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Virgin Refunds Me $200

Virgin Mobile Excessive Billing

In my previous post about the Xperia X10 I mentioned being billed excessively for bandwidth use [1].

On Friday when I phoned Virgin I was repeatedly told that there was nothing that could be done about the bill. I demanded to be transferred to someone with authority to change my bill, I was told that wasn’t possible so I demanded to be transferred to a supervisor. As no supervisors were available at the time I had to be called back.

The “Supervisor”

Tonight I received a call from someone who’s employed to deal with disputed bills, after explaining the situation I was offered a discount of $150, that’s a 64% discount on the $234. I rejected that offer and explained that I only used 7% more data than was permitted in the month and only did so because of a previous phone call with a Virgin representative telling me that the billing period ended at the month end (which I couldn’t verify at the time because the Virgin CRM system was down [2]). Thus it doesn’t seem reasonable to charge me 7* the regular billing amount for the entire month.

I was asked what I thought would be a reasonable extra charge, I suggested 7.4% more than the $39 contract, IE an extra $3 – that wasn’t well received. Then I suggested that as the $49 “Smart Cap” plan would have covered the extra data use it could be reasonable for me to pay $49 for the month. The Virgin representative then offered me a $200 discount on the bill and I accepted that. So I got a 85.5% discount on the disputed amount, that’s not too bad, it’s enough to make this scam less profitable to Virgin (particularly when I publish information about it) and enough to make it not worth the effort of a TIO complaint.

That makes it a bill of $102.36 instead of the original $302.36. That is $29 for one month of the “Big Cap $29″ for my wife, $39 for one month of the “Smart Cap $39″ for me, $33.99 for Virgin excessive bandwidth charges (down from $233.99), and $0.37 “Account Charges” which is described as a “Payment Processing Fee” – presumably a fee for paying by credit card.

The Ethical Issue

To make it clear, I think that only a minority of mobile phone customers have an ability to track their bandwidth and understand their bill which equals mine. I also think that only a minority of customers are as willing as I am to argue with random people about such things. I am sure that employees of Virgin Mobile know this and they devised a billing plan to trap customers. I think that this doesn’t comply with the ethical standards that Richard Branson has advocated in several TV interviews that I have watched.

The Next Issue

Now the only remaining issue is that I signed up for an offer “3 Months Free ^ access fee on Topless, Smart & Easy caps with this phone. Save up to $267, just by buying online” which continued “Promo code: reggae Use this promo code & we’ll automatically credit your first 3 months’ access fees“, but so far they have not credited it. It’s a pity I didn’t realise this before and get it done in the same call.

Conclusion

I’m starting to regret not keeping my LG U990 Viewty with a pre-paid SIM from Lebara [3] or Amaysim [4]. Amaysim has a minimum pre-paid value of $10 which lasts for 90 days, and the SIM will then receive calls for 180 days after the credit has run out – this means $10 per 260 days (an average of $7.11 per year) if you just want to receive calls. Lebara has a period of 120 days before the number expires, so that means it costs $10 per 210 days or an average of $5.75 per year to receive calls only.

Telstra charges $150 for one year of mobile net access which allows 10G of data transfer [5]. So it seems that a good option would be an old phone and a new Android tablet. $150 per year ($12.50 per month) for mobile net access and something between $5.75 and $40 per year for phone access (depending on whether you want to make calls) gives enough savings over the cost of a post-paid plan to buy a decent tablet.

I think that the Android phone is definitely the best deal for my wife because she really only wants to carry one device, also she likes having longer conversations on the phone so the plan where she gets up to 450 minutes for $29 per month is a reasonable deal – particularly as calls to me are free and calls to her relatives will be free if they get Virgin phones (something that now seems doubtful given their over-billing).

I’m happy to carry multiple devices (my past record is having four mobile phones and getting a tailor-made coat to fit all the geek stuff I carried) so a phone and a tablet is a reasonable option for me. But the Xperia X10 will do the job for the next two years and I’ve got no great regrets.

On the up-side, Virgin did send me a couple of free movie tickets after their CRM stuff-up.

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