Virgin Media is breaking rules about how customers can cancel, regulator tells court

Virgin Media, one of the country’s biggest television and internet service providers, is breaking rules over how it allows customers to cancel their service so they can switch providers, the telecoms regulator has claimed.

omreg has launched commercial court proceedings against Virgin for alleged failure to comply with universal service rules because Virgin’s process of allowing a customer to switch providers is a chilling process.

Comreg says that Virgin’s imposition of a 30-day cancellation period for customers outside of the minimum contract period provides a disincentive to switch as it “effectively charges consumers to switch”. This should have a “deterrent effect” on a change, it is said.

In September last year, Comreg Virgin issued a notice of non-compliance, stating that despite requiring customers to give one month’s written notice, this clause in the contract with the customer was silent on the procedure and terms for doing so.

For example, the customer is not told where the written e-mail or cancellation letter should be sent or what information should be transmitted, according to Comreg.

Therefore, it said, there was only one way to let customers know they could cancel – by calling Virgin’s 1908 number. 95 per cent of customers cancel over the phone, but of the 5 per cent who cancel by other means, Virgin still attempted to call the customer.

Virgin said there were a number of reasons for this, including GDPR reasons. Comreg said Virgin did not cite any specific provision to justify this GDPR claim.

Comreg said Virgin seemed to think that “when some customers call to cancel, they get tactical and look for a better deal”. As such, Virgin considers it part of “consumer welfare” to discourage such customers.

That approach is at odds with the practice Comreg expects in such scenarios as required by the regulations, the regulator said.

Virgin also said the 30-day notice period is standard practice and recognized as legitimate. Comreg said this claim goes against regulations that say the customer cannot be charged for switching.

In its findings, Comreg said Virgin’s practices individually and cumulatively create disincentives to switch and impact consumer behavior.

It found that 155,672 of approximately 194,784 Virgin customers did not cancel on the first call. Another 7,602 canceled on a second call. A total of 76 percent were discouraged from switching.

As a result of Virgin’s failure to remedy the non-compliance, Comreg brought proceedings in the High Court to seek orders to do so.

The case was placed on the court’s fast-track dealing list Monday after the parties agreed by Judge Denis McDonald, who approved an agreed list of directions for the case’s progress.

Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit brought by Comreg against Meteor Mobile Communications Ltd, trading as Eir Mobile, for failing to meet universal service obligations before the Commercial Court was denied as the judge said the lawsuit was late and untimely in the proceedings. You will now go through the normal High Court list.

Comreg alleges that Eir Mobile has breached the rules by failing to ensure its customer contracts detail pricing and tariffs of out-of-package mobile data services in a clear, comprehensive and easily accessible manner. It also allegedly failed to provide the means to obtain up-to-date information on all applicable tariffs and maintenance fees. Virgin Media is breaking rules about how customers can cancel, regulator tells court

Fry Electronics Team

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