The end of a beautiful relationship (with my phone company)

In the last 3 and a half months, I’ve had 8 separate texts from virgin informing me that our home phone/broadband will be fixed within 5 working days. As I type this on the 25th of April we are still awaiting a solution to our problem. Normally, I would be content to go through Virgin to get recompense for our lack of internet, but I feel the service I have received from the organisation is so unfit for purpose that I feel obliged to write up my experiences to let you know how truly awful Virgin can be.

Let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start. I’ve lived in the same student house in Bangor for the last 4 years, and have been with Virgin since day 1. We had problems right from the off – the previous tenants hadn’t cancelled their phone line, and then Virgin were inefficient at setting us up, and when it was set up the speed was appalling. We complained and received a refund for the first month or so, and for the equipment due to the time it had taken to get things set up. Ok – small mess up –  going to happen once in a while. But the fact we had to go to the complaints department shows how we had managed to fall through the cracks in the system. Fast forward the next 3 years and all goes ok – phone line cuts out at one point due to a dodgy cable connection to the house but this gets sorted fairly quickly. The internet is often slow, and sometimes unreliable, but functioning enough to allow BBC iPlayer viewing most of the time.

Then, over Christmas 2013, the internet quality deteriorated. One of the ongoing issues we have had is that as a student house it is hard to make sure someone is in, and we all have different cycles of work and play. We called virgin on the 11th of January, and after a bit of toing and froing – trying to sort out router details, trying out different telephones – we had an engineer out who replaced the whole telephone line from the pole through to the main socket. Everything worked for a week and then… The problem returned. As you can imagine, this was a little bit frustrating, particularly as various phone calls to Virgin involved us having to fiddle about with the router settings, being asked to try another phone, actions that were just not needed.

You see, the biggest frustration is that the reason our phone line was not working was due to an overgrown tree effecting the line. Although we raised concerns about this early on (even at the time a new line was put in, and it as confirmed to us by Openreach that the tree was damaging the line) it was not until about a month ago that an engineer confirmed our issue was at the top of the telegraph pole in the tree. This is frustrating because we have since found out that other properties using that pole have been experiencing exactly the same problem which we were – an intermittently noisy phone line and internet which dropped out regularly. TSS is a hard fault to diagnose – at times it felt we were going round in circles – because sometimes the line was fine. However, early on in our dialogue with Virgin we were informed that we were the only house on the street with an issue, suggesting it was our equipment that was at fault. We now know that this as a lie – a lie which has been partly responsible for us not having working internet for 3 1/2 months. Personally, I don’t think that this is acceptable service, and this is reason 1 why I’m writing an angry blog post.

Reason 2 is the inconsistent processes and support we have had whilst trying to resolve this issue. Whilst most people have been very nice and concerned about our issue, this did not result in it getting sorted. As already mentioned, Virgin’s internal processes ran us around the houses trying to diagnose this fault, taking us down dead ends which did not assist us in getting the phone line back. Worse than this has been the lack of keeping us in the loop. We’ve had engineers out who have explained what they have done to us, only for Virgin to ask what had been done in our next conversation. I’ve had texts informing us that everything has been solved (when our lack of internet suggested the opposite was true). We’ve had phone calls from Openreach asking if the internet is sorted as their systems say things are resolved minutes after similar calls from Virgin.

Before Easter, I rang up again to find out what was going on. Once again we were out of the loop – we’d had no information after two visits from engineers, and our patience was wearing thin. The last engineer to come to is had recommended some tree work (again), but nobody we spoke to said when this would be able to happen. One person told us we would need to arrange this with the property owner whose tree was effecting our line, another told us that Openreach were doing this and we’d just have to wait. Ultimately, this problem was only solved by a neighbour (one of the ones who Virgin had assured us had no problems) paying to get the tree cut down themselves, unbeknownst to us.

Perhaps worst of all has been the contact we have had from managers. After 3 months we had reached the end of our tether. Just to make it clear – during those 3 months we were without internet during an examination period, an essay period, and the dissertation write up period (and that’s before you factor in now important the internet is to my job, and to the charity fundraising attempt I am currently planning). So, feeling a bit fed up we asked to speak to a manger. No problem, we were told, a supervisor would ring us back that evening.

The next day, after hearing nothing, we rang up again, and we’re told someone would ring within the hour, they were very apologetic for someone not ringing the previous night. I explained our issues, and our gripes, and we were promised this would be chased up. I was told we would be contacted every 48 hours with updates.

2 weeks later, after Easter, I rang up asking why we hadn’t had a single phone call. We were put through to a manger who happened to be – lo and behold – the same manager! It was explained that he had been off sick for 2 weeks (immediately after speaking to us) and that was why we had heard nothing.

Now, whether this is true or not I simply cannot imagine a company as big as Virgin not having the processes to deal with this. I’d already made it clear we would be complaining, and so for us to hear nothing for 2 whole weeks served to steal the cherry off a cake which had already been eaten.

Oh, and did I mention the two days engineers arrived without us being informed, forcing me to take two half days off from work to give them access to the house? On the last occasion – this week – the problem was fixed within 2 hours. A new heavy duty cable has been rigged to the telegraph pole (replacing the standard cable put up in January), and the internet has now been working (although it takes about 20 mins to connect for some bizarre reason) without fault. Ok, so it’s only running at 3-7 MB – we’ll take that for now.

The question is – why did it take 3 chuffing months to get this sorted? I’m not the sort of person to get angry, but I have shouted on the phone a number of times after getting incredibly frustrated at the lack of getting the service we have been paying for since January. I’ve been told we’ll get a full refund for this period – which compensates for the lack of service – but frankly this isn’t enough. I’ve had to use my mobile phone and pay for phone calls to Virgin, housemates have racked up internet bills creating hot-spots on their phones on top of having to walk to the university every time they need the internet for work, and I’ve had to stay late in the office to get work done. I’ve also been unable to plan the route for my Lands’ End to John O’Groats bike ride. My house mates and I reached the end of our tether a time ago, and I’ll be submitting this blog as a complaint document to highlight the inadequate service we have received.

3 months is an absolute joke, and I’ll think twice before going with Virgin for Internet again in the future.

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