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Posted

A broadband bill sent to a deceased man, which included a fine for late payment, :huh: has been shared more than 53,000 times by Facebook users.

Social media experts say it is a reminder of the importance of responding quickly and publicly to complaints made on social networks.

The man's son-in-law, Jim Boyden, posted a photograph of the bill, along with a message addressed to Virgin Media, on the social media network.

Virgin Media said sorry to the family.

"We obviously apologise for the bill and have spoken to Mr Boyden to bring this account to a close more sensitively," a spokesperson told the BBC.

At time of writing Mr Boyden, who put the bill online on Monday night, had not visibly mentioned the apology on Facebook himself.

"I've just placed a little reminder on their Facebook page. This actually amused me to start off with, but their complete lack of response irks me somewhat," he added as a comment to the original complaint last night.

Virgin Media publicly apologised on the site this afternoon.

While the unfortunate action of bills being sent to those who have recently died is far from new, the viral nature of this complaint should serve as a warning to companies, said one social media expert.

"Corporations are very good at promoting themselves, they recognise that everyone needs a Twitter and a Facebook account, they are aware the networks exist but they don't have the strategies in place to deal with the issues that can arise from those networks," said Dr Lisa Harris, head of the digital marketing masters programme at the University of Southampton.

"If they do make a mistake they should say that they are human using the channels they have created themselves."

"A lot of people as a result of seeing this will now think, 'I had that problem as well' - it can mushroom. Companies need to recognize that people have more power than they used to."

BT Head of Customer Services Warren Buckley told the BBC that 40% of its customer feedback now originates on Twitter.

"Clearly we are dealing with customers who aren't happy, and we are doing that very much in public eye, but lots of customers respect the fact that we are on Twitter at all," he said.

"The key is to be honest."

In an updated statement for the BBC, Virgin Media said the account has now been closed.

"We offer our sincerest apologies for the wording that appeared on the bill. Automated responses from banks should not appear on customer bills and we're investigating how this happened," said a spokesperson.

[url="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22283453"]more[/url]

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Posted

OK, as bad as it seems, I can see 100% how this happens. Has whoever is executing this deceased persons estate contacted the service providers? I would guess not. This is THEIR failing, not Virgin's.
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Posted

It is an amusing side-effect of our Technology -- enjoy it. ;)

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Posted

Just because your loved one dies, doesn't mean their bills will automatically stop coming. And in some cases, you are still required to pay for the services out of their estate.

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Posted

[quote name='Nashy' timestamp='1366844131' post='595656566']
Just because your loved one dies, doesn't mean their bills will automatically stop coming. And in some cases, you are still required to pay for the services out of their estate.
[/quote]

Amen! There is nothing for Virgin to apologize for. Just because the person died, does not mean that their bill goes away, any more than their electric bill, gas, rent, etc. It is the responsibility of the executor of the estate to norify any/all service providers and to PAY from the estate and payments due up to the time the executor notified the provider to halt service.

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Posted

[quote name='nik louch' timestamp='1366843050' post='595656538']
OK, as bad as it seems, I can see 100% how this happens. Has whoever is executing this deceased persons estate contacted the service providers? I would guess not. This is THEIR failing, not Virgin's.
[/quote]

[quote name='Tumbleweed_Biff' timestamp='1366846015' post='595656620']
Amen! There is nothing for Virgin to apologize for.
[/quote]

[quote]
"We offer our sincerest apologies for the wording that appeared on the bill. Automated responses from banks should not appear on customer bills and we're investigating how this happened," said a spokesperson.
[/quote]

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Posted

[quote name='Nashy' timestamp='1366844131' post='595656566']
Just because your loved one dies, doesn't mean their bills will automatically stop coming. And in some cases, you are still required to pay for the services out of their estate.
[/quote]

Yeah when my Dad died last year his widow had to clear his Talk Talk contract unless she proved he was dead which she did

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Posted

[quote name='Tumbleweed_Biff' timestamp='1366846015' post='595656620']
Amen! There is nothing for Virgin to apologize for. Just because the person died, does not mean that their bill goes away, any more than their electric bill, gas, rent, etc. It is the responsibility of the executor of the estate to norify any/all service providers and to PAY from the estate and payments due up to the time the executor notified the provider to halt service.
[/quote]

I agree. It is the heir's responsibility to take care of the bills and to cut of any services no longer needed. It was rather childish for them to post it on Facebook.

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Posted

[quote name='nik louch' timestamp='1366843050' post='595656538']
OK, as bad as it seems, I can see 100% how this happens. Has whoever is executing this deceased persons estate contacted the service providers? I would guess not. This is THEIR failing, not Virgin's.
[/quote]

EXACTLY!!

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Posted

So it's a company's fault that they sent a bill to a man who owed for services and didn't tell them he died? :s
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Posted

Yeah, maybe Virgin could excuse the late charges, but the family should still pay off his bill.

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Posted

Sounds like they just wanted attention. Most companies would excuse charges like this...all they had to do was call. No need to make it public. Besides, their own fault
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Posted

oh look,its the typical facebook warriors. companies would rather just apologize,even if they aren't at fault and move on. this internet mob mentality is ridiculous.

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Posted

Did anyone actually see the bill? VM owe an appology no matter what anyone says in this topic, it's discusting.

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Posted

Yes I saw it. What are you referring to? The fact it says "Payer Deceased"?

This works because the bank returns 2 codes. One saying DD Denied, and one stating the reason.

The bill reacted to the first code (the denial of funds). Someone has obviously informed the bank. Great, well done!

The billing system only cares that the payment was not sent. Reasons such as death are not a factor here (nor should they be). So it reacts to the first code, and notes the second.

Bills are automatically created and sent. It's not like John from accounts sits and goes through each bill. So it is sent out.

Yes, ok, it says Deceased. It would be nice to think they could raise a flag an pick up on this to stop such issues surely?

However, Virgin do not (and should not) action anything on an account without the account holder's authority. In this case, the authority falls to whoever is executing the estate. They chose to contact the bank (possibly: close the account, transferal of funds after executing the will). They overlooked contacting service providers. This is their responsibility.

Let's assume that this dead man had a wife. She is mourning the loss of her husband. Her TV, phone and internet stop working. She receives a bill - ah OK this explains it all. She can reinstate the service under a new payment profile.

Sorry, but there are 101 reasons that Virgin do not instantly stop an account, cancel all bills, send a bouquet of flowers and post a memorial on their website. The main one being that it's simply not their responsibility to do this.

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Posted

One of the advantages of the Internet is that it provides a level playing field for everyone to state their opinions. I was pointed here by a friend, so please allow me to answer some of the issues that have been raised. I hope it helps.

[quote name='nik louch'] OK, as bad as it seems, I can see 100% how this happens. Has whoever is executing this deceased persons estate contacted the service providers? I would guess not. This is THEIR failing, not Virgin's. [/quote]

Thank you for your comment 'nik louch'. Your 'guess' is incorrect. We had completed our legal obligations (indeed more than our legal obligations) and informed Virgin Media of my father in laws passing. Several times. Therefore, I do not understand what failing you are referring to?

[quote name='Nashy'] Just because your loved one dies, doesn't mean their bills will automatically stop coming. And in some cases, you are still required to pay for the services out of their estate. [/quote]

Thank you for your comment 'Nashy'. We are fully aware of this and have no issue with paying for services used up until the date of his passing, our objection is to being fined extra money and receiving yet another months bills because of the companies inability to administer his account correctly, after we had spoken to them several times beforehand.

[quote name='Tumbleweed_Biff'] Amen! There is nothing for Virgin to apologize for. Just because the person died, does not mean that their bill goes away, any more than their electric bill, gas, rent, etc. It is the responsibility of the executor of the estate to norify any/all service providers and to PAY from the estate and payments due up to the time the executor notified the provider to halt service. [/quote]

Thank you for your comments 'Tumbleweed_Biff'. If you would like to read the publicly available information on this matter, you will see we have no objection to paying what is legitimately owed, and I refer you to my comments above.

[quote name='Rappy'] Yeah when my Dad died last year his widow had to clear his Talk Talk contract unless she proved he was dead which she did [/quote]

Which, out of interest, we also did.

[quote name='Growled'] I agree. It is the heir's responsibility to take care of the bills and to cut of any services no longer needed. It was rather childish for them to post it on Facebook. [/quote]

Hello 'Growled'. Thank you for your comment. We did exactly this, but when we were ignored (actually ignored, passed around various departments etc) we used a legitimate avenue of communication.

Do you not believe the internet is a valid channel of communication (bearing in mind you appear to be using this forum quite happily)?

[quote name='Neobond'] So it's a company's fault that they sent a bill to a man who owed for services and didn't tell them he died?
[/quote]

Thank you for your comment 'Neobond'. You appear to be missing the key fact - we DID repeatedly tell them, and prove to them, he had passed on. We even mention it in the letter.

[quote name='Hum'] Yeah, maybe Virgin could excuse the late charges, but the family should still pay off his bill. [/quote]

Which we have done.

[quote name='techbeck'] Sounds like they just wanted attention. Most companies would excuse charges like this...all they had to do was call. No need to make it public. Besides, their own fault [/quote]

Again, I refer you to my comments above...

The fact that 97,000 people shared it, is entirely down to those that shared. We merely wished to highlight the problem via legitimate channels.

[quote name='nik louch'] Yes, ok, it says Deceased. It would be nice to think they could raise a flag an pick up on this to stop such issues surely?[/quote]

This is precisely what Virgin Media are implementing now, and should have implemented to begin with.

[quote name='nik louch']However, Virgin do not (and should not) action anything on an account without the account holder's authority. In this case, the authority falls to whoever is executing the estate. They chose to contact the bank (possibly: close the account, transferal of funds after executing the will). They overlooked contacting service providers. This is their responsibility. [/quote]

Again, assuming any facts much (see above)?

[quote name='nik louch']Let's assume that this dead man had a wife. She is mourning the loss of her husband. Her TV, phone and internet stop working. She receives a bill - ah OK this explains it all. She can reinstate the service under a new payment profile.[/quote]

In this case, your assumption is again incorrect. My father in law lived alone.

[quote name='vcfan'] oh look,its the typical facebook warriors. companies would rather just apologize,even if they aren't at fault and move on. this internet mob mentality is ridiculous. [/quote]

I quite agree 'vcfan'! Look at how the mob mentality appears on this forum when people do not know the facts, or worse, assume facts.
It all get rather ridiculous rather quickly, as you can see.

To those of you who have been rational and logical about this situation, my thanks.

To everyone else, I hope these facts have assisted in your understanding of the situation, but please do let me know if you need any more.

With kindest regards,

Jim
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Posted

Jim (let's work under the assumption that you are who you say you are),

You present a quandary here... You see, you introduce elements that neither the original post here, nor the article quoted mention. The major element being that you had originally contacted Virgin - this has not been mentioned at all, anywhere related to this thread.

You see, you accuse me of assuming things. That is correct, I formed an opinion on what had been posted, NOT on what had not been posted.

If we take your word that you (?) had contacted Virgin, then this completely changes my opinion here. In my opinion it completely changes the story.

It puts the onus of responsibility on Virgin, and I wholly see the blame (and financial responsibility) as their issue and not yours.

Thank you for the clarification. Sometimes it works better to not just post an out-of-context photo...

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Posted

It's poor form, but probably more an edge case in software development that has caused this to happen more than malicious intent from Virgin Media. I am not their biggest fan but I genuinely don't think they are to blame here.

I can imagine the majority of Business Systems don't process this return code from the Bank as well as they should do. Hopefully this 'viral campaign' will get some companies looking at how it works within their organisations to save themselves a similar embarassment.

To the family of the deceased - I am sorry for your loss.

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Posted

Got to agree with Nik here. It's the person managing the estate of the deceased person who has the obligation to make sure all affairs are properly tied off.
Unfortunately in this case Virgin were obviously missed and quite rightly they're chasing what is owed to them which will come out of the remaining estate, that's how it works.

As for the bill stating 'Deceased' on it. Of course it does, the reason the transaction has failed is provided by the bank and then printed on the bill as a line of information back to the person ultimately in charge of the finances so they know exactly why the transaction as failed.
I see nothing out of ordinary here and certainly nothing Virgin should be apologising for.

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Posted

[quote name='nik louch' timestamp='1367058376' post='595660566']
Jim (let's work under the assumption that you are who you say you are),

You present a quandary here... You see, you introduce elements that neither the original post here, nor the article quoted mention. The major element being that you had originally contacted Virgin - this has not been mentioned at all, anywhere related to this thread.

You see, you accuse me of assuming things. That is correct, I formed an opinion on what had been posted, NOT on what had not been posted.

If we take your word that you (?) had contacted Virgin, then this completely changes my opinion here. In my opinion it completely changes the story.

It puts the onus of responsibility on Virgin, and I wholly see the blame (and financial responsibility) as their issue and not yours.

Thank you for the clarification. Sometimes it works better to not just post an out-of-context photo...
[/quote]

nik louch,

I entirely agree, and as always with cases reported in the media, only the most sensationalist elements of any story will be put forward. Attached to the photo that the BBC article did not mention, was a letter with some key facts that may have placed this in context as well as additional facts on the Virgin Media homepage.

I know that other people may agree/not agree with what has happened, but I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to put my case forward and now some more detail has been brought to the attention of the forum, your debate can continue on a more even footing.

Apologies for my intrusion, and with my best wishes,

Jim

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Posted

No apology needed. You brought clarification to a poorly reported issue. I am glad of this. I have happily climbed down from my stance :)

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Posted

[quote name='Actually Jim' timestamp='1367057492' post='595660554']
Do you not believe the internet is a valid channel of communication (bearing in mind you appear to be using this forum quite happily)?
[/quote]

Not for everything, no.I don't post every time my wife and I have a argument, for example.

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Posted

My condolences to the family of the deceased.

Virgin Media customer services (namely their offshore call centre which is an overflow telephone answering service at best) leave a lot to be desired for. I'm probably clutching at straws here, but judging by my past experience and loads of other customers as reported on their community forums, offshore support must have played a part in this case.

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Posted

Most of these letters are sent out by an automated service, probably not even checked by humans. The fact that the bank returned the DD because of the customer having died doesn't necessarily mean one of Virgin's staff saw it. An unfortunate incident but no intended callousness on the part of Virgin here.
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Posted

[quote name='Actually Jim' timestamp='1367057492' post='595660554']
To those of you who have been rational and logical about this situation, my thanks.

With kindest regards,

Jim
[/quote]

WOW -- always a shock to hear from the actual people involved with these stories. :huh:

Thanks for your post ....

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