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Dead Man's Virgin Media bill goes viral on Facebook

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#1 Hum

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 22:33

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.

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#2 +Nik L

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 22:37

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.

#3 OP Hum

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 22:49

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

#4 Nashy

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 22:55

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.

#5 Tumbleweed_Biff

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 23:26

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.


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.

#6 exotoxic

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 23:40

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.


Amen! There is nothing for Virgin to apologize for.


"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.



#7 Damien R.

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Posted 24 April 2013 - 23:48

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.


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

#8 Growled

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 00:46

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.


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.

#9 +ChuckFinley

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 09:31

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.


EXACTLY!!

#10 Steven P.

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 09:39

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

#11 OP Hum

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 13:12

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

#12 +techbeck

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 01:37

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

#13 vcfan

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 03:33

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.

#14 Crisp

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 11:11

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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#15 +Nik L

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Posted 26 April 2013 - 11:27

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.