ASK TONY: Botched switch from Virgin to Sky left me without phone, internet or TV for a month

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My daughter and I tried to switch from Virgin Media to Sky to get a better deal. But the Sky engineer said the satellite signal was being blocked by our neighbour’s tree.

We decided to stay with Virgin. Then four days before the original date for the changeover, everything went blank. We had no internet, landline and only the free TV channels.

My daughter has made more than 20 calls to Virgin, but no one has fixed the problem.

Every time it says it will be resolved in 72 hours — but it’s been a month and nothing has been done. I don’t have a smartphone, so have to go to the library to read emails, and as my mobile is pay-as-you-go it’s expensive to call friends.

We’re at the end of our tether. Please can you help?

L.C., Surbiton, Surrey.

Communication breakdown: One reader was left with no phone, internet or cable TV service after an aborted attempt to switch from Virgin to Sky

Virgin Media says it had already started transferring your telephone number to Sky when you asked to cancel the switch, so it needed to reverse the process. Virgin admits this took ‘longer than it should have’.

That’s an understatement. We’ve all become so reliant on phones and the internet that it’s hard to manage without them.

Although you clearly needed urgent help, Virgin doesn’t seem able to explain why no one called you back when promised, or escalated your complaint so someone could get you back online.

Instead, you were passed from pillar to post, and your daughter spent her lunchtimes at work chasing for a resolution.

You paint a picture of woeful customer service that compounded a technical problem caused by trying to switch suppliers to save money — something we’re all constantly urged to do.

Sadly, your experience is now a common theme with the telecoms giants and it can be hard to know where to turn.

The good news is your internet and phone line are now working again. By way of compensation, you have also been given a free month of services, worth £83.85.

Virgin apologises for the disruption and delay. But the message to telecoms providers should be loud and clear.

As phone and internet connections become integral to our lives, firms must recognise that leaving families and the elderly, in particular, without a working line can be not just inconvenient but dangerous.

YOU HAVE YOUR SAY

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails. Here are some from our story about how to claim compensation if your flight was affected by the British Airways IT crisis.

I hope people get a better result than I did last year. We missed our connecting flight and had to wait nine hours for another one. On top of that, our suitcase was lost for a week. The two airlines I used refused to give me compensation or even extra Avios miles.

E. L., Paris.

If your airline is at fault for major delays or a flight cancellation, never accept vouchers. In my experience they are useless.

S. B., Brighton.

Times have changed. In the Sixties and Seventies, before greedy lawyers and a blame culture emerged, delays happened — we just got on with it.

J. M., Sheffield.

BA should not be allowed to play the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ card here. Too many people have had too much disruption purely because of a lack of resilience in its systems and processes.

D. N., Edinburgh.

Two years ago I was on a flight diverted to Bristol and then had to travel for six hours by bus to Manchester. There was no apology or refreshments. Compensation regulations are one good thing to come out of the EU.

G. Y., Derby.

The few times I’ve had flights cancelled from across the Channel, the airlines have bended over backwards to rebook my flight and arrange a nice hotel and transfers. In Britain, the airlines pretend you have no rights.

T. T., London.

It took me seven months of persistent emails to get a well-known airline to even acknowledge I had a case and eventually cough up compensation I was entitled to under EU regulations.

P. N., Dudley, W. Mids.

I had a long delay in April. After a few short forms, the compensation was in my account within three weeks. The budget airlines are as good as, or even better than, some of the traditional names.

K. B., Bristol.

I opened a joint bank account with my now ex-husband in 1999 because he had no banking record at the time. It has been used solely by him for his wages and personal outgoings.

He left me in 2015, but NatWest refuses to remove me from the account. He changed the address to his new home. There are notes on the account that he has said it’s his sole account.

He also signed a declaration when he left, stating the account and its overdraft were his sole responsibility, but still NatWest refuses to remove me without a legal request from a court, which I cannot afford to get.

NatWest has now frozen the account, but there is a £4,000 overdraft and I get messages informing me charges are being added for the overdraft interest. Citizens Advice says I will have to pay a solicitor and go to court.

My ex has left me with various loans and credit cards, so I am £40,000 in debt. I have three jobs so I can try to repay these, but this particular account has nothing to do with me.

Name and address supplied.

I Believe banks should be forced to spell out the onerous obligations that come with a joint account. People should be told clearly that they are jointly responsible for any debt run up, and can only be released from the obligations with the bank’s and the other party’s agreement.

I have come across far too many cases like yours where people open a joint account and then, when a relationship breaks down, cannot get away from it without much expense and hassle.

The weight of responsibility carried in a joint account is far too heavy to be buried in small print.

In your case, NatWest has been trying to get in touch with your former partner, but he has not responded. So, while I have a great deal of sympathy for you, there is little that can be done.

The only action now is to follow the course suggested by Citizens Advice. Due to other details you provided, I have decided to withhold your initials and location.

I have received my new tax code but, while it does mention the personal tax-free allowance of £11,500, it makes no mention of the new personal savings allowance of £1,000. Why?

P. C., Hartlepool.

You’re right to question this. The personal savings allowance was introduced in April 2016. It means basic-rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in savings interest tax-free — on top of Isa interest and the £11,500 everyone can earn before any tax is due.

The personal savings allowance falls to £500 for higher-rate earners, while top-rate payers get nothing. Just 5 per cent of taxpayers now owe tax on savings interest.

So your tax code won’t change unless HMRC believes you’re in that 5 per cent.

Most people don’t need to take any action because banks pay your interest before tax is deducted (they used to deduct 20 per cent to give to HMRC).

If the taxman expects you to earn more than the allowance in interest this year, it will factor this into your tax code, so the tax deduction will now come out of your salary or pension.

You can also declare earnings on self-assessment forms to pay separately. If you don’t complete a tax return and have little or no salary or pension, HMRC will contact you for direct payment.

HMRC’s estimates of interest you’ll earn may be inaccurate, particularly if your rate’s been cut or you’ve made a withdrawal.