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Virgin Media’s Exit Fees for Non-Network Areas Put Under Spotlight

Monday, January 15th, 2018 (10:08 am) - Score 5,180

A new article has once again highlighted Virgin Media UK’s practice of charging hefty contract exit fees, which specifically relates to situations where customers move house into an area that exists outside of the operator’s current broadband ISP and TV network coverage.

At present the operator’s cable broadband and TV network is available to over half of premises across the United Kingdom (they aim to reach around 60-65% of UK premises by 2019/20), albeit predominantly inside urban areas. Obviously that can create a problem when customers move house into an area that Virgin Media cannot serve.

Nearly all of the market’s largest broadband and phone providers will levy some form of Early Termination Charge (ETC), which applies to customers that choose to exit their contract before the current term has come to an end. Virgin Media calls these Early Disconnection Fees and they can range from about +£10 to +£24 per month (applies to the remaining months of your existing contract). Similar fees also exist for the TV side.

However this becomes more controversial when the customer wishes to retain VM’s service but is unable to do so because their network does not exist in the new area (other ISPs have been known to waive these fees for similar situations). The Guardian highlights how a number of customers have been hit by such exit fees, which can often be well above the £100 mark.

The good news is that Ofcom has been conducting a probe of Virgin Media’s contract cancellation charges (here), which began last June 2017 and is due to report back with a “provisional decision” in April 2018. A spokesperson for Virgin Media said, “We note Ofcom’s investigation into early termination charges and are working with them during their inquiry.”

Mind you there can be wider issues with exit fees, such as when they are forced upon customers who are attempting to leave their contract early due to terrible support or service quality. Typically ISPs do incur costs when setting up a new service and the whole purpose of offering a longer contract term is to help mitigate that for customers, such as via lower pricing. The downside is this can make it harder to exit when the service is poor.

We should point out that some providers, including Virgin Media and many smaller ISPs, do offer the option of shorter monthly contracts and these naturally tend to attract a higher price. Nevertheless if you’re unsure about the quality of a service then sometimes it’s worth using the shorter contract option as a means of trying the service before committing to a longer term at less cost.

Anybody in this sort of situation would be well advised to take a gander at our ISP Complaints and Advice section, which covers some of the situations, common rules and how to get related disputes resolved.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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11 Responses
  1. Daniel Stafv says:

    Yup I had to deal with this last year. I had to go in to supported housing after I came out of hospital. During my stay there I was able to get a virgin connection to my room. After about 6 months the supported housing found me a home to move to and moved me on. Unfortunately virgin did not have coverage to the new home and charged me roughly 140 pounds because they were able to continue providing me the service even though I explained the whole situation.

  2. Renatas says:

    They take from me cancelation fee 86.32 pounds in virgin website is showing that is possible to connect in my house but engineer when come told that its not impposible and now virgin media take money for cancelation fee

    1. Stephen Wakeman says:

      Well mate you need to have words with VM about that. If the website has given the impression you can have the service but you can’t then they have absolutely no legal recourse to levy any charges upon you. Don’t pay it. Explain what’s happened and politely request they waive any charges.

  3. Tokanisa says:

    5 months in a new contract with Virgin,A friend of mine had to move home from London to the outskirts of London. He,
    therefore,called virgin for a change of address but was told Virgin was not available in that area. He asked them to stop the service, that was agreed on the phone, and he took BT as his new Internet provider. A month later, he started receiving blackmail letters from Virgin asking him to pay out the value of the whole 18 month contract! They then passed the dossier to a bailifs’company that started harassing him with menacing letters! He took his case to OFCOM that didn’t do anything at all!!! Consumers aren’t protected from scroungers, and dishonest companies at all!!! How could someone be asked to pay for the service he/she doesn’t get at all????

    1. CarlT says:

      Without sounding too harsh he agreed an 18 month contract. That’s why he was charged, he broke the contract.

      VM have costs they assume will be spread across the contract so offer lower prices or free install or whatever at the start.

  4. eM says:

    I remember those times when I had a contract with Virgin. Had to move home literally two months into the contract, and then again two months later. So the second time, I just left the service running there till the end of the contract, and agreed with the new guys who moved in and they were giving me money for using my broadband. That was a better option at the time than paying Virgin a lot of money and not getting a service in return.

    1. eM says:

      And to continue the topic but talking about other companies’ approach, I’ll never take service with Plusnet again because of their approach to home moves. Unlike other companies that I moved home with in the past (including Virgin) that were happy for me to keep the same deal, the same pricing, just agree to the new fixed term – Plusnet demanded that I either cover their costs that Openreach will supposedly charge them, i.e. line cease at old address, new line at new address – or agree to a new 24 month contract at inflated price – so they could recover theor costs from me over time. I thought maybe the rep I got was inadequate, so I called back few days later – got a different rep who repeated me the same story and again insisted I’ll pay dearly for daring to move home while in contract with them.
      So, never again. This just underscores the need for a peace of mind when signing up for these long term contracts – I’d rather pay a bit more per month, but I’ll be assured that if I happen to move home again, my ISP at the time will not use it as an opportunity to milk me dry.

  5. JaiBones says:

    After being a loyal Virgin customer for over 10 years (I like fast fibre okay) I moved from the South-East to the North-West of England and got walloped with around £140 odd charge! I was livid at the time and kept all the paperwork in case it ever got brought up as being dodgy. I’d always been very happy with the speeds and eventually even the service but totally saw my arse when I had to pay up because Virgin couldn’t provide a service. Disgraceful, worse than PPI IMO!!

  6. JaiBones says:

    Dammit, thanks to auto-fill I now also gave me real name… Can anyone edit/delete it please :/

  7. Jay says:

    I note that breach of contract has been mentioned. Under the Consumer Rights Act, it would only be a breach if the customer chose to cancel the contract to move to another provider. Where a customer moves home and Virgin do not provide coverage then that is the fault of Virgin. The onus is on Virgin to provide a customer with the service. Where they can’t then the customer is well within their rights to have the contract rescinded without penalty. This is a basic tenet of contract law.

    The clause in the Virgin contract that allows them to ‘charge’ a disconnection fee would no doubt have fallen under UCTA 1977 were it not now consolidated by the Consumers Rights Act 2015. A contract term must be fair on the consumer. Imposing a charge on a customer through the fault of the trader [it is they who are unable to provide the service] is patently wrong and unfair. The customer is not in breach of contract by the simple act of moving home – The trader by not offering the service in their new abode is the party in breach.

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