My husband is deployed overseas for four months with the RAF. I am at home in the UK with our two young children. We are reliant on him having a functioning phone to maintain contact since his wifi access is hit and miss. He received an email from Virgin telling him that his old sim card would shortly stop working, and that a new one would be posted, which would need to be activated. My husband immediately explained his circumstances and asked not to be cut off. Post to his base is not reliable and takes an average of four weeks to reach him.
Virgin assured him it would not deactivate his sim until his return. Two weeks later it did, and no replacement has arrived. Virgin simply offered to send another new sim to our UK address. When he returns to the UK in a month, he will be unable to let me know his arrival times, or when he has landed. Those exciting details have now become stressful.
Military families sacrifice a lot in the national interest and it’s depressing that Virgin Media was unable to make such a small adjustment to keep you connected. In vain have I asked the company why the sim had to be replaced. You were told it was for security reasons and that all customers were affected. It turns out it was never an option for the old sim to remain active but a well-meaning agent, assuming otherwise, cancelled the replacement card to keep his service going.
In fact, the move automatically cut off his service. Virgin tried to send a sim electronically, but your husband’s phone was incompatible. It turns out sims can’t be activated abroad, so the cancelled replacement would, in any case, have been useless. The press office promised to post a pre-activated sim to your UK address to be forwarded on. It reached him three weeks later, just in time for his return to the UK.
Virgin has offered £200 in compensation and advises that customers who are frequently overseas purchase an international sim to avoid complications.
DT of Banstead, Surrey is also cut off from family and friends due to Virgin. The widow, in her 80s and in failing health, switched her phone and broadband service to the company, then discovered her landline number of 37 years had been replaced. “I have missed GP, optician and hospital appointments,” she says. “I’m too old to memorise a new number, and to let all my contacts know would take me to next summer.”
Shamefully, nothing was done to help her after she complained to her old and new providers, yet within three days of press contact her old number was conjured back. Virgin has apologised and offered compensation and says it will act on DT’s plea that customers are asked at the outset if they wish to retain their phone number.
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• This article was amended on 21 December 2022. A previous version incorrectly referred to the “army” rather than the military.