VIRGIN mobile have been branded “despicable” after getting a debt collection agency to
chase an 88-year-old man with dementia – for a £38 bill.
Kenneth Harkins, from Edinburgh, was on a £10-a-month rolling contract but as his
conditioned worsened he stopped using his mobile.
His family say 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 have put a “default” against the pensioner’s credit file and written two threatening
letters, one of which warns him of “further debt recovery action” if the £38 bill remains
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.
In the case of 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.
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, 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.
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.”
Other Virgin Media customers have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration over receiving
debt letters for old accounts or cancelled debts.
David wrote: “Hey @virginmedia any chance someone in your customer service department
actually follow through on a promise. Trying to close a debt from eight years ago which
apparently doesn’t exist – ends up with you apparently owing me money, so send me a
cheque, yet still the debt sits against my name.”
Luciana Alemanno said: “@virginmedia Advantis is still pestering me every day, asking for
money that I supposedly owe you, and that I’ve already discussed with your customer
service a dozen times.”
A Virgin Media spokesman said: “We pride ourselves in giving all of our customers excellent
service. If a customer believes we have made a mistake, we encourage them to get in
touch with us so we can investigate.”
Virgin Mobile issued a second statement in which they said: “As a gesture of goodwill we
have cleared the remaining balance on Mr Harkins’ account.”
They added: “Customers wishing to leave Virgin Media should contact us before they cancel
their direct debit to ensure they do not receive any unexpected charges.”