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Virgin Media UK’s New PAYG Mobile Pricing Causes Concern UPDATE

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019 (2:57 pm) - Score 14,658
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Some of Virgin Media’s mobile (EE MVNO) customers on their Pay-As-You-Go platform have expressed concern after the operator started notifying them of an unusual new charging structure. The change appears to penalise infrequent users of the service by effectively charging £2 for the first call or text on each new day.

The change, which is due to be introduced from 18th November 2019, means that “Every day, the first 200 minutes of calls you make will cost £2 total, and then 1p a minute after that. This includes calls to landlines including calls to the Channel Islands and Isle of Man (starting 01, 02 or 03), Virgin Mobile phones and other UK networks.” The approach is identical for text messages, while data will continue to cost £2 total for the first 200MB of data you use every day, and then £2 for the next 200MB after that.

On the one hand this could be good if you make longer calls and masses of texts in a single day, although many PAYG users choose such a plan precisely because they tend to only make infrequent use of their devices. Sadly for that group the change represents more of a problem since even brief calls or texts would suddenly attract a £2 charge.

Quick Sample of Customer Feedback

Sample 1: “I have also received this message which in effect says it can cost £2.00 for a single text. I intend to go to another provider. The emails suggests I will be able to get a refund on my existing credit, but a call to 789 said the opposite! I tried to use the text service to get a definitive answer, but they insist upon my answering security questions on a webpage. This is not possible with my non internet connected phone and it is too long to copy to another device!”

Sample 2: “Hmmm. Sounds like my aged Nokia 1600 is going to fall into the recycle bin sometime soon.”

Sample 3: “Basically that’s £2 every time I make a call to my mum or send a text, since I only use it once or twice every other day or so. Ridiculous!”

By comparison Three UK and O2 both charge just 3p per min for a call, 2p for a text and 1p for a MegaByte (MB) of data on their PAYG plans. Meanwhile the parent network for Virgin Mobile, EE, tends to sell PAYG access in “packs” that expire every 30 days and these cost from £10 a pop (2GB of data, 100 mins and unlimited texts).

Vodafone have a similar approach to EE but with a more attractive entry-level allowance, although they also offer a classic “Pay As You Go 1” plan that charges 20p a minute, 20p a text and 20p for every 5MB of data. This might sound like a lot but once you’ve spent £1 in a day, you won’t be charged a penny more until midnight.

Suffice to say most of these seem to be more attractive that Virgin Mobile’s new approach but it depends upon how you use your mobile. We’ve dropped Virgin Media to ask why the change is being made.

UPDATE 16th October 2019

We’ve had a response from Virgin Mobile.

A Virgin Media Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We’re making adjustments to some of our Pay As You Go tariffs. Customers impacted by any changes will be notified of alterations to their mobile plan in a clear and timely way.”

Virgin suggested that customers who don’t like the new plan could move to a Pay Monthly tariff (obviously a pointless piece of advice for PAYG users) or consider one of their alternative “JAM packs” (e.g. they could get 250 mins, 250 texts and 250MB data for just £5 and the allowances last for up to 30 days). The packs are pretty good value but may not suit the sort of casual users who tend to adopt PAYG.

Leave a Comment
41 Responses
  1. Avatar Mike

    They also do out of usage charges as well on pay monthly.

    Glad I never used them.

    • Avatar Jonathan

      every company has out of usage charges…if you go over your usage you get charged unless you request a cap.

  2. Avatar beany

    I have had a spare cheap emergency VM PAYG phone kept in the car boot for years and would just send the odd text to my main phone to keep it and the credit on it active every couple of months.

    Only every bothered having it in case i ever was out and about, broke down and did not have my main phone with me, which i quite often either forget or do not bother taking with me if im just nipping to the shops. Needless to say after reading this the SIM in that phone is going to be replaced at the weekend.

    Very poor show VM, if you use a phone for more than 200 minutes a day or 200 texts, i highly doubt you would bother having a PAYG phone, usage that high day in day out and in most cases i imagine you would be better with a contract on all the networks. Suspect they will lose quite a few long time PAYG users over this.

    • Avatar G Cot

      Well said.
      It is basically a standing charge of 11p a day to have a backup/emergency phone. You need to send 2 texts a year to stay active – £4 / 365.

    • Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

      I, uh… I think you’re off by a factor of ten there – it works out to 0.0109589 or 1.1p/day.

    • Avatar beany

      I can not be bothered to do the exact maths during my lunch but @Laurence is probably closer, though for me i think on the old tariff keeping the phone active (IE number not cancelled and credit on it not cancelled) it may cost even less than that.

      The phone and sim is so old it dates back to the original VM PAYG tariff they had and to keep it active involved making a chargeable action (ie phone call or text) about every 90 days, or topping it up every 90 days (which obviously in my case i had never really done since day one).

      What i would do is just send a text from the VM PAYG phone to my main contract phone at a cost of 10 or 12p (i forget what it is currently, it used to be 8p years ago when i got it lol) every couple of months so in the course of an entire year it probably cost me around 60p to keep that phone active for emergency use.

      I have no idea how often you will have to make a chargeable call or text on the new tariff but even if it were just once per year then at a cost of £2 that would mean it is going to be well over 3 times more expensive to keep active now.

      Having a contract phone as an emergency option as Virgin suggest is a ridiculous option and buying any type of bundle when you are not going to regularly use the phone and a bundle has an expiration time is also pointless.

      Ive already solved the situation today on the way to work and bought an O2 classic sim, which is even cheaper than what the plan was on the VM phone i had and the terms to keep it active (ie charge every x amount of days) is pretty similar, so the only harm VM have done in my case is a lost customer (even if it were only 60p a year out of me).

      @Laurence and i have disagreed in the past on VM news items but in this instance i think we are both in agreement this move by VM is just stupid. I can only think they want rid of non-regular users for some reason.

    • Avatar G Cot

      Oops, yes a typo 1.1p / day

    • Avatar Dave Read

      Totally agree, simple nokia Carphone emergency backup will get a Voda PAYG SIM instead…
      At worst : 1 text + 1 min call + 1KB data per day = £2+£2+£2
      £6 per day
      £42 per week
      £180 per month
      *** £2184 per year ***
      Insane
      An infrequently used reliable device, that I send a text to keep a couple of quid safe will be zapped in a couple of minutes with a call and text. Previously it would be years of reassurance. I’m obviously a low profit margin user they can do without! Sod you VM

  3. Avatar Gary

    PAYG has been a fallacy ever since the start of having to pay every month.

    If you buy a £10 sim credit it needs to last until you have used it, otherwise its not really pay as you go is it. Its a 1 month limited airtime contract

    • Avatar SimonM

      Vodafone PAYG 1, as quoted in the article, doesn’t need monthly payment, you can go months without any payment being required, the only time you’d need to spend credit from the PAYG balance would be the “one chargeable call/text” per 180 days for the number to stay active.

      As a regular use package I think it would be an expensive way to go, but as a “stick a sim in an old phone and have a second number to use” it has proven very cost effective, with the “safety” of knowing if I ever did actually need to use it for anything (outbound call/text/data) then it’d be a maximum of £1 for the whole day.

    • Avatar mike

      Three 321 doesn’t need a monthly payment either. You top up whatever you want and it’s 3p/min, 2p/text, 1p/MB.

  4. Avatar VM employee

    Probably has something to do with the fact they don’t offer PAYG anymore and want to either lose the very few customers that have PAYG or when they call to complajn/discuss their bill have a “discussion” about upgrading to a 12 month sim only plan or 30 day rolling “freestyle” SIM with a handset.

    • Avatar dave

      I noticed that their sims are not available in stores anymore (when you do find some, it’s expired old stock), so I think they are changing approach with the PAYG side of the business, possibly even aiming to stop PAYG completely.

      You can still order sims from their website, though maybe that will change soon.

  5. Avatar Roger

    A good alternative for a light user would be 1pmobile, which also sits on top of the EE network. Their cost is basically a £2.50pm charge (taken as £10 every 4 months) that never expires and can be used during usage – 1p per min, per text or per mb. I moved to this from Three’s offering just due to the lack of coverage in the areas I use my phone.

  6. Avatar Herve Shango

    VM is so weird (often) that I question them a hell of lot, they make so much money, it is just insane that they think by diming people of every penny they earn is going to satisfy the customer base, it’ll not. 2. this should be illegal.

    • Avatar Sue

      Unfortunately Virgin is not the same company it used to be. There is a Facebook group for victims to share experiences. Being given a price that they don’t stick too. Trying to end a contract and being told a new one has been set up. Virgin not sending the necessary to return their equipment and charging for it, or worse, it having been returned and them trying to charge for it. There also reports of speeds much slower than those advertised. They have even set up contracts in areas where they are unable to provide.

      People are being advised to end direct debits as they end contracts and asking for a final bill to stop further payments being debited.

      A number is shared that gets you to a UK office, those ringing the usual number given have ended up holding on for extremely lengthy times and if not ringing from a Virgin phone account extremely expensive. Worse still, they are trying to get themselves understood by call centre staff who seem to have a habit of ending the call.

      Virgin are losing a lot of business and putting off new nusiness. If they don’t wake up soon the company will fail.

  7. Avatar Cheerleader

    Seems like these companies are working together to hike the price. Nothing short of an industry manipulating pricing in my opinion

    • Avatar Stephen Wakeman

      Seeing as this is different to what the other companies are doing, in price at least, I fail to see how you’ve arrived at collusion. If you look at the SIM only deals that the various operators and MVNOs have available, the industry seems quite competitive.

      Customers have a choice of plan types, contract lengths, value adds etc etc and the prices haven’t gone up, they’ve gone down when you factor in data being the main draw. Most offer unlimited mins and texts or thousands of each. What about VM do you think is industry manipulation? They are not a key player in the mobile space, they are an MVNO.

  8. Avatar CarlT

    On PAYG you are, by definition, not on a contract.

    VM don’t want pre-pay customers. Take the hint and depart. 🙂

  9. Avatar NE555

    “The approach is identical for text messages, while data will continue to cost £2 total for the first 200MB of data you use every day”

    Are you saying that’s £2 if you send a text, £2 if you make a call, *and* £2 if you send a byte of data? If you do that every day, you’ll be paying £180 per month??

    Clearly they don’t want the customers. Plenty of other companies do. Number porting works nicely.

    • Avatar SimonM

      Yes separate £2 for each of calls, texts, and data.

      Or more sensibly prices: £5 per month for their cheapest alternative JAM Pack with 250 mins/texts/MB per month.

  10. Avatar eM

    “We’ve dropped Virgin Media” – I know you meant to say, you’ve dropped them a line, but by the looks of it, a lot of people will be actually dropping Virgin Media after these news 😉

    • Avatar Jim

      This is nothing short of extortion and bully tactics what a bunch of cowboys.This is yet another reason I have recently cancelled my virgin media package after nearly 20 years with them.oh how they have changed I hope they get what they deserve ,

  11. Avatar SimonM

    Does seem it’s £2+2+2 each day if you made 1 minute call, 1 text message and used 1MB of data. Clearly VM don’t want customers on that package any more, or want to make huge revenue from people who stay on the plan.

    However looking at the info page (which I found searching Twitter to see what people we’re saying about the change) at https://www.virginmedia.com/help/virgin-mobile-pay-as-you-go-plan says they have alternative “JAM Packs”, which seem more in-line with a standard PAYG:

    “250 minutes, 250 texts, 250MB data for £5.

    500 minutes, 500 texts, 2GB data for £10.

    1,000 minutes, 1,000 texts, 6GB data for £15.

    2,000 minutes, 2,000 texts, 10GB data for £20.

    You can add one of our JAM Packs to your mobile plan from 18th November 2019“

    Does seem some people complaining on Twitter have either only read a short notification (maybe they got a text about it?) or haven’t read as far as the JAM Packs info and just saw the new £2 daily charge (per calls, texts, and data) and the “ If you’re happy with the change, there’s nothing you need to do. Your plan will swap over automatically.” and assumed that was the only option – move over or move networks.

    Does seem strange to not just offer the JAM Packs as the direct alternative to whatever they currently offer.

    • Avatar DianaW

      JAM packs are of no use to those who only use their PAYG mobile for the occasional call or text, let alone those who rely on it for emergency calls. For those groups, a truly unconditional PAYG tariff is essential.

      As those users are likely to be the poorest, often older and/or disabled people, this change overtly discriminates against the most vulnerable groups in society.

      The change was introduced by SMS, without any attempt at consulting existing PAYG customers on how such a change would affect them, and apparently also without alerting sales staff in advance.

      Virgin’s assumption in making this change appears to be that everyone is constantly calling and texting, so that a daily charge for each type of communication will simplify Virgin’s customer accounting. But that pattern doesn’t apply in the case of very many older and/or disabled people and those on very small budgets, who are more likely to use a landline and/or home internet most of the time.

  12. Avatar mike

    So if you make 300 minutes a month of calls (10 mins/day) you’ll be charged £60/month which is the same as somebody who made 6,000 minutes a month of calls. Seems fair.

    Years ago I had SIM only contact on Virgin and got rid of it because they were constantly changing the rules. It went from unlimited, to 2GB, to 1GB followed by a 2Mbps cap, within the space of a few months. Seems they’re still up to their old tricks. Never again.

  13. Avatar Toby Adams

    This is them basically phasing out the PAYG service. This is effectively a £60+pm plan as on any modern smartphone, you’d use at least a few meg per day for just being turned on.

  14. Avatar Steve

    What a greedy company. Bet they didn’t run this past their userbase for feedback. Pity the poor pensioners that make the odd call a day! I already left Virgin’s Internet and TV service last year as their service deteriorated and now I’ll be switching my mobile service.

  15. Avatar Jack Bourne

    This is why I left Virgin Mobile in December 18′. Pure greed, useless customer service, slow speeds and the deaded purple sims. I’ve been on Vodafone since and now get WiFi calling, ability to divert calls from voicemail to my landline free and also the ability to actually use my data without slow speeds. Oh and the good signal.

  16. Avatar joseph barker

    Bye Bye Virgin Been a customer for years but not anymore

  17. Avatar Nic

    I’ve already ordered an O2 SIM on PAYG and will use up my credit on Virgin Media. I will soon also be ditching their Broadband package as well as they keep bumping up the prices and there are far better deals out there. I don’t need any of their improved services at inflated prices I never asked for. They aren’t the worst service provider out there, but they fail to realise that customers have budgets and costs to keep down and constant price hikes are not good. I’d expect prices to fall over time not constantly go up. I’ve had enough now.

  18. Avatar Paul Ebo

    Great forum…very useful…Thanks
    My wife and I have two VM PAYG phones that are affected. I have just been to O2 shop to discuss their advertised ‘Classic PAYG’ package and was told it is being cancelled. They don’t make enough money from PAYG so, just like VM are stopping it. I was told the minimum cost would now be £10 a month.
    Think I will go for 1p mobile, as ‘Roger’ said above, effectively it’s only £2.50 a month and I think that is the best us low users can expect now.

    • Avatar Paula

      Hi Paul

      I went into the O2 shop last week hoping to pick up the classic PAYG SIM – they told me it is only available online. I was a bit annoyed but I was able to order online for free and have just received it. It is a minimum £10 top up if you need credit but other than that pure PAYG – no regular top up required, and only needs a chargeable text/phone call every 6 months (so as little as 4p per year) to keep the account active. Can’t say what they are planning for the future, but this SIM is definitely still in existence for the moment. Three also have a very similar plan but only if you have a smartphone. Good luck planning your escape from Virgin!

  19. Avatar Cat

    I have been using VM PAYG for over 10 years and for my (holistic/massage business) phone. Can anyone please tell me if I can transfer my number over to another network??

    I will also now consider finding a new internet provider.

    I’m outraged with VM and as someone stated, it will be affecting older adults/vulnerable people in our society as well as and those who cannot afford a full-on contract. As if people can really afford cop-out so much more money in this economic climate.

  20. Avatar Jay Peat

    I’ve got 2 mobiles with Virgin PAYG sim cards in; both have got just over £10 on them which Virgin says I will lose if I leave them. So, do I throw away £20+, or accept that any of the rare calls I make will set me back £2 instead of a few pence? I don’t think I’ll be looking at any of their other offers for broadband or TV in the near future.

  21. Avatar Kris

    If you cancel your PAYG phone with VM and get your PAC code to keep your number, is the phone now unlocked from VM so you can use any network SIM?

  22. Avatar Kris

    O2 are introducing lots of changes tomorrow so need to check if they are cancelling classic PAYG

  23. Avatar james

    Told yesterday (12/11) by Virgin that you cannot migrate to “Jam” pack unless on standard (non-big Data / big Talk) tariff.
    Also told that UNLESS you have received text or post notifying of this change, these charges will not apply and nothing changes. Checked balance and will re-check after sending a text on 19th to confirm that this is actually correct, as told 3 different things by 3 different virgin ops – not much confidence in what I was told as well known for incorrect/incomplete/confusing/contrary info.
    Also told by 1st virgin op that Jam Packs will not be available after 18/19th whilst another virgin op said the opposite.

  24. Avatar Michael

    Can’t wait till the landline and broadband are up for renewal. Virgin no more.

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