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'Virgin Media says I'm in debt, but I'm not even a customer'

Jessica Gorst-Williams
Usain Bolt appears with Richard Branson in an campaign for Virgin Media - PA

Virgin Media is chasing me over a supposedly unpaid bill. I am not a customer and have lived in my home for more than 35 years. I have made valiant efforts to reach a resolution, to no avail.

CW, London

More than a year before you first wrote to me, letters chasing a Virgin Media customer for a debt had started to arrive at your property. Initially you sent them back marked “return to sender”.

It seems now that two people who you received letters for had been living one after the other at an address that had been wrongly entered into Virgin Media’s system.

The matter had escalated so that a debt collection company bashed, as you say, on your locked porch door on two consecutive days, leaving an “Urgent Notice of Attendance” in your letter box.

You report that you had to double lock your front and porch doors when you watered the garden in case bailiffs arrived. 

You had also involved a solicitor and expected Virgin Media to pay the costs, which it wouldn’t. This was undoubtedly unsettling. You wrote to three senior individuals at Virgin Media. 

One of your letters had asked the company “to ensure that no contact by phone or letter is made with my solicitor, and that no one telephones me or invites me to telephone Virgin Media”. You asked for all future contact to be in writing. This may have complicated matters. 

Virgin Media said it had tried calling you to ask you to call it back. It had also reportedly written to you but still there was no resolution.

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Meanwhile, I understand it had had difficulties contacting the other customer for clarification of the situation. You did have other reasons to be annoyed. 

For example, an infuriating letter (clearly done with paragraphs cut and pasted together that had no relevance) from Virgin Media had concluded: “It goes without saying that we deeply value your relationship with us, and it’s important you know that we’re committed to providing you with the highest level of service.”

You were not, of course, its customer. After my involvement, Virgin Media at last stopped such communications being sent to your address. 

It turns out that the other customer had made an innocent mistake and given incorrect information in their address details, which are very similar to yours. Virgin Media now offered £50 for goodwill. 

I pointed out that to my mind it had been far too slow and not proactive or imaginative enough in dealing with this. 

On reflection, it agreed it was appropriate to increase the offer to £150. It says this will take up to 40 days to arrive and comes as a gesture of goodwill for your poor experience. This does not cover your £501 solicitor’s bill but even so you say you will give 10pc of the reparation to charity.

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A Virgin Media spokesman said: “We apologise to Ms W for the length of time it has taken to resolve her query and for any inconvenience she has experienced.”

Meanwhile you had also contacted Action Fraud and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The latter replied: “From the information provided to us it appears likely that Virgin Media has breached the Data Protection Act as it has failed to ensure the accuracy of the personal data it holds and has unfairly disclosed Ms D’s personal data by sending a letter containing her bank details to your address.”

However, the ICO was satisfied with the steps Virgin Media had taken in response to your concerns and did not feel that any further regulatory action needed to be taken. It considers the matter to be closed.

Incidentally, unless you have ever applied for joint credit with the person concerned, their financial record will not have an impact on your credit rating even if they share the same address. So any fears you have on that front are unfounded. 

Although I know the bailiffs incident in particular is bound to leave an unpleasant memory, I really hope you will be able to let this matter go.