Virgin Media: The Saga

The Gamer Scot vs Virgin Media

I didn’t really have any problems with Virgin Media until lockdown started. But things went downhill fast and have been getting worse since.

Virgin Media Saga Timeline

DateEvent
29th July 2020Big network outage across the board. We lost connection multiple times, sometimes for a couple of hours at a time. So bad that their app wouldn’t let me log in to register for compensation tracking. Coincidence?
Back up by the end of the day, for the most part.
21st July 2020Speeds are still all over the place, although things seem to be trending ever-so-slightly upwards. Upload is probably a little higher than it was, but not by much.
As per the CISAS complaint, my account has been credited with the arbitrary amount that I entered (in a mandatory field) when I created the case. I told them beforehand that I didn’t want it and I still don’t want it now. This means I’ll need to request even more when the issue is actually resolved.
10th July 2020Engineer arrived at 12:40pm! Checked home equipment and fault reference. Informed me that it was still pending with the new date of July 29th.
Replaced an old piece of equipment at the cabinet and attempted to increase our upload speed to 6mbps. My results still showing 1.5mbps
6th July 2020Engineer missed appointment.
Called by team at 4:40pm to say they’d be with me 6pm-6:30pm.
Told them this was unacceptable. Rescheduled for Friday 10th July.
30th June 2020Received text message booking engineer for 7th July.
Changed this to 6th July (12pm-4pm) when offered earlier slot.
26th June 2020CISAS informed me that I’ve been offered a settlement and an engineer visit to finally resolve the problem within 20 working days.
I responded to say that the amount is insufficient and I will not accept anything until the issue is resolved.
12th June 2020CISAS case 596450 accepted.
Virgin Media given 10 working days to settle the dispute, submit a written defence or objection.
29th May 2020Case 596450 accepted by CISAS. 15 day lead time applied to check that my claim was valid.
28th May 2020Called* to check on the progress of fault.
Told I would need to contact Tech Support. Given 150 number or premium rate. Refused.
Directed by Ofcom website to CISAS for complaint. Logged case.
29th April 2020Called* to say the fix hadn’t happened on the 27th.
Date extended to 27th May. Given fault reference F007884276.
16th April 2020Got in touch to say things hadn’t improved.
Was told a form had been filled in and I would be contacted by phone soon. I wasn’t.
13th April 2020Called* again and went through various tests and router configurations – no joy.
Told someone would go out to inspect the equipment on 15th.
30th March 2020Initial call* to complain about slow speeds, particularly upload rate.
Given fault completion date of 27th April, set by Ofcom.
25th February 2020Last “normal” tracked Speedtest result.

*I usually use “call” to refer to a text chat via the Virgin Media app.

This timeline does not include my application to the class action lawsuit regarding the Virgin Media data breach.

The Story

Part 1: Lockdown

Everything went south just as lockdown started. We’d never had any problems with Virgin Media before, although I was never really happy with their Customer Service. But the fibre was usually good. Our 200mbps connection regularly sat at 210mbps and our upload hovered around the 15-20mbps mark. That was more than enough for everything we needed – video calls, Nest camera, streaming, etc. But as lockdown kicked off, things dropped to an unusable rate. Downloads were into single figures and upload was under 1mpbs.

At a time when we were supposed to be working from home, the inability to make video calls made my wife’s job actually impossible. The rest was frustrating (not being able to stream, especially) but we could live with it for a while.

I figured that with more people working from home, hitting up Netflix and YouTube in their down time, maybe the exchanges and servers were being hit harder than normal. I figured that once folks got over the shock and settled into more of a routine (and the traffic was balanced by Virgin) things would get back to normal. Or if not normal, at least somewhere close.

It did not.

Part 2: Missed Deadlines

When I first got told that the deadline was April 27th, I was both pleased and annoyed. Annoyed that it was a long way off, but pleased that at least Virgin Media was aware of the issue and taking it seriously. The agent told me that this date had been set by Ofcom and I know from my many years working for an ISP, that once you start going past Ofcom-set dates, they start charging the company fines for every day they go past. So I was pretty confident it would be done quickly.

It was not.

Part 3: The Official Complaint

When April 27th came and went, I was disappointed. When May 27th came and went, I was angry. At that point it became obvious that Virgin Media was not interested in actually fixing this problem.

That was when I went straight in to complain. Thankfully, in the UK we have Ofcom – a governing body that makes sure telecoms companies operate within a set of rules. I thought Virgin Media had stepped out of line, and the fact that my complaint was upheld means they agree. Although they have offered compensation, I’ve rejected it and at the time of writing I’m still waiting for a proper conclusion.

Part 4: A Theory

All of this made me wonder: why hasn’t it been resolved already? I worked for an ISP for a long time, so I know that Ofcom fines can very easily add up. Does it make any sense to keep eating fines as well as refund fees to customers in my position?

Possibly, yes. And here’s my theory:

If the issue is caused by exchange capacity (which I think it is, ask me for the details in Discord if you want), it could be an expensive upgrade. It could be tens of thousands of pounds to upgrade exchange capacity. It could take a team of engineers a few days to perform the upgrade – even longer if they’re also following social distancing rules.

And how much does it cost to refund a few customers a couple of months worth of fees? I don’t think it’ll really amount to a lot. Even adding Ofcom’s daily or monthly penalty fees, it might total less than the cost of the upgrade. That wouldn’t surprise me. So I wonder if they’re just planning to sit it out until lockdown ends. It doesn’t make me happy, but it definitely makes sense in my head.

So there we go, that’s my thinking about the whole sorry set of circumstances. I hope that maybe helps anyone who was wondering where my streams were. We’ll see how things progress from here. I’ll keep updating the timeline with everything that happens for both your benefit and mine.