Many readers will be aghast that it took 14 years for you to notice these payments leaving your account. But you have a plausible excuse, as you live abroad and thought they related to a landline in a flat you own in London.
O2 – which merged to become Virgin Media O2 earlier this week – refused you a refund, but I asked it to reconsider, not least because the phone was never used after 2009. Surely O2 should have suspected that something was awry?
After investigating, it found your email address had been taken down incorrectly by the retailer so O2’s emails ended up in a black hole. Its text messages went to a mobile you never saw. Bizarrely, O2’s act of sending the texts indicated to the company that the account was still active as recently as March 2021. It also sent letters once a year to your London address regarding the annual increase in charges, but you say your brother, who looks after your affairs over here, never saw them.
The company stuck by the clause in its terms and conditions that cancellation of a contract was not in its hands but yours. However, although adamant it was not at fault in this case, O2 said as a goodwill gesture it will credit you with all the charges dating back to the last outbound usage on the phone in 2009. That amounts to a refund of £6,790. You told me you are so delighted that you are going to make donations to two of my favourite charities – Marie Curie and WWF.
On your point about the stiff increase in the monthly charges over the period, the company said the contract included an annual increase linked to the Retail Prices Index.
RPI is falling out of favour as an inflation indicator – and is certainly less popular with bill payers as it is often higher than CPI, the more common measure of annual price increases preferred by economists.
Virgin Media O2 said it encourages customers to always keep track of their accounts and suggested they make this easier by registering online or via its app, where they can also check all contact information is up to date.