About 1.5 million Virgin Mobile customers will be hit with price rises from Friday 1 July, with almost 200,000 on unlimited-data Sim-only deals facing an increase of up to £39 a year. But if you act now it's possible for many to beat the hikes.
Virgin Mobile has written to, emailed or texted customers notifying them about the price increases, which will see all pay-monthly and Sim-only tariffs rise by 1.6% and steep hikes in pay-monthly out-of-allowance charges. Though the good news is some have the right to walk away penalty-free and others may be able to use the price increases to haggle a better deal.
Who's affected by the price rises?
Here's how Virgin Mobile prices are changing on 1 July. Pay-as-you-go customers aren't affected by the price rises.
Most pay-monthly tariffs to increase by 1.6%. If you started your contract between 17 November 2014 and 3 May 2016, your monthly costs will rise by 1.6% from the start of next month (1.6% was the Retail Prices Index – RPI – measure of inflation as it stood in April). You can see exactly how your bill will be affected using Virgin's calculator – eg, if you pay £15/month now, you'll pay £15.24 from 1 July.
If you're a pay-monthly customer and also paying off a loan for your handset ('freestyle' customers) your monthly loan repayment won't go up because of the 1.6% price rise. Only the airtime tariff part of your bill is affected (ie, your monthly package of minutes, data and texts).
- Out-of-allowance costs for pay-monthly and Sim-only customers are also rising. In some cases these will double – see the costs that are changing below:
- Most Sim-only tariffs increase by 1.6%. If you started your Sim-only contract between 17 November 2014 and 3 May 2016, your monthly costs will rise by 1.6% from 1 July.
- If you've a Sim-only deal with unlimited data for up to £20/mth, there's an EXTRA £3/month hike. That's on top of the 1.6% rise – so if you're on an unlimited data deal at £20/month, you'll pay £23.32/month from 1 July – a hike of £39.84/year. Virgin says 190,000 customers will be affected by this £3 charge.
|Type of charge||Cost before 1 July 2016||Cost from 1 July 2016|
|Data (daily charge for unlimited usage)||£1 per day||£2 per day|
|Standard minutes (charges for calls to UK landlines and mobiles)||40p per minute||45p per minute|
|Service number access charge (for calls to 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers)||36p per minute||45p per minute|
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How to beat the hikes
If you're unhappy with the increases, you may want to ditch Virgin Mobile and opt for a cheaper provider (see a full rundown of cheap Sim-only deals in our Cheap Mobiles guide). But here's where it gets a little complicated – some, but not all, of those affected have the right to cancel their contract penalty-free.
Pay-monthly customer, only affected by the 1.6% increase? You CAN'T cancel penalty-free if still in contract. That's because it was written into your contract that Virgin could increase prices by up to the rate of RPI (1.6% this year). Under Ofcom rules you can leave a mobile, landline or broadband contract without any penalty if your provider hikes prices mid-contract – but only if it didn't warn you it might do so.
You may still be able to haggle a better deal though – see our haggling tips below.
Pay-monthly customer also hit by the out-of-allowance price increase? You may be able to leave penalty-free even if still in contract. If you regularly exceed your monthly minutes or data allowances, you may be entitled to leave penalty-free.
Virgin says 170,000 people will be eligible to cancel without penalty due to their average bill increasing by more than 10% because of the out-of-allowance price increase. It's contacting customers in this category to tell them how. Affected customers can call 789 from their Virgin mobile by Thursday 30 June to change tariffs or cancel their contract.
- Pay-monthly customer no longer in your minimum contract term? You can leave your contract anyway. In this case, it doesn't matter whether you have the right to leave penalty-free, as you can leave anyway. Your contract now rolls over from month to month, so if you want to cancel, you'll need to give one month's notice. Call 789 from your Virgin mobile to do that. This also puts you in a very strong haggling position too, if you're willing to stay – see our haggling tips below.
- Sim-only customer? You can leave your contract anyway. Virgin Mobile's Sim-only contracts are on a rolling 30-day basis, so you can cancel anyway regardless of the price.
Haggle, haggle, haggle
If you do have the right to walk away from your contract without penalty, you're in the perfect position to haggle. Read our Mobile Phone Haggling Guide, and check out some of our top tips below:
- Ask for the 'disconnections' department. Their job is actually to retain customers, and they have more power and discretion to do it.
- Problems mean discounts. If you've had issues with your network in the past – for example, poor coverage or long customer-service call waiting times – then politely tell them when you haggle. They should want to try to make it up to you.
- Don't say 'yes' to the first offer they give. Chances are, it's not the best deal they can do. Remember, be firm.
- Don't fill the silence. As negotiations come to a close, a classic salesman technique is to stay silent. They want you to feel awkward and fill the silence. Make them fill it with a cheaper offer.
- Check your current usage. Knowing how much you use your phone and what you use it for is crucial to getting the right deal.
What does Virgin say?
A Virgin Media spokesperson says: "As a result of the [price] changes, some customers have the right to cancel without penalty, and customers affected in this way have been informed of that right.
"If customers do not feel their current allowances are right for them, all PAYM [pay-monthly] or SIM-only customers can move their allowances up or down each month to best suit their needs and budget."
I'm a Virgin TV customer and have noticed my bills have gone up too
That's right – if your TV package includes Sky Sports or Sky Movies, your price went up on 1 June. The price increase in your package is as follows:
- Sky Movies only: £1.00
- Sky Sports only: £2.50
- Sky Sports and Movies: £2.50
Virgin says it contacted affected customers in April, outlining their right to cancel where relevant.