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Oct 03 2016

Porting a telephone number – a sorry story

What started out as a Virgin Media #fail has now become an OpenReach #fail, facilitated by a #TalkTalkfail.

Virgin: how can we help (how about having a chat service that works?)Having experienced some poor TalkTalk service in respect of my telephone landline, and had some generally positive customer experience over several years with Virgin Media (notwithstanding the Great SE London Broadband Outage last December), it seemed logical to finally sever my connection with TalkTalk and transfer my existing telephone number so that it runs over Virgin Media’s network. How wrong I was….

The initial call experience was OK. While a parallel upgrade of my broadband got slightly delayed when equipment wasn’t delivered as expected, this was quickly resolved, but the transfer of the telephone number has become a tortuous month-long tale of missed deadlines, apologies and excuses – complete with one glaring example of poor customer service training.

I called Virgin Media in mid August, and when I received a “sad to see you go” email from TalkTalk on the 19th, it was clear Virgin Media had started the ball rolling; TalkTalk said they would be transferring my service on 27 August 2016. All well and good.

That date came and went, but the transfer hadn’t taken place. In fact, it wasn’t until 8 September that I got a Virgin Media text saying “we’re transferring your old number on 19/09/16” (OK, maybe it takes a month to effect a transfer, I thought).

“Your phone line’s not working….”

That date came … and went … and now the phone just stopped ringing. After a couple of days of silence, I tested the line. I could call out, but the line would not receive incoming calls. I called Virgin Media on the 24th and again on the 26th, and was told that there had been a problem with porting the number. Two more dates for the transfer were set, but still the phone didn’t ring.

(What makes this particularly painful is that not only do I use this telephone when working from home, but it has prevented relatives calling us – my wife’s family is going through a particularly distressing time over in Belfast, but she can’t even be contacted via our landline. And without a properly functioning service, I haven’t been able – or willing – to agree a call package to get the most economic deal, so her outgoing calls have been costing us a small fortune!)

Phishy fail

I called again on Friday 30 September, and the unfailingly sympathetic and apologetic customer service representatives I spoke to told me the number port would now take place on 5 October; I was also told that my complaint would be registered and someone would be in touch about recompense. Shortly after, I got a call on my mobile from someone saying they were from Virgin Media’s number porting team – I only had his word for this, but he then asked for my account password, and – when I refused to give this over the phone – asked which bank I used to pay my Virgin account and my date of birth. Given the publicity given to ‘phishing’ attacks, I said I wasn’t going to give out such information in an unsolicited call.

Ending the call, I once again rang Virgin. The next customer service agent I spoke to said the number couldn’t be ported because it had been disconnected (“Only because you instigated the number transfer on my behalf!” I raged; the agent also said the previous caller should have just asked for two characters from my password – clearly a training issue there); they tried to put me through to the relevant department, but the first attempt failed, as did the second. I then gave up for the day – work was too pressing to waste time on interminable service menus, ‘hold’ music, and telling the story over and over again.

Exasperated…

I am now keeping my fingers crossed that the number transfer is finally completed on Wednesday. In the meantime, if you have been trying to get hold of me on 020 8858 1104 – call my mobile instead: 07788 445920.

And after a patient Twitter silence on the issue, I have started to vent online….

This is my second poor experience with Virgin Media. Other people would be less patient. Should I move, or should I adopt a “three strikes and you’re out” approach….?

Update (5 October, 4.45pm): Got a Twitter response after a few minutes – then nothing for 2.5 hours until someone spotted this post…. And then the chat service was too busy, providing the visual message equivalent of an engaged tone…. (5.45pm) Eventually got a chat response and ‘Mark’ confirmed that our service should be reinstated on 5 October. More conversations to happen once if and when that happens…..

Update (6 October): Well, 5 October arrived … and went – we still can’t receive incoming calls on our preferred number. In the meantime, I got an email from Mark; when I replied, it was bounced back with an email saying:

“Unfortunately we’re unable to deal with your request via this email address. Here are a few useful places to visit that are perfect for finding answers….”

Needless, to say, I was less than impressed, but I was later told, via Twitter, “You can ignore the auto-response, it will have been received and Mark will pick this up when he is back in the office” (tomorrow).

Update (24 October) – Still our old telephone number remains unobtainable to callers, and now it appears that BT is the obstruction. According to my latest email from Virgin Media:

BT have advised that they will not release the number as it was closed by TalkTalk and not exported to us. Our porting team are continuing to try and get them to change their position on the basis TalkTalk closed the number down before we could bring it over for you and therefore there’s no fault on our or your part.

I regret that, in the event that this position doesn’t change, there would be no way to get the number back for you and I’m really sorry if that does become the case.

We’re not giving up yet though, so we’ll continue to chase and escalate with BT.

Based on my previous experiences, TalkTalk’s mistake comes as no surprise, but now it’s BT OpenReach that is perpetuating a problem that is not the fault of Virgin Media, nor me, nor – even – BT OpenReach itself. Their intransigence couldn’t have come at a worse time (a working telephone line would really have helped us last week in arranging to attend a family funeral in Belfast!). Let’s see if @BTcare-s OpenReach cares… Not holding my breath….

Update (12 November 2016) – So the Virgin Media / TalkTalk breakdown has resulted in us losing the telephone number we’ve used for over 20 years. I have accepted a goodwill offer of compensation from Virgin Media. From now on, if you need to call me, it’s 020 8480 6601.

3 comments

  1. Gordon O'Neill

    I have just made the switch from Sky to Virgin for TV, Broadband and phone. Amazingly went very well, number ported across successfully and broadband all up and running. Price was my determining factor paying half of what i was with Sky for just about the same service. No so sure about the 200MB broadband “Big Kahnuna” package. Apparently the best I can expect is 90-150. How can telecoms firms still advertise such ridiculous speeds that they cannot deliver. My broadband is on fibre right up to the house and the best wifi speed I can get is 80MB.

    Hope you get your number this week,

    1. Paul Wilkinson

      Thanks, Gordon. I am largely a fan of Virgin Media, but incidents like this stretch one’s patience to breaking point….

  2. Jeremy Rex

    Hi Paul Wilkinson

    I am experiencing the exact same scenario you have had, switching from Talk Talk to Virgin.
    There was a delay with my installation and in the meantime I was cut off from Talk Talk.
    I spoke numerous times with Virgin to ensure my number would not be lost. I was reassured that I would not lose it. In the end I am advised that it is gone and I still have no installation (3 months) yet.

    Could you advise the level of compensation Virgin are ready to give when they make this type of mess.

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