Virgin Mobile to increase prices – and furious customers find out during major outage
Hundreds of thousands of Virgin Mobile customers on pay-monthly contracts will be hit with a 2.4% price hike from Monday 1 July, MoneySavingExpert.com can reveal. And many found out on the day of a major service outage, with some unable to make calls, send texts or use data for hours.
Virgin Mobile this week began warning customers it will increase the airtime part of its pay-monthly bills by 2.4%, in line with March's Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation rate.
Sim-only and contract customers who have a monthly bill are affected, unless their contract started on or after 1 April 2019. If your handset is on a separate plan, that bill will remain the same – and pay-as-you-go customers aren't affected.
Many customers took to social media to complain that they'd heard about the rise from Virgin Mobile on the same day that the firm suffered a major outage, with a large number of customers left unable to make calls, send texts or use their data for hours on Tuesday.
The outage was fixed as of 9.45pm on Tuesday, and Virgin Mobile says customers will be compensated for the disruption.
For help on cutting your mobile costs, see 30+ Cheap Mobile Tips.
'I was stranded and couldn't even make a call'
Virgin Mobile customers have expressed frustration on social media after being left unable to use their phones – especially as some had just found out about the upcoming price rise. Here are just a few of the complaints we've seen:
I'm mid-contract – can I leave penalty-free?
Unfortunately you're unlikely to be able to. Mobile firms CAN increase prices mid-contract in line with inflation without you being able to leave penalty-free, as long as they include a warning about this in their terms and conditions. So you can't just up and leave.
A rule from telecoms regulator Ofcom means you can escape your contract penalty-free if you can successfully prove you've suffered "material detriment" as a result of a price increase – but it would be very hard to prove an RPI increase had caused this.
Make sure you note down when your contract is due to end, and start looking for new deals about a month before.
Out of contract? Try to haggle or switch
If you're out of your minimum contract term you can leave without paying any penalty, and there's a good chance you can save by switching to a better deal. You'll have to give 30 days' notice.
Most should NEVER pay over £10/month for mobile use, particularly given over two-thirds of mobile users consume less than 3GB/month. See our Mobiles section and Best Sim only Deals guide for full help on finding a cheaper deal elsewhere.
Alternatively, if you're willing to stick with your network, this is a chance to haggle a better deal – especially as you have the right to leave penalty-free. See our Mobile Haggling guide for more.
'The timing of the announcement is very unfortunate'
Steve Nowottny, news and features editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "Virgin Mobile's far from alone in raising prices – most mobile firms have implemented an inflationary rise this year. But the timing of the announcement is very unfortunate. For customers to be receiving texts about the rise at the same time they're struggling to send texts themselves is tone-deaf to say the least.
"Unfortunately if you're within your minimum contract term you may have to simply swallow the price rise. But if you're out of contract, you're free to haggle a better deal or switch. Use the price rise as a prompt to make sure you're not overpaying for your mobile – many are, and can save."
What does Virgin say?
A statement on its website said: "Although we don't like to, sometimes we increase our prices.
"This enables us to continue to invest in the network and offer exciting new additions to our services."
When asked about the outage, a Virgin Mobile spokesperson said: "We apologise for the disruption and inconvenience some of our Virgin Mobile customers have experienced today. This was due to a technical issue which we've now resolved.
"We will be compensating our customers for the loss of service and will let them know the details shortly."