaint I require you to:
1. Write to me stating I owe you nothing, send a copy of the letter to Moorcroft and recall the debt from them.
2. Pay me a sum in compensation for all the calls, time and inconvenience I have suffered in this issue since July, and which you will find detailed in my previous letter.
3. Ensure that no default is registered against me with any credit reference agency in relation to this.
Please reply within 14 days or I shall be instructing my solicitors.

It is sad that an organisation the size of Virgin Media does not have the ability to resolve something like this, but apparently they don't.

Update 22nd November
I have received two letters today:

  • One from Moorcroft stating they have contacted Virgin Media, who have (once again) confirmed that I owe the money.
  • One from Virgin media confirming I owe them nothing and that they have recalled the debt from Moorcroft.

Are Moorcroft lying to try and get me to pay them money? Remember, they have already admitted that the money was to be aid to their account not Virgin Media. I don't know, but I have reasonable doubts that they have ever spoken to Virgin Media about this account.

The main issue now is that Virgin have failed to compensate me for my time and phone calls dealing with their error since July. They have also not given me an undertaking that they will not register a default against me at a credit reference agency. This is what I am really concerned about because there are reports online of them doing this to other customers who were not in debt to them.

My only option now seems to be legal action.

Update 23rd November
It appears that Virgin Media breached the data protection act twice by passing my personal details to Moorcroft.

I have written to Virgin today repeating my previous requests and detailing the two breaches of the DPA:

I note your letter of 16th November, but am not satisfied. 
I had asked you to: 
  1. Write to me stating I owe you nothing, send a copy of the letter to Moorcroft and recall the debt from them. 
  2. Pay me a sum in compensation for all the calls, time and inconvenience I have suffered in this issue since July, and which you will find detailed in my previous letter.
  3. Ensure that no default is registered against me with any credit reference agency in relation to this. 
Although you have addressed point (1), you have not given me (3) an undertaking that you will not register a default against me at a credit reference agency.  
You have also not dealt with (2) my reasonable request for compensation to cover my  out of pocket expenses incurred through:
  • Calling your 0845 number on my mobile phone during the period when you had left me without a phone line - due to your incompetence.
  • Dealing with increasingly aggressive overtures from Moorcroft - including their claim on 19th November that you have confirmed that I do owe you money.
  • My inconvenience for being left without a phone line for six weeks - which was your fault.
In addition to this there is the risk to my reputation and credit rating as well as the stress involved in dealing with this. 
Fortunately I am well educated, articulate and able to robustly defend myself against Moorcroft. An elderly or infirm person would probably cave in and pay them. In fact they wrote to me two days after your last letter stating that you had confirmed the debt to them and they will continue to pursue me. I had paid them they would presumably not have passed the money to you. They also send repeated letters to me and continue to call me.  
I should also point out that you breached the terms of the Data Protection Act by passing my details to Moorcroft. Specifically that you did not satisfy the conditions for processing my personal data by not having a “legitimate interest”. If there had been a real debt and you had failed to recover it from me by normal means this would have constituted a legitimate interest. As there was no debt and you had not asked me for the money before passing it to Moorcroft you did not have this and therefore breached the act.  
You also required my consent in order to pass my personal data to Moorcroft. From the Office of the Information Commissioner: 
Consent is not defined in the Data Protection Act. However, the European Data Protection Directive (to which the Act gives effect) defines an individual’s consent as:
“…any freely given specific and informed indication of his wishes by which the data subject signifies his agreement to personal data relating to him being processed”.
The fact that an individual must “signify” their agreement means that there must be some active communication between the parties.  
As you had not written to me about the alleged debt no such communication had taken place and this is a second breach of the Act. 
I am sorry if this letter appears heavy handed, but I do not appreciate being hounded by debt collectors and I would prefer to be treated by you as a previously valued customer. 
I am surprised that a company like Virgin Media are unable to deal with a complaint  like this in a satisfactory manner.  
I await your response - in writing - on the two issues you have failed to deal with.

We will see what happens next.

Update 4th December
Its 11 days later and I have received a holding letter from Virgin Media as if it was a fresh complaint I had sent in. I have submitted my complaint to the Office of the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act. Their advice leaflet can be downloaded here (PDF file) and the form can be downloaded here.

Update 6th December
A further letter has arrived from Moorcroft. Play close attention to the words in bold:
If you do not contact us following receipt of this letter we may have no alternative other than to recommend to our clients that solicitors issue legal action against you which may follow.

This is designed to frighten people into paying, but read it again and you will see its an empty threat.

It also proves that Virgin have not recalled the debt from Moorcroft - which they have told me twice (once by phone and once by letter).

Update 21st December
Its now several weeks since I last wrote to Virgin and they have not responded within their own seven day promise.

I have, however, received a letter from Midas Credit Services (just another name for Moorcroft):

We are now reviewing the account prior to the possible recommending of legal action by external solicitors acting on behalf of our clients.

Interesting to see where they go with this. I know that they never actually take anyone to court, but I do harbour a fantasy of humiliating them in court by calling their client as a witness in my defence. Meanwhile, in the real world, I need to escalate my virgin complaint as they still have not given me an undertaking regarding my credit history.

I phoned Virgin and was put through to the debt department who have sent another recall form to Moorcroft. I then got a call from the complaints department stating that this issue may refer to a "national account" which has a different complaint address to the one given to me by Moorcroft at the beginning of this process! I would need to contact them with my address details (which were in my original complaint letter)  and account number (which I have never had as the service was never provisioned).

I then got a second call saying they had found my national account number.

I am now going to raise this with the independent adjudication service

Updated 4th January 2013
I have now submitted my complaint to CISAS for ajudication, pointing out again that no line was ever provisioned on the BT circuit serving my flat. Hopefully this will be irrefutable enough to get some action. I will have to wait and see.

One aspect of contract law that affects this is that if both parties agree to a contract, but the supplier fails to provide the service then the contract becomes void, this would mean that if Virgin failed to provide me with a service then any cancellation fee applicable under the contract would be unenforceable.

Incidentally, I received another letter from Moorcroft today saying the debt had been passed to their home collections division and that a representative "may" call on me. Clearly they have ignored my previous statement that I will pay nothing without a court order.

Updated 14th January 2013
CISAS have replied confirming receipt of my documentation and stating

We acknowledge receipt of an application for adjudication by the customer, a copy of which
is attached for the attention of the company.  Please note that any further documents submitted after this date may lead to your
application being restarted in order to give the company time to consider them.
In accordance with the rules of the scheme, the company is now required to submit two
copies of their response to the claim, which should be returned to us within 14 days of
receipt of this letter, that is, on or before 24/01/2013. The company should list all papers
being submitted, and where possible submit their response by email.  A copy of any
defence to your case received from the company will be sent to you and you will be given
the opportunity to make any comments about it which you wish to make.
Please be advised that the company may contact you in order to negotiate a settlement of
your claim.  If they do that but no agreed settlement is reached they must still submit their
defence to your claim by the due date above.
The company may decide to settle your claim in  full, ie to give you everything you are
claiming in your application.  Under these circumstances the company will notify us and we
will write to tell you.  We will close our file at that time because the adjudicator has no power
to award any more than is claimed.  

Updated 17th January 2013
CISAS have dropped the case after Virgin objected on the grounds that Virgin claim I have never been a customer. Meanwhile the debt collection letters keep coming.

Updated 25th April 2013
I thought I would update this article given the publicity today of the bill that Virgin media sent to a dead person.

I have not heard anything from Moorcroft for a couple of months but I have had calls from a company called HL Solicitors which I am ignoring. I think the debt has been sold on to them.

Update 17th June 2015
Over two years later and it's not over yet. The debt has now been sold on to a company called NCS!