Virgin Media bills dead man: goes viral

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is the latest company to discover that poor customer service can result in public humiliation courtesy of social media. It sent a broadband bill to a deceased man - along with a note saying that the bank had refused his direct debit because the man had died - and added an additional late payment charge.

After the company failed to respond to an initial complaint, the man's son-in-law took matters into his own hands.
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Jim Boyden posted a photograph of the bill on Facebook. It clearly shows the £63.89 charge with the note "D.D Denied - Payer deceased" next to it. But ignoring the import of these words, the company added an additional 'late payment charge' of £10.

Boyden added the note: "I'm really sorry for my Father in Law not paying his bill last month, but what with him being dead and all, it's probably slipped his mind. Some people, eh?"

The bill was then shared over 85,000 times on Facebook - and then on Twitter. It has attracted scores of angry comments.

Apology

Virgin Media explained to the Independent that it could not close an account on the basis of an unverified claim of a customer's death. It added that no direct contact had been made with the business, and that the son-in-law's surname is different from the customer's, so it took some time to sort out.

However, it told the BBC that it had apologised directly to the family for its lack of sensitivity, dropped the late payment charge, and offered to make a contribution to charity on behalf of the family.

A spokesman said in a statement: "We have a team in place to ensure bereavements are managed sensitively and will ensure this wording is removed from our billing system."

After a slow start, it seems that Virgin has been working hard to quell the storm. It can take some comfort from the fact it is far from alone in this sort of public humiliation.

Five viral complaints

Here are five of our favourites:

1. Early this week we reported the tale of the tanning salon in the US, which told a customer she was too fat to lie down on their tanning tables - and then said she couldn't get her money back. Twenty years ago this would have been a snippet in the local paper. This week it was news around the world.

2. Then there was the story we covered about the boutique in Melbourne, where a bride-to-be had been ridiculed by a sales assistant, and wrote to the GASP store to complain. The owner responded that she wasn't fashionable enough for the store, that the sales assistant was a 'retail superstar', and that she shouldn't bother visiting again. The email exchange went viral.

3. Last year we reported the story of an Essex mum, who was pregnant, her husband had been made redundant, and they were about to move 12 miles from her nearest gym. However, her local branch of LA Fitness did not allow her to cancel her contract. She approached a newspaper who secured her a discount. However, it was only after the story went viral on Twitter that the gym backed down and let her cancel without charge.

4. United Airlines has been the subject of two embarrassing viral complaints. The first was back in 2009, when Dave Carrol's song "United Breaks Guitars" - explaining about the poor service he and his guitar received on a flight - was viewed over 12 million times. More recently, a disabled veteran published an 18 minute clip detailing poor treatment he received from the airline - which was seen over 250,000 times.

5. And finally, the US film director, Kevin Smith, was told he was too fat to fly on a Southwest Airlines flight - after he had boarded - so filmed the entire incident and tweeted a series of messages about it. The whole thing went viral and he received a public apology and a voucher. Although presumably he needs to lose weight if he wants to use the voucher!

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Virgin Media bills dead man: goes viral

Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship.

Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so.

To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension.

In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.

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