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Virgin Mobile UK Moves to Scrap Pay As You Go Packages UPDATE

Friday, July 16th, 2021 (12:16 pm) - Score 22,992

Customers of Virgin Mobile’s (Virgin Media) Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans have been informed that the service is “ending” and it will be gradually phased out between October 2021 and January 2022. During this period, customers will find that their SIM “will stop working … if you don’t take any action.” Talk about harsh.

The operator informs customers that “we’ll be in touch closer to the time to inform you of the date when your SIM will stop working” (oh.. how nice), although the only real options open to those impacted by this will be to either adopt one of Virgin Mobile’s Pay Month plans or switch to a different network operator. If you’d rather not wait around, then you can give them a call first on 789 to discuss your options.

We regularly review our offerings to make sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs and usage. After careful review, we’ve decided to close our Pay As You Go services and focus on providing even greater Pay Monthly plans. You have at least 3 months to switch to Pay Monthly or request your PAC, after we have notified you,” said the operator.

In fairness, the move isn’t all that surprising, particularly when you consider that Virgin Media’s prepaid (PAYG) mobile base has collapsed to 123,500 (March 2021) customers from 233,400 a year ago.

One slight irony of this is that Virgin Mobile states that their “friends at O2 offer a great Pay As You Go service” that you can switch to, which is a fascinating thing to say given that Virgin Media just merged with O2 and in a few years’ time O2 will replace Vodafone as the service provider for Virgin Mobile (assuming they retain their individual branding).

Don’t forget to use up your credit up before our Pay As You Go service ends or request a refund for any leftover credit,” added the operator. Thanks very much. Credits to Dafydd for helping to spot this development.

UPDATE 2:23pm

We’ve had a comment from Virgin Media (VMO2).

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We regularly review our products and services to ensure our offering reflects our customers’ needs and best supports their usage.

Over the last few years, we have seen a 75% reduction in active Pay As You Go use, so have decided to close our Pay As You Go services and focus on providing even greater Pay Monthly and SIM only plans.

Customers impacted by this change will be notified in a clear, timely way and will be offered an alternative Pay Monthly plan or the option to switch provider.”

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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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34 Responses
  1. Tom says:

    This seems a bit of an odd move. Closing their Pay & Go service – sure. Makes sense. But why not just transition them all onto O2 to keep the custom there?

    1. Nick says:

      It has not been possible to join Virgin Mobile pay as you go since late 2019. All pay as you go sim cards on sale were pulled and have not been around since.

      Virgin Mobile then introduced a controversial tariff that charges £2 for the first call/text or data used that day and then offered 200 minutes for the rest of that day, this was very expensive for light users who may just spend a few minutes a day or who use less than 50mb of data or send 1 or 2 texts.

      This move was to force customers off pay as you go onto pay monthly or switch to another network although very high spending customers were not moved onto that tariff.

      In 2004, Virgin Mobile had 3 million customers on pay as you go, pay monthly wad just starting off on Virgin Mobile, it used T-Mobile and was actually better than T-Mobile pay ad you go.

      Virgin Media decided to close the Trowbridge Virgin Mobile head office and call centre and this is when all your calls to Virgin Mobile ended up in Philippines or South Africa, Virgin Mobile went from the very best to very worst for customer service and the takeover by Liberty Global excellerated even worse customer service and redundancies even more.

      I last used Virgin Mobile in 2019 on pay monthly sim only and the service was awful, the data never worked despite having full bars of 4G especially in urban and busy areas at peak times, it turned out Virgin Media didn’t want to pay EE at the time for more bandwidth, well that’s what EE told me and I believe them because I was sat in a room with people on EE and they had no issues at all.

      The customer service was useless and the only advice I got was actually off Virgin Media community forum with people telling me to switch off 4G and use 3G which sort of helped but isn’t ideal when you pay for a 4G service that was advertised as faster than O2,Vodafone and Three at the time.

      Community forums exist because companies want its own customers to offer customer service and advice to other customers for free.

    2. Nick says:

      Because they don’t want Pay as you go customers on either Virgin Mobile or O2. They’d rather those customers move to a Pay monthly plan whether it is a phone contract or sim only deal. By being a Pay monthly customer means Virgin Media O2 will have a stable income from the customer because of the monthly charge and contract terms, Pay as you go has never been favoured by the telecoms industry because the revenue isn’t secure, some people top up £5 and maybe make 1 call in the 180 day connection action period which could be around £1, so £1 every 6 months is nothing and actually costs the mobile network money to maintain their service on the network so they are operating at a loss. It is the same with rural BT Payphones that do not have advertising, very few calls and maintainence fees create a loss, so it’s not commercially viable.

      As a last resort, they have advertised O2’s Pay and Go service because there are some Virgin Mobile Pay as you go customers who probably spend a lot of money and would benefit both the customer and the company to move to O2.

      As for O2 Pay and Go, you are pretty much forced to buy a bundle and the minimum bundle is £5 per month for unlimited calls and texts but no data, this set up means O2 would likely get a stable income from the customer of £5 per month.

      Classic Pay as you go tariffs which charged for only what you use at the time on a metered basis is financial suicide for the networks when you have super low users stuck on them and that is why the networks have moved away from them, even Three has stopped offering the 3-2-1 tariff and EE is also another network that pushes people to use packs.

      EE have a £1 per week pack but is not advertised well and I’m not surprised why but it offers something like 100 minutes,50mb data and a few texts. If you don’t have a pack, it’s 35p per minute for all calls including voicemail so if you make just a 10 minute call to someone that’s £3.50 gone.

      All the networks have become very proactive in disconnecting accounts not used within their 90/180 day connection action period before, some networks counted incoming calls as part of the connection action but since termination rates have hit Rock bottom, there is no financial benefit of this now.

      I’m surprised the main mobile networks haven’t already made the decision to end Pay as You go, Vodafone could easily do it whilst retaining Voxi for prepay services as the Voxi model ensures that people pay a monthly fee and there is no room for any £2 per year low users.

      BT Mobile has been smart enough not to enter Pay as you go because if it isn’t a success, it’s costly and time wasting getting rid of the prepay customers when it isn’t making money and BT already have EE Pay as you go to worry about.

      The Pay as you go model isn’t really a necessity anymore, school kids will soon be banned from using phones in schools and is it really good to give kids Mobile phones anyway? Then there are the criminals who hide behind anonymous Pay as you go accounts, there is no need to register your personal details, all you have to do is obtain a sim from anywhere buy a top up voucher by cash and that’s it completely anonymous!

  2. David Chambers says:

    PAYG on Virgin was due to close in the summer of 2020 but this was pulled. Doing so created a problem as all the old EE based SIM cards had to be withdrawn by the end of December that year. Virgin’s answer? Send new SIM Cards to all PAYG customers, totally forgetting that many were using old handsets that would require unlocking.

    The Community Forum was awash with complaints; unlock codes were sent out with no instructions how to enter them. In the end many PAYG customers were giving replacement handsets F.O.C.

    Joined up thinking is not Virgin’s strong point

  3. Yatta! says:

    The profitability of PAYG is likely so low, that it’s not worth Virgin’s while.

    Zero commitment SIM only deals, which do not require credit checks, are available from other providers, which likely workout cheaper than PAYG, for all but the lightest of users.

    1. Nick says:

      Yes you’re right especially when termination rates are almost 0 now.

      This is the problem when you cut termination rates, revenue has to come from somewhere else and if there is no alternative it will have to be withdrawn.

      Yes termination rates cost you money when you call other networks or from a landline but in the 90s and 00s when pay as you go was popular, even if you top up twice a year, incoming calls generated revenue.

      O2 did not cut off pay and go sim cards if incoming calls were received but no outgoing calls were made, so this clearly shows termination rates have an impact on low usage or pay as you go services.

  4. Ig Og says:

    Leave VMo2 , pronounced vomit, at the same time you leave their mobile, whatever network they have at the time. 0800 952 2277

  5. A Jarvis says:

    Of course, it’s no coincidence that this move ties in with the banks making two factor authentication using text messages mandatory/mobile apps mandatory, given people have no choice in the matter but to own a mobile phone with an active sim.

    Vodafone PAYG-£1, used to be a fairly competitive tariff before the change in January 2021, previously a £1 capped charge per day, but with that, you got 500MB of data. On January 12th, call and text messages increased to £1 and the inclusive daily data reduced to 50MB. I mean 50MB, is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, Vodafone.

    Three increased their charges from 3-2-1, 3p a minutes calls, 2p per text and 1p per MB to 10p a minutes for calls, 5p per text and 5p per MB.
    To put that in context someone on a low income is charged £50 for 1GB of data, compared to previously only paying £10 per 1GB of data.

    If they have to phone to pay outstanding Council Tax, there’s never a free number so a 20 minute call now costs £2, where as it used to cost 60p.

    This isn’t 2% inflation on the poor, this is three-three-three hundred percentage inflation, or thereabouts.

    o2 has dropped its 3-2-1 tariff for new customers.

    To the CMA, and Ofcom, for all your so called ‘effort to regulate’, there really doesn’t seem much competition in the PAYG sector right now (1p mobile is the last man standing).

    This seems on the surface, a blatant “collective push” by the industry to force SIMO/Phone contracts.

    1. Ryan says:

      Most network traditional pay-as-you-go nowadays only sense if you’re usage is low, most network nowadays got pay-as-you-go bundle with zero credit check.

      1p Mobile sure it’s competitive but you’re forced to top up ever 120 days and if you do use all you’re credit within 120 days you’re probably better off with a bundle anyway.

      If you’re very very low usage Asda Mobile at 4p call text mb is probably better than 1p mobile since they don’t force a top-up ever 120 days.

    2. Chris says:

      £10 per GB is bonkers.

      I pay ID mobile £8 for 15GB that rolls any unused every month.

      Data rates are terrible whenever it gets busy but it’s £8 a month!!!!

  6. Buggerlugz says:

    This has come about because of Internet of things devices that use hardly any data but cost telco’s a fortune rather than make them any money.

    1. Spurple says:

      A sim card that consumes no data or voice is only a marginal cost to the telco of almost zero. One reason they want everyone to be paying a monthly fee is that those low usage low cost sims bring down their average revenue per user, which makes them look bad and their stock perform worse.

  7. Gary says:

    We haven’t had ‘pay as you go’ for a long time now on most operators plans.

    A top up that you lasts a month isn’t pay as you go it’s a rolling 30 day contract.

    Putting credit on your phone that you could use until it was gone or you could afford to top up was pay as you go..

  8. Buggerlugz says:

    Also I guess it stops the criminal element from using PAYG phones for nefarious purposes.

  9. alan jones says:

    For low users like me,iv switched to rwg mobile,uses ee. 50 mins or texts,and 250mb data for £0 a month. Renews every 25th of the month. Everything good so far

  10. Richard says:

    Smarty network, piggy back off three and via uSwitch offer 3gb unlimited calls and texts for £5 per month

  11. Andrew says:

    Anyone remember when Virgin’s whole thing was that they had no contracts? Even had those adverts with Wyclef Jean being tricked into signing a marriage contract.

  12. Susan Bevan says:

    I live in France, visiting UK once a year.(before Covid restrictions) I found my very old mobile (only calls and texts) very useful during my visits. I still have money on the phone but now cannot call 789 to recover that Monet or change the account. What do I do?

  13. Pete says:

    Well thanks for telling us. Needed Police, ambulance. Road accident. find I have no service.You Bunch of moron’s.

  14. Sean says:

    ..so Virgin is ending pay as you go SIMS; in that case I will be leaving them, as I do not wish to waste money on a contract. I do not want to waste time looking at the ‘net, via a tiny screen, you thieves!

    here’s the address to send you complaints to:

    Virgin Media,
    SR43 4AA

    Don’t try the Website; it’s a ‘computer says no routine’

  15. James White says:

    Asked for new monthly sim card it’s being sent to me but now my old pay as you go sim has old signal. If I restart my phone I get about 6 minutes of coverage then nothing. Sick and tired how I’m I meant to update a new sim with no network coverage.

  16. linda radforth says:

    how can i keep my number

    1. CJB says:

      Get a new SIM from a more reputable Telco. Call Virgin C.S. and ask for the PAC no. of your old Virgin SIM card. Call the new telco. and ask them to transfer your old no. to the new SIM.

  17. Keith says:

    Would i be able to get any credit refunded or is that wishfull thinking.

    1. CJB says:

      We were told by a C.S. agent “No!!”

  18. John says:

    I’d love to be able to stay on the old Pay As You Go system. I only have an older cheap handset I keep for emergencies. Other than that, I’m lucky if I make more than 10 calls in a year and I don’t text whatsoever. It’s not worthme have a pay monthly plan for my phone usage.

    1. CJB says:

      Get a Lycamobile PAYG SIM – £1 from the Poundshop.

  19. K smithers says:

    Totally unfair ive credit on phone cant use it all by January no bank account so how do i get my credit back

    1. CJB says:

      You don’t. Call C.S. and the Agent will say “Computer Says No!!” That’s criminal fraud by the way.

  20. Mrs Freeman says:

    This is a disgusting decision that will affect older users badly. I only ever use my mobile away from the house, and do not like giving my number out unless it is essential. I certainly will not benefit from a monthly payment plan which of course Virgin would like me to buy. I will be making all calls on my virgin mobile to use up the credit before the cut off date, if only to make sure they do not get any left over credit.

  21. CJB says:

    Virgin Agent Says ‘No!!’ To Refund Of Credit
    Elderly relative has a Doro phone and a Virgin Pay As You Go account – this is primarily for emergencies and for receiving hospital appointments. He’s on dialysis. In December he was alarmed to get a text stating that Virgin PAYG was closing down in early 2022. He can hardly use the phone let alone a computer, but he realised that if he did not arrange an alternative he’d be cut off, lose his phone number, and wouldn’t get the texts from the hospitals. So we phoned Virgin Customer Service. First he wanted a refund of his credit £15 – the Agent said “Not possible.” [That’s criminal fraud.] Then he wanted the PAC code for his SIM card. “Not possible – call again later.” [Fraud again]. Then he asked how to arrange an alternative. “Take out a monthly plan with Virgin.” [At grossly inflated costs.] We solved the issue with a Lycamobile PAYG SIM card at £1 from the Poundshop. But we still need the PAC code.

  22. CJB says:

    For the elderly this will mean they will lose touch with relatives, and hospitals for medication etc. Branson should be ashamed to be associated with such criminal fraud as refusing to refund credits on PAYG accounts.

  23. Cilla Cotterell says:

    Not happy don’t use mobile that often only for doctors and hospital,you only sent me a new SIM last year .I would really like to keep my number but gather I can’t tried reading stuff don’t understand it ,you have not thought about the older people who find technology difficult and don’t understand it

  24. Nigel robinson says:

    Tried to get a pay as you go SIM from O2 only to told they only do monthly and no pay as yo go SIM avaliable.

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