British regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into television and Internet service provider Virgin Media after receiving complaints that the telecom makes it difficult for customers to switch services.
In a statement released this week, officials at Ofcom said its regulations — known as “General Conditions” — are intended to help consumers get the best value for their service and stimulate competition in the telecom industry by prohibiting practices that restrict a customer’s ability to leave one service provider for another.
Like other companies, Virgin Media requires some customers to commit to a contract in order to receive special pricing on its services. Those contractual agreements are not part of Ofcom’s investigation.
Instead, Ofcom is looking into whether Virgin Media deliberately makes it difficult for customers to break their contracts and cancel their service entirely. The regulator says it has received complaints from customers who experienced difficulty reaching a live customer support agent on the phone, had their support calls dropped mid-transaction, or were put on hold for long periods at a time.
Ofcom also says it is looking into whether Virgin Media failed to inform customers of their right to have their service-related complaints heard by an independent evaluator.
“We will gather further information and provide updates as our investigation progresses,” a spokesperson for Ofcom said. “If we find that Virgin Media has breached our rules, we have the power to issue a fine and direct the company to take remedial action or change its procedures, where appropriate.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Media said customer complaints have been reduced by half over the last year, while the company has increased its support staff by 56 percent.
“We are committed to providing our customers with excellent service, supporting them with any issues and giving clear options should they wish to leave,” the Virgin Media spokesperson said. “We will keep working with Ofcom throughout its investigation, while making further improvements in how we handle customer complaints to provide a better overall experience.”