back to article Virgin Media takes itself in hand after punter-package tickle whoopsie

An email that arrived in the inboxes of an unspecified number of Virgin Media customers on Friday that promised "faster broadband, for less" was embarrassingly pulled by the telco just hours later. The company had initially sent a message boasting about Virgin Media "tickles", which apparently the ISP gives to "people we know …

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  1. James Le Cuirot
    Facepalm

    HTML vs plain text

    I know what really happened. I use Claws Mail, which displays the plain text version of e-mails by default. I actually saw the correct message as it was only the HTML version that was wrong. I didn't realise anything was amiss until they sent the apology.

  2. Blue eyed boy
    Unhappy

    > We'll also be lowering the price of your broadband package in April to match the price of our 50Mb Broadband XXL packages.

    And other packages in proportion? No chance. Vermin Media's policy (iunherited from NTL) of screwing their bottom-rate customers with the biggest price increases (or the absence of drops, or in one case with NTL, an increase when the top rate dropped), still applies.

    1. Absent

      The speeds of other packages will apparently be doubled. Mine is supposed to be going from 30mbps to 60mbps, even through I only get 20mbps.

      1. CD001

        because

        The 20Mbs service is obsolete - it's the old mid-level package running on the older DOCSIS 2 modem... If you're "upgraded"* to the new superhub you'd be on the 30Mbs package for the same price (they actually reduced my monthly bill slightly when I upgraded as a "loyalty reward" since I've been with them since they were Blueyonder).

        So the upgrade to 60Mbs will apply when, 1) they've upgraded your line and 2) you've upgraded to the DOCSIS 3 superhub.

        * yes, yes - some might not see it as an upgrade - though it has improved recently and even supports "modem" mode so you can use your own, better wireless router.

        1. Alex Walsh

          How does that work if you're on a 10Mbs connection? They wont upgrade you to an obsolete package will they?!

          1. zar athustra
            Happy

            10 will go to 30

        2. deshepherd

          "So the upgrade to 60Mbs will apply when, 1) they've upgraded your line and 2) you've upgraded to the DOCSIS 3 superhub."

          From what I read of the offer then they'll upgrade you to the superhub for free as part of this change. I've never moved up to 30Mb from 20Mbs as initially, I think, you needed to pay something like £75 for the superhub .... I think that's come down to £30 "activation" fee now. Plus, the initial reports of the Superhub were not particularily positive and it originally could not be used purely as a modem so I gave it a pass as I've already got my router/firewall etc set up and just want a modem feed into it. Since then I gather you can now configure the superhub to act just as a modem so that will suit me fine when they come to upgrade me.

          N.b. another reason not to upgrade originally was it seemed obvious at some point VM would want to turn off the DOCSIS2 and switch everyone to DOCSIS3 so looked inevitable that at somepoint they'd have to do free upgrades and, to be honest, 20Mb seems perfectly adequate for our needs so allure of 30Mbs wasn't great

          1. Spiracle

            I moved house last year and VM gave me a 'Super' hub, presumably as that was all they have in the warehouse these days. Soon after they offered the 20-30mbs upgrade for £30 but, as it seemed to me to be a 30 quid fee for somebody in network control to tick a box on a screen, I chose not to take them up on it.

            I checked my download speeds a couple of days ago and it had magically gone up to 30mbs. Not sure when it happened but it could have been weeks ago.

        3. Absent

          "it's the old mid-level package running on the older DOCSIS 2 modem".

          Actually I'm on DOCSIS 3 with a Superhub. They silently put me over onto it months back and my connection went down for a week. After an engineer visit he said somehow I was put onto DOCSIS 3 despite still getting 20mbps. After switching to a Superhub it worked fine, but I'm still only getting 30mbps.

          1. Absent

            Sorry, that should be "still only getting 20mbps".

    2. Tim of the Win

      The margins on the lowest tier products are pretty thin, so cost rises will always get passed on. The top packages have a large profit margin so there's quite a lot of room to cut prices in order to appeal to more customers.

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Sir

    I got a copy of this email and I was pretty annoyed at receiving it, especially as I can't bloody well get Virgin where I live. I'm stuck with my mate in a city sending me screenshots of the up/down speeds every now and again just to piss me off :)

    1. Mr Anonymous
      Unhappy

      At least it isn't available where your live, my neighbours declined the cable wayleave, so I can see the duct but cannot be connected to it!

      1. MaximumJed

        Go mental at them and escalate as far as possible, back when they were Blueyonder my mate discovered the road behind his house (which has no houses on it) had cable, but BY wouldn't put in the extra few feet under the pavement to reach his back garden. He kept writing letters etc until he got high enough that a site visit was arranged and the necessary changes made.

    2. Miek
      Coat

      Don't worry, I can send you some screen-shots of my VM broadband speeds just to cheer you up ;)

  4. Andy Fletcher

    Here's a thought Virgin...

    ...instead of telling me about future improvements, why not make some attampt to deliver the service I'm already paying for eh? I don't get a quarter of the bandwidth you say I should right now.

    I honestly don't get how the ASA allows this nonesense really. If Heinz started shipping tins of beans that were half empty there'd be a fuss sure enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or if Walkers started shipping bags of crisps that were half empty...

      Oh wait.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        air bags....

        the ratio of air to crisps in walkers crisps is set to a level that the bag of air offers some level of cushioning while being packed in boxes for transit..

        have you ever noticed that walkers crisps on the whole have very few broken crisps and crumbs in the package compared to other brands?

        if in doubt, get some digital scales and weigh the content of the packet. if there are any packets significantly under weight in relation to the stated weight of the package.. return them...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I haven't compared brands on this issue, no.

          I was taking the piss.

        2. BristolBachelor Gold badge
          Joke

          RE: air bags....

          I find that seconds after opening a bag of Walkers (or Lays) salt & vinegar crisps, the weight starts falling very rapidly. You may have to make the measurement very quickly :) Perhaps I should return them all ?

  5. AdamT

    No biggie?

    Well, they made a bit of a mistake, they spotted it and said "oops" within a couple of hours. Let he who has never accidentally emailed the wrong person cast the first flame, etc. etc. ?

    1. Peter 53

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/graphics/icons/comment/wtf_32.png

      Adam T: I agree!

      I presently have VM 10m - consitantly measues about 13ms ping and 9.7M+.

      And I understand they are goint o double that for me.

      I was somwhat bemused by the email suggesting I already had 100M but so what?

      Won't exactly be loosing any sleep over this!

    2. Chris 2

      Quite. I got the mail, it said something like "you're already getting our top speed", so I automatically assumed someone had sent the mail to the wrong distribution list rather than they were going to give me free stuff. Then shortly afterwards I got the other mail confirming it.

      Not exactly earth-shattering, no.

  6. Richard North
    FAIL

    Not only, but also...

    They didn't just do this once, they did it twice!

    We received the first email, then the retraction, then a second copy of the email, which was also followed by a retraction.

    Dropping a bollock once is embarrassing, dropping the same one again having just apologised for it takes it to a whole new level...

    Still, in the grand scale of things, I don't mind - I don't get comedy emails very often. :-)

    1. deshepherd

      I got it twice as well ... but check the email "To:" addresses ... one set was direct to my "blueyonder.co.uk" address and the second to the email contact address I set up on my account which use my own domain name but is forwarded into my "blueyonder.co.uk" address. Hence they sent it to two distinct addresses which happen to end up in the same mail box.

      N.b. like someone else I spotted the "as you are already on the fastest package" line in the erroneous mailing I too immediately assumed they'd made a simple error. I also got at almost the same time another email saying that my current 20Mbs service would be increasing to 60Mbs.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I know a few people, me included, who have suffered service issues with VM each time a refund was given within 2 weeks of complaining coupled with repeatedly not being charged until the service was fixed.

      Instead of e-mailing the CEO try customer services.

      1. Miek
        FAIL

        For me, customer services simply cannot help. My 50Mb service degrades to roughly under 30Kbps downstream and 3-5Mb upstream. Every time I call, they insist on sending an engineer and each time the engineer places an attenuator on the line, which fixes the problem for about a week then it starts failing again.

        There are currently three -6DB attenuators in-line on my cable, apparently I am "too close" to my green box; which I feel is absolute bollocks.

        I end up spending more money on phone calls to customer services which the £10 or £15 refund barely covers.

        1. PeterM42
          Thumb Up

          Pay for calls????

          Of course if you had VM phone as well, you could just dial 150.........

          No broadband provider is perfect, but since they became VM (previously NTL), their customer service seems to have improved quite a lot. AND my "10Mbps" is often around that mark.

          No complaints!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good news for some, as long as they lift the fair usage policy that sees 75% of your bandwidth removed once you've downloaded a fair bit.

    One of the (many) reasons I moved to Sky. I don't get the full 20Mb I pay for with Sky, I currently get between 16-18Mb/s but at least it's that speed all the time regardless of how much streaming, gaming etc that I do.

    1. Big_Ted
      Happy

      They are doubling the values on the fair usage policy.

      And if you read it you will see they manage traffic to imroove things like video streaming which I support.

      As to those with speed issues I was downoding at the full 50 meg last night for over ana hour no problem so its only the unlucky few who have issues.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fair use - nonsense!

        @Big_Ted: "They are doubling the values on the fair usage policy."

        We have been getting only a tiny fraction of the performance expected from our Virgin Media connection. When I called to report a fault, they said we exceeded the fair use policy on our "unlimited" account. After wading through several levels of the site hierarchy, I finally discovered that 'fair use' meant we could use our connection for about 15 minutes during the day, or 3 minutes each when divided across our household.

        So doubling that, I will be able to use it for 6 minutes before I'm branded a data hog. I wonder why they are allowed to use the term "unlimited" to advertise this rubbish?

        1. Miek

          " I wonder why they are allowed to use the term "unlimited" to advertise this rubbish?" -- I believe the Advertising Standards Agency is incapable of correctly operating and interpreting a Dictionary.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And I'm sure Rupert is pleased to take your money/

  9. Ech00hcE
    Mushroom

    Mistake or P.R stunt?

    When V Media sent me this message it was quite obvious that it was nothing more than a P.R. stunt as it's not the first such cock-up they've made. Unfortunately a number of dim-witted tech publications have written about it and "tickled" V Media by promoting their new 120MB fibre optic service for free...

  10. Return To Sender

    Hrrummphhh

    Yup, I got this e-mail, even though I don't actually have VM broadband (just telly)... Personally I just read it as another marketing droid cockup and shrugged.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well....

    I paid £25 pcm for the 512kbps service when I first moved home over 10 years ago. Since then, VM have moved me to 1MB, 2MB and now 10MB "FOC", at the same price.

    I saw this email (actually I first saw it on their forums) and saw I'd go to 20MB, but the 20MB/30MB packages would go to 60MB.....so I made a phone call...

    For the fairly low sum of an additional £2.50 pcm I could move to 20MB, and thus get 60MB when the upgrade hit. I was then told I could get the 30MB service for the same price, and then I got an additional sweetener of a £5 discount for 3 months. So, I'll save £2.50 a month for 3 months, which will then pay for another 3 months of the increase - so technically I'm getting 30MB free for 6 months, by which time I should be on 60MB.

    So far the "actual" 30 meg has been a bit sporadic (I've seen 27, but more normally around 10 meg) - but the main upside is that if/when my connection is throttled, it's down to 10 meg, not 2 or 3 meg. So, overall, I'm happy....and will be happier once I see more conistency.

    In their favour, my 10 meg line has nearly always been 8.75 meg or above for a good coupla years... :)

    1. deshepherd

      30MB is the same price level as 20Mb ... in fact 20Mb is "obsolete" and only exists for people (like me) who were at the 20Mb and declined to have a "free" update to 30Mb which (still) requires "buying" a superhub (originally for £75 but now, I think, just £30 "activation"). As you were upgrading from 10Mb then you jump direct to the 30Mb level and get a free superhub as part of the upgrade. Its the usual Telewest/VM story of new/upgrade users getting something that long standing existing users cannot get. At least it appears with the 20/30Mbs->60Mbs I'll get a free superhub as I assume they are wanting to free up all the bandwidth allocated to DOCSIS2.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        HuperSub

        You get a free superhub if your old modem should (perchance) break...

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  14. Miek
    Meh

    "Some 50Mb/s customers will see an initial rise to 100Mb/s before moving up to the full whack 120Mb/s, the telco spokespersons added."

    I wonder if iPlayer will still hang and need to buffer constantly?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having had the 50 meg service for over 6 months now, whilst originally it was zippy and gave me close to 50 meg most of the time i was happy.

    Having previously had a 10 meg package which commonly would be rate limited less than 2 meg and made for lots of hair pulling i upgraded to the 50 meg where i was informed i would no longer be subject to rate limiting.

    Now 6 months on and oh look get to 7pm and the network is that congested i get no where near the 50 meg i should be getting until everyone goes to bed in the uk, testing even now in the middle of the day im getting around 30 meg on various testing sites :(

    So i was completely bemused to hear they will be doubling everyone speeds, as the network cant cope with the load as it is.... its going to be really fun when they double everyone up and give the bandwidth bashers out their even more power to saturate the network to the face palm point.

  16. lukewarmdog
    Gimp

    I like Virgin Media

    Ever since I took an arrow to the knee and had to spend more time at home, Virgin has been good to me.

    1. miknik
      Trollface

      Me too

      Ever since I took an arrow to the knee I have been a virgin, or something like that.

  17. flearider
    FAIL

    yep my bro's on virgin .. never gets more than 5mb (for £20+)but no phone line so can't move ...

    i'll stick with be* cause there fantastic ..

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quality vs Quantity

    I really wish they'd drop this race for headline-grabbing speed figures for a bit and sort out the parts of the network that are just not up to scratch.

    A significant portion of their customers aren't getting the speeds they're promised (just look at the comments above), I'm thankful that I'm not in that boat, but it doesn't stop there. Almost everyone (a lot wont' notice) is getting massive latency spikes throughout the day but particularly at peak times - mostly it's only people using their connection for VoIP and gaming that are complaining, and being ignored of course - it is VM after all.

    It would be nice to see news of "Virgin Media to improve network capacity and latency in congested areas" but that's a bit of a mouthful, and doesn't let them plaster big numbers on the sides of buses.

    Any VM customers out there, start running ThinkBroadband's ping tool - you'll get some nice brightly coloured graphs. Then show them to the support staff and get a "hmmm, sucks to be you" response.

    Don't all jump to BT Infinity at once though guys!

  19. Tony Barnes
    Thumb Up

    Well I can't wait

    My BB experience from Virgin has been pretty damn good over the years - sure, it fails some times, but in most occasions it is up an running again before the day is out. Jumping up to 60meg from 20meg is going to be a god send - when throttling kicks in I will still be pootling along at pretty close to my previous max speed, top stuff.

    As for the email, yeah, got both, my thought was it was more PR than error (someone else mentions this above) - but meh, who cares - so long as they actually do the upgrades all's good IMO!

  20. Andy Fletcher

    The other thing I don't get....

    ...and maybe some enlightened network experts here can explain is:

    How come many moons ago I used to play Quake over a 56Kbps modem and have fantastic ping, and yet here in the future with exponentially more bandwidth the pings just plain suck. Or is it, as I fear, simply a case that normal people have been granted access to the Internet to it's eternal detriment.

  21. Cunningly Linguistic
    Facepalm

    Our street is 50mb compatible. I don't use VM at all. As a result I must be pissing them off as they send me tons of junk mail. It's ridiculous the amount of trees that must have died to try to persuade me to take on something there is no way in hell I'd use.

    So one errant email? Meh!

  22. jestersbro

    My little sparrow in VM has told me that all DOCSIS 2 modems and those few remaining broadband-through-set-top-boxes will be being recalled in the next year so we'll all go from 20mb to 60mb for no extra cost.

    Now, they may want to make us pay for the upgrade then we just need to hang on to our DOCSIS 2 modems until they give in. That's the unofficially official line as I understand it.

  23. AndGregor
    FAIL

    SuperSnub..

    I have had the immense pleasure of hours on the phone to VMs script bot 'help' desk. The only time I got through to an actual technician was last week when I rang to cancel my contract. The reason being, as mentioned, I can't use my broadband for gaming or IP telephony. Router resets required almost daily.

    For gaming, I get maybe one or two nights a week when I have enough time to thing about base jumping into helicopters, only to give up trying to play on-line. The IP phone, I need a lot to service one of my clients, ironically for support.

    Line quality is actually better when tethered through my mobile.. Is enough to make me blub like a scolded child and am the butt of many jokes from colleagues, mostly asking if I am in a wind tunnel today..

    After being talked into getting my problems fixed, support conceded that there was an 'issue' with the cable in a local cabinet, my broadband did improve later that day. A week later it was down for an hour or two, Work being carried out in my area, ok.. When it came back up I had much less latency and packet loss, woohoo, they actually fixed it...

    I held my breath.. After two days, this is now fairly typical of my connection quality (Different day=same old story):

    http://www.thinkbroadband.com/ping/share/5028aeaab50b20e3b0a3fe7390446760-16-01-2012.html

    Fail. From a loyal, since the good 'ol days of NTL, thoroughly fed up, fobbed off customer.. Find somebody in your area and run a broadband quality test before even thinking about signing up, it could be 1000MB, is still useless if you don't get any packets returned..

    Hmm, I wonder if they will give me a free 56k modem redundancy option if I ask nicely..

  24. Ben Alderson
    FAIL

    I got the email and I haven't been a VM customer since last July.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best of a bad bunch?

    If I understand correctly VM provide 2 distinct BB services - Cable where possible otherwise via conventional phone line. Cable is a "better" technology without the "how far from the telephone exchange" speed drop-off issues.

    In that case many of the comments here about poorer speeds presumably relate to BB on phone line.

    However when my cable connection was upgraded to 20MB as part of an increased package (XL - primarily so I could get the V+ box) and my monthly fee increased, they didn't trouble to tell me I needed a newer faster cable modem. A few months later I ran a speed test, found I was on 10MB so called to remonstrate - then a new modem arrived but my request for recompense for not providing the contracted speed for 3 months fell on deaf ears.

    Next to me in the gym yesterday was a guy on his mobile to Sky - 20 minutes complaining of their poor service - he'd called to cancel as he could get a better deal elsewhere, they'd said "You need to speak to customer retention". That's who he was speaking to and obviously expecting some kind of sweetener but they were offering nothing, not shifting at all so he was saying "cancel" and they were saying "we can't do that, you need to speak to accounts" so he felt they'd just wasted his time, he was getting the run-around.

    I've heard some real horror stories about BT - Just one of many: one business I work with upgraded to BT broadband and a package of phone & fax lines. None of it worked for a week after the "upgrade". Then they had a problem with email using their own domain name. BT said that was because BT needed to host the domain and website - complete rubbish, once I knew they had a problem, fixed in minutes.

    On balance VM is probably no worse than anyone else and in these straightened times it's good business sense to be promising improved service with no price change to minimise the number of customers drifting away for financial reasons. (And, by the way, their business service costs more but the tech support folk actually seem to know what they're talking about ! That's something worth paying for.)

  26. Jacqui

    50Mb servie in GU15 (NTHell)

    Received the "good news" and "oops" email but as a longish time 50Mb customer it would be nice to have an upgrade - mainly for the increase in outbound bandwidth - I track down/up traffic via the linux gateway stats and it is usually pretty minor unless I download a new batch of linux distros or upgrade systems.

    FYI: I get the 50Mb inbound pretty much whenever I try but do have roughly one day every few months of complete service outage.

    Jacqui

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    50 BB on ADSL dont think so

    RE: In that case many of the comments here about poorer speeds presumably relate to BB on phone line.

    .... not the case mate.

    I posted earlier that i had poor speeds on my 50 meg connection for 6 months + and just to clarify its CABLE and not ADSL, Virgins backbones are over saturated and cant cope at peak periods, so unless some investment is going into the core network upgrading customers from 50 meg to 120 meg is just going to get on my proverbials more as it will be just more bandwidth im paying for (be it the same price) and not getting what im paying for...!

    Speaking to other people on CABLE up and down the country this problem is pretty wide spread and the old argument of speedtest.net gives me x is a load of tosh, dont you think it would be in virgins interests to flick a high priority flag on packets for the speed test sites servers... also who cares when the speed test site gives me 50 meg to the server in the next town, when the data i want is in a server in say london or else where in the uk/world and all i get is 10 -30 meg or worse when the networks as high saturation.

    INVEST IN THE CORE NETWORK, i would be happy to stay at 50 meg and forgo the 120 meg if meant i would actually get 50 meg and you spend the money on the rest of the infrastructure.

    Actually i would have been happy to stay at 20 meg i hadn't been hit with the rate limit of hell you introduced a while back ... !! oh look you watched a couple of iplayer HD's now your broadband will be ruined for the rest of the day.

  28. John Goodwin 4
    WTF?

    One day later...

    And it's all gone titsup. No internet since 16:00 this afternoon, gave up trying to ring them after the 37th attempt. Virgin are the best when there aren't any problems (9.7Mbps and 22ms latency) but when it all goes wrong, there is no hope.

    Branson - pull yer finger out.

  29. Jop
    Thumb Down

    Faster uploads they promised...

    ...14 months ago and they still have not delivered. Expected date is April/May, a whole year and a half after they sent me a glossy leaflet saying my upload speed would be upgraded.

    Would be nice if they actually deliver what their PR promises in a reasonable time.

    Not to mention fixing all the peering issues they have had for weeks, national outage on broadband, telephone and TV yesterday.

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