Virgin Media's exit fees are too high and unlawful, says Ofcom. Are you entitled to compensation?
Virgin Media has been caught out for setting its exit fees too high and discouraging customers to switch.
The broadband provider was investigated by Ofcom after complaints from customers who were hit with high exit fees - even if they moved house to areas that didn't support Virgin Media.
Virgin Media broadband is only available in about half of the UK.
Virgin's exit fees are an issue that A Spokesman Said has highlighted before, going as far back as 2016!
The fees of up to £240 were found to be a breach of Ofcom rules, after the watchdog investigated a period between 1 September 2016 and 11 September 2017.
In a preliminary decision published this week, Ofcom stated the exit fees were too high and will have deterred customers from switching providers.
Affected customers could be offered compensation – details of which will be revealed later this summer in Ofcom's final decision.
Virgin Media could also receive a fine for treating consumers unfairly.
"Virgin Media has broken our rules"
An Ofcom spokesman said “Having assessed all available evidence, we have reasonable grounds to believe that Virgin Media has broken our rules by overcharging people wishing to leave their contracts early.
"Virgin Media now has an opportunity to formally respond to our provisional decision. We will take any further representations the company makes into account, before making our final ruling."
A Virgin Media spokesman said: "We have received Ofcom's provisional findings and we will now review them thoroughly.
"We make it clear to customers that early disconnection fees can apply and we also offer 30-day rolling contracts for those that do not want to sign up for a minimum period, such as 12 months, and need more flexibility."
Virgin Media’s cancels exit fees for customers
As we mentioned, Virgin Media’s unfair exit fees are nothing new – we’ve been talking about them since 2016.
Ralph Dinnick, from Fareham, Hampshire, was told to pay £154 if he wanted to move to his new home.
“We would have transferred our service to our new home, but Virgin have no service in the area,” Ralph said.
“Virgin are insisting that an early exit penalty must be paid. In view of our 20 years custom, we feel this charge is totally unacceptable.”
Scroll down to see what your options are for avoiding exit fees
Elaine Wilson contacted A Spokesman Said on behalf of her sister-in-law, Jean Laurent.
Jean, who suffers from heart disorders and relies on an Oxygen machine 15 hours a day, was told by Doctors she needed to move to a ground floor apartment if she wanted to live independently.
But to move to a suitable new home, she would have to pay Virgin Media a cancellation fee of £160.
"This seems unfair," said Elaine, "it's not Jean’s fault she is not continuing her contact. She is elderly, disabled and unable to afford this bill.”
Like Ralph, Jean wanted to continue with Virgin but the company didn’t service her new address.
A Spokesman Said raised both cases with Virgin and, to the company’s credit, it acted immediately.
As a goodwill gesture, it agreed to waive both Ralph and Jean’s cancellation fees.
A spokesperson for the company added: “We urge all of our customers to consider the length of contracts before entering into them. Details of early disconnection fees are placed at the top of our T&Cs in clear English to help ensure customers have sight of them.
“The cost of early disconnection fees is dependent on the services the customer receives and the duration left on their minimum contract period for each of the services.”
Virgin Media has a review process in place if customers need to leave their contract early due to ‘unforeseeable or unfortunate circumstances’, such as illness or disability.
Exit fees when cancelling your broadband: what you need to know
Most broadband contracts run for 12 or 18 months.
If you want to leave yours early, the chances are you’re going to have to pay an exit fee, plus any remaining monthly payments.
Here are a few tips that might help:
Have prices increased during your contract?
Under Ofcom rules, broadband providers are not allowed to jack up the price of a fixed-term contract without telling you thirty days in advance, and giving you the chance to leave without paying.
If your prices have increased since you signed up, contact your provider and ask to switch without a penalty.
Is your broadband service consistently poor?
Constant buffering, slow connectivity speeds, service dropouts, delays in installation – all these may all constitute a breach of contract.
Customers who suffer consistently poor service may be entitled to leave a contract early.
Top Tip: You’ll need to build up a credible case file, including screenshots and audio recordings, to present to your provider.
Even if you are within your contract, it’s worth ringing up your provider and seeing if you can come to an agreement.
As Virgin Media demonstrated, suppliers can find wiggle room for loyal customers wanting to move free of charge.
Are there any other ways I can leave a contract without paying fees?
Compare broadband deals to see if any other providers are offering perks to attract customers jumping ship from rivals.
Some providers offer a buyout scheme to customers who switch.
Are you paying too much for broadband?
We compare deals from the big suppliers, so you can choose the best deal for you