VIRGIN Mobile sent an 88-year-old man with dementia a bill for £1.50 – after promising to clear his account when he couldn’t remember his password.
Kenneth Harkins, from Edinburgh, was on a £10-a-month rolling contract but as his conditioned worsened he stopped using his mobile.
Virgin Mobile hired debt collectors to chase Kenneth for £38 despite multiple attempts by his daughter to have the contract cancelled.
The company finally offered to clear the remaining balance off his account as a ‘goodwill’ gesture in May to the family’s relief.
But today (tue) his daughter Julie said she didn’t know whether to ‘laugh or cry’ when another bill arrived last week – demanding £1.50.
Virgin have now apologised for the mistake and cleared the account for the second time – revealing the charge was added on for having a paper bill sent out.
The bungle emerged during Scotland’s Dementia Awareness Week, which aims to help the 90,000 people living with dementia in Scotland.
The bill dated to May 19, shows the initial £38 charge and the charges credited to Mr Harkin’s account.
But after removing the remaining account balance, the company forgot to take off a £1.50 charge.
The 88-year-old’s family say the saga began when Virgin refused to cancel the contract unless they could get Mr Harkins’ account password – which he could not remember because of his dementia.
When the exasperated family went ahead and cancelled the direct debit, Virgin responded by passing the matter to a debt collection firm.
They then put a “default” against the pensioner’s credit file and sent two threatening letters, one of which warns him of “further debt recovery action” if the £38 bill remains unpaid.
Mr Harkins, a former builder and plasterer, his daughter Julie Abu-Husan, and her husband Ali, also from Edinburgh, have tried to negotiate with the firm since October last year.
In May Julie, 57, eventually took to Twitter, telling the firm: “Virginmedia my 88-year-old father had a mobile contract with you for £10 per month.
“He can no longer use it, but when we have tried to cancel his contract, they insist on having his password which he cannot remember as he has dementia. He now had debt recovery letters. Despicable.”
Speaking today, Julie said: “Virgin deleted the charges, so imagine our dismay, horror and also laughter at the fact we have now received another bill from Virgin for his still ongoing contract.
“He doesn’t even have the phone anymore. It was lost months ago. So despite everything, they still haven’t cancelled his contract.
“I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it arrived.”
Speaking at the time, 57-year-old Julie said: “As he was no longer using the phone and had no need for it, we contacted Virgin to cancel the contract. The person we spoke to asked for my father’s password, but of course he had no idea.
“The virgin employee just kept repeating that he must be given the password and could offer no further help or discuss anything with us. My father then started receiving letters from a debt recovery company for £38.”
Her husband Ali, 58, added: “I don’t understand why they are chasing him for such a small amount. We tried to explain it to them, and they just wouldn’t listen. I mean he is a pensioner, and they were asking for a letter from a doctor to prove he had dementia. I mean seriously? Why should I have to provide a letter to prove he is ill?
“I don’t understand why they didn’t cancel the service, why did they keep it running when we told them we were going to cancel the payment? It doesn’t make sense.”
The first debt letter arrived on March 26 and warned the OAP: “We would like to draw to your attention that our client has registered a default against your credit file in relation to this account. The default may affect your ability to obtain credit in the future. Please do not ignore this letter.”
A Virgin Media spokesman said: “We are sorry for the mistake we made when we applied the original goodwill gesture.
“We have corrected our error and the remaining £1.50 balance has now been cleared from Mr Harkin’s account”
The case is one of several complaints against Virgin, posted on their official Twitter account, about the firm calling in debt collectors.
Letters have been sent to customers who say they closed accounts from eight years before, chasing payment from those who never held an account with company and one customer who had cleared the debt but was still being harassed by a bailiff.