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Goodbye, Virgin Media

Sky HDVirgin Media has crossed me for the last time! I must say goodbye to their TV service and their TV Drive (aka V+) box and its High Definition goodness. It’s, sadly, hello HM Murdoch and your Sky HD box.

The final straw for Virgin came last night as I got home and opened up my latest bill from them. The first thing I checked was that they had, finally, reimbursed me for my recent telephone outage (of the best part of a month, no less). Sure enough, they had deducted about £12 off the bill to cover that. How much does that drop my monthly payment, I wondered idly. Huh, it’s gone up, not down? How can that be? They’d broken out my component costs – telephone, broadband, TV subscription, TV Drive box. What had happened to the deal I negotiated when I took on the TV package that lumped them all together?

Turns out it wasn’t a mistake brought about by my discount, as I originally assumed, but instead the deal I negotiated only lasted a year. Shame they didn’t tell me that when I signed up! I wasn’t particularly happy with that deal I already had – I sure as hell am not paying even more for their service – especially as it has deteriorated considerably over the last year rather than improved.

Some of Virgin’s recent transgressions:

  • Leaving me without a telephone service for about four weeks (not to mention the hoops I had to jump through to get it restored at all…) Apparently someone had randomly unplugged my phone at the local junction box. I know I’m not the only person to suffer from that problem…
  • A while back there was a national TV Drive outage. They sent a letter out apologising and offering us all a free Pay Per View movie, of our choice. Automatically taken off our next bill, they claimed. It wasn’t. I couldn’t even be bothered to fight that one – they never got another PPV penny out of me.
  • Loss of TV channels. I start up a 12 month contract and by the end of it I’ve lost major channels without any change in the monthly charges. Yes, I’m partly talking about the Sky channels. More importantly, I’m talking about ITV HD. When I signed up they had two HD channels. Both were, admittedly, trial channels – BBC HD and ITV HD. Nonetheless, I was led to believe (in very vague terms) that they expected to add more HD channels over the coming year (i.e. 2007). Instead we now have only one – BBC HD. HD was the main driving factor for the TV Drive and the Virgin (or Telewest, as was) TV package. That was unacceptable.

To be honest, I came so close to dumping Virgin entirely after my recent telephone problems – customer service like that deserves severe punishment. Only laziness kept me with them. There’s still an inertia there from me, even now. Virgin will retain my custom for the telephone and broadband, for the time being. I am seriously considering moving my phone back to BT and trying out for ADSL again (I’ve so far failed three times to get ADSL due to distance from the telephone exchange, that’s when Telewest finally provided broadband in my area – it was ISDN up until then.) The hassle of attempting to retain my phone number and the inferior offering of ADSL to cable broadband will keep me as a reduced Virgin customer until at least next year.

I’m not alone, either. Elsewhere on this blog and in the Staggering Stories Musings, you will hear the horror stories Tony has to tell of Virgin Media (and his trouble with them isn’t entirely over yet, as I understand it). I know my parents are considering dumping them, too. It’s a small sampling but, including myself, that must be over 50% of the people I know who are Virgin customers are either dumping Virgin or are seriously considering it. Word of mouth gets around and this particular Virgin is leaving a sour taste in many mouths indeed!

To the future, then. I have bought a Sky HD+ box off eBay (apparently an authorised Sky reseller, certainly the AV forums have generally positive noises about the reseller in question). It was an ouch moment. I hadn’t expected to be having to pay out for a Sky digibox (the TV Drive/V+ is rented, Virgin have already set a date to pick it up, just after Christmas). £265, including a new quad LNB (the active bit of a Sky dish – my existing one doesn’t have enough outputs) and extra coax cabling. Bad time of year for that sort of expense. It should repay itself soon enough though…

From my investigations I should be able to slot in my existing Freesat card and, hey presto, I will have access to all the Free to Air and Free to View channels – including BBC HD. In practice I will need to call Sky to link my card to the new box but that should be it. In truth all I really care about, at least right now, is getting the normal ‘terrestrial’ channels (suitably upscaled to 1080i) and BBC HD. I don’t need a subscription for any of those. Why have I been paying Virgin all this time, like a sucker? I lived for a good year or two with just Freesat before I got my new TV a year ago. HD and upscaling were the only reasons I went with Virgin TV in the first place. With talk of ITV HD making a return and Channel 4 HD turning up shortly, all Free to Air or Free to View – I will have plenty of good TV available (and without a subscription, as it should be – I pay my TV Licence, damn it!)

The only fly in the ointment with this free Sky business (trying desperately to ignore the up front cost of a HD box) is the loss of my TiVo. My TiVo was replaced by the TV Drive and its PVR (personal video recorder, aka digital video recorder – DVR) capabilities. TiVo used to cost me £10 a month for the subscription, but couldn’t support HD. Enabling the PVR features on my Sky HD box will cost me the same. So, Sky will get £10 out of me a month, after all. Heck of a lot less than Virgin were charging me for their TV package. Effectively I’ve got myself a HD TiVo with a built in Sky HD tuner. Not a bad deal.

I’m sure I will one day return to Virgin for their TV service, spitting blood over a series of slights from Sky. They’re both about as bad as one another. Right now, though, Virgin have passed my wrath threshold. So, it’s good riddance Virgin Media TV!

It’s a shame – I used to be so impressed by Telewest at one time…

10 Responses to "Goodbye, Virgin Media"

  1. Hobbit says:

    We must be the only people to have had no trouble with them (phone, broadband) – but then I’ve never had to call their customer services department. Even we’re considering moving the whole lot to Sky. There are too many good deals out there to stick with a rotten apple.

  2. the only trouble – apart from the fact that paying Murdoch sticks in the craw – is that currently, if you sign up for broadband from sky there is no way you can transfer to another provider if you’re dissatisfied. Well, according to the research Purcell-Face did. Im tempted to switch – I need to work out a few things and tbh, I dont use the tv enough to justify it….I just need to look into broadband and phone…but not having a cc or able to have direct debit somewhat limits me, alas….

  3. Ian Mc says:

    I’m taking the fifth (or nearest British equivalent). All ask is that you please put in writing (as well as posting on here) your grievances so that there’s a chance that others mightn’t suffer the poor experience that you have. I’d be glad to supply you with a suitable email address to send them too.

  4. Ian Mc says:

    Apologies for the failing lack of English language skills in the above post also!

  5. well, Ive made several complaints to offcom about them…however, offcom is, to a point a bit toothless…big shame as Virgin seem to be able to get away with anything they choose because in some areas the only other choice is sky…as it is it depends which area your in…those from an old NTL area dont do quite so badly as NTL spent money on infrastructture..according to one of Virgin;s customer reps, telewest/eurobell spent the same money on advertising their new services – the infrastructure suffered as a result. The whole serv ice needs to be picked up and sorted out properly with an emphasis on customers rather then profit – profit being the route that virgin have seriosuly pursued over the past couple of years eg: the premium rate broadband helpline with which one has trouble getting a refund, or the £5 per month fee for none direct debit payment……arrrggg….my blood pressure!!! hate em. Hate em to bits, just dont currently have an alternative. If I did Id switch in no time.

  6. Send me through that email address and I’ll see if I can put something together (I’m not very good with this email correspondence stuff, though, it can take me weeks to reply sometimes…!)

    One thing that surprised me slightly (but didn’t realise until I put the phone down) is that Virgin made no attempt to cut another deal with me. You’d have thought they’d at least want to reinstate the old one. That may not have been enough to keep me, they’d probably have had to go further, but there was no suggestion of it at all. Just a matter of fact, okay we’ll pick your TV Drive up in 30 days.

    As for Sky, that was quite an easy install job this weekend. Up the ladder, around the back of the house, to drill another hole into the loft for the extra cable now coming from the new dish LNB. Other end of the 15 metre cable down into the TV room. Remove the old Sky box and put the new Sky HD box in its place. Connect all the cables (including the crucial HDMI). As if by magic I have BBC HD! I had to call Sky to get my old Freesat card paired with the new box (so I can get the Free to View channels in addition to the Free to Air ones). No problems with that. All went well.

    After the Sky feed was back up and running I called Sky again to set up the £10 a month subscription to enable the Sky Plus features (the TiVo like features). Unfortunately they couldn’t enable it on my existing card, so are sending a new one through in the next couple of days. No major problem – I still have Virgin in this transition period.

    Soon I will be back to where I was just over a year ago – namely Freesat giving me free TV via dish and £10 a month to Sky for a PVR. Yes, Sky used to administer the TiVo subscriptions in the UK – that was £10, too. Only difference now is that I’ve got decent SD upscaling and access to the one HD channel I had with Virgin. The best of both worlds! Makes the past year look like a bit of a mistake. Oh, well, live and learn!

  7. It does make me wonder if the deal they cut with me to beg me not to leave will expire..I should check into that. The other thing I was told by a Virgin chappybloke was that because the company is normally up for sale, most of the money assest are frozen meaning the cash simply isnt there. The big picture is mildly perturbing in that Virgin may yet fold due to missmanagement – look at it this way – installers are being told to disconnect existing customers from the junction boxes because there is no spare capacity yet they want more customers….so, if Virgin DOES go, what do the little people with no lump sums of money or credit cards do? We can’t exactly turn to Sky now, can we….?

  8. Gazza T says:

    Goodbye VIRGIN MEDIA Hello ‘TALK TALK’
    IN april 07 after 3 years i moved to ‘talk talk’ so i could get broadband and phone, i recieved a cheque from BT for unused line rental, in october i discovered Virgin were still taking money out of my account ! i immediately rang them for them to tell me it was my fault for not telling them sooner ok suppose i should have, any way the opp’ on the other end said i would still have to give one months notice so i waited for the november payment to go out and then cancelled my direct debit. in December they wrote to me to restart my payments or my service would be interupted WHAT SERVICE ? ALL my calls had transfered to Talk Talk the prievious APRIL ! confirmed by no calls showing on my virgin e’bill after that date.
    i decided to write to them and told them to sort this out ASAP sent by recorded delivery . Their response was to pass it to a debt recovery company saying i still owe them 30 quid!!
    i have written to ofcom but they can do nothing.
    i contacted the debt recovery company and told them of my plight but to no avail, they have now threatened me with court action if i don’t pay up
    if i do i will have payed virgin £135 for nothing.
    as a post script i am happy up to now with TALK TALK

  9. Stuart says:

    Been with Virgin now for 2 years. Cheaper than their competitors by a mile for all 3 packages. The V+ box i purchased last year tapes 2 channels while 1 watch a third. This beats my ols sky + box which could tape two programs but i would have to watch one of them??? It also holds twice as much memory as the sky + box which is good. I’m happy and staying …

  10. MJL says:

    Have I made a big mistake in using Virgin Media? From What I am seeing so far – YES

    I have migrated all my technology to Virgin – Phone previously BT, Broadband previously O2 – 4 years of trouble free service with a service available when I need it.

    I had an installation performed yesterday Friday 10/12/2010 @ 11:00 to bring wonderful HD TV to my house. I opted for the 65 channel TV service, broadband 10Mb and phone.
    I took a day off work yesterday so that the engineers can run the service into my house and made it really easy for them- moved furniture out of way, laid conduit in so that the broadband would present itself in a place that will enable the new router to hook into my Ethernet network etc.

    The engineer installed the V+ box and when I glanced at the screen I saw that it said that the signal quality was low. I did not pay attention to this as the install had not completed, and assumed that he had further work to do to ensure that the service would work for me – Big mistake on my part!

    When I was able to use the V+ box in the evening I was only able to receive 1 HD channel all other channels displayed a 3202 error message. I was not able to use BBC iplayer, ITV player etc. I came to this forum and looked to see what diagnostics I can perform. I do not have access on my service to use the FixItNow utility as it is not displayed on my menu options. I rest the box, pulled the cabled re-seated them and generally made sure that everything from the socket to my set was correct – I checked that the service was enable fro HD service via the menu – it was.

    At 21:30 I phoned the 151 option and stated to the agent the facts as above she performed diags and was unable to reach the box – i stated that I was very dissatisfied and that the service need to be restored tomorrow (Saturday) she detailed this and booked in an appointment for Monday – this is not convenient as I go out to work. I also asked that the call be escalated as the installation had failed. She detailed this and emailed her internal managers and area manager and asked that they call me on Saturday to arrange an emergency visit.

    On Saturday ( today) at 8:15 I called in to find out what was happening, The fault had not resolved itself overnight still 3203 errors – the agent went through her support script as she has to and confirmed that her colleague had mailed the area manager for an escalation. Call ended at 8:30- I turned the box off. As there was no progress.

    I returned to the box at 9:30 and booted it up – I now have no service whatsoever. Another call to 151 to state that I want the service removed from my property as it is substandard and I have no confidence that Virgin Media will be able to service my subscription – the agent said all the right things, but the fact remains this need to be resolved today. This call ended at 9:51

    So in summary new customer not happy, service does not exist – I am told that there are engineers working today but I do not know if or when they will call me. This is not customer service, this is not treating new customers ( less than 24hrs) in a way that gives me any confidence for the future.

    Yes you might have guessed it – I am an IT professional who runs major service incidents for a very large corporate PLC – I am calm clear and methodical in my approach to incident management and I do not lose my temper – but this lack of service is something to be believed and one which is stretching my patience.

    Should I move my 2 mobile phone across to Virgin – I don’t think so

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