Virgin Mobile VIP tariff offers "unlimited everything" from £26 a month

iPhoneIn a bid to take on the big players in the mobile market, Virgin has unveiled a VIP tariff which offers "unlimited everything" from £26 a month.

Crucially the deal includes unlimited calls to 0870, 0800, 0845 and 0808 numbers which are normally excluded from call packages.
But is the deal really as good as it sounds?

The top tariff
Virgin's new VIP tariff costs £31 a month for unlimited calls to UK mobiles and landlines, unlimited texts, unlimited data in the UK, unlimited calls to 0870, 0800, 0845 and 0808 numbers, free mobile phone insurance and a "top selling&rd
quo; handset.

Existing Virgin Media customers with TV or broadband get a £5 a month discount meaning they get the VIP treatment for £26 a month.

Virgin is selling the deal as "the ultimate worry-free monthly tariff" and, to me, it looks pretty good: It's the only tariff to include unlimited calls to 080 numbers which can be expensive from mobiles.

For example, calling 0800 numbers from an O2 contract mobile phone costs 20.4p a minute. So a 10-minute call to your bank will set you back £2.04.

The small print
Although on the face of it, Virgin VIP looks like a great deal, there are a few clauses in the contract customers should watch out for.

Firstly, the deal offers a "top-selling handset such as the Samsung Fame or Nokia Lumia 620".

While these might be good phones, gadget addicts might be disappointed that they can't get a Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone or HTC One included in the package for free. A Samsung Galaxy S4, for example, will cost you £99 up front on the VIP tariff.

Secondly, "unlimited" data doesn't quite mean unlimited. Virgin's acceptable usage policy applies for customers who joined Virgin Media after 25 June 2012 and states that 'excessive' use of over 3.5GB of data per calendar month will result in their maximum bandwidth being restricted to 3G speeds (384kbit/s downstream, 200kbit/s upstream).

It also says that Virgin Media's mobile services are for "private individual use only (i.e. not for business or commercial use)" – which could, potentially, mean you're not allowed to check your work emails on your phone. However, how Virgin would monitor this, I have no idea.

"Tethering" is banned too. Tethering involves using your handset as a modem to connect other devices such as laptops and tablets. So you can't use your "unlimited" data allowance on your other gadgets.

Also the unlimited calls to 0800, 0845, 0870 and 0808 numbers have a 60 minute limit, after which you'll be charged standard call rates. So if you're in customer service hell and waiting in a call queue you'll either have to pay call charges after 60 minutes or hang up and start again.

Finally, the cheapest deals are for 24 months although 12 month contracts are available for a higher price.

SIM-only deals
Virgin Mobile has also launched some tempting SIM-only tariffs for mobile users happy with their current handset.

Its £15 a month deal includes unlimited texts, data and minutes on a 30-day rolling contract. However, unlike the pay monthly contracts, calls to 08 numbers are chargeable.

Other networks offering cheap SIM-only deals typically cap the data usage at 1GB a month at most.

Is VIP a good deal?
Virgin VIP offers a decent deal for existing Virgin Media customers already signed up to its TV and broadband service. £26 a month for unlimited everything (albeit with a few small print clauses about fair usage) is a bargain.

The real clincher is the inclusive calls to 08 numbers, something no other network offers at the moment. Handset insurance is a bonus too although you might not need it; mobile insurance is offered as a perk on many packaged bank accounts and might be included on your home insurance too.

But for everyone else, a starting cost of £31 isn't quite so market-leading, especially if you want the very latest handset which will cost you extra.

10 consumer rights you should know
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Virgin Mobile VIP tariff offers "unlimited everything" from £26 a month

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.


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