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Virgin Media: SO SORRY we fined your dead dad £10 for unpaid bill
'Being deceased, it's probably slipped his mind' says son-in-law
Virgin Media has apologised after charging a dead man £10 for being unable to pay his broadband bill.
The bloke's son-in-law Jim Boyden posted a photo of the demand for the tenner on Facebook, along with an open letter accusing the UK internet provider's staff of a "special kind of meanness".
Almost 100,000 people have now shared the picture, prompting Virgin Media to cancel the charge in a bid to avert a serious public relations disaster.
The snap shows a ordinary-looking £63.89 fee and then the words "D.D Denied-Payer deceased", suggesting the direct-debit payment was rejected as the account holder had died. Underneath, the uncharitable Virgin Media computer had added a £10 "late payment" charge.
Virgin Media has now refunded the money and donated cash to the hospice in which Boyden's father-in-law died, according to a poem keen Facebooker Boyden published in the wake of the web outrage.
"I'm really sorry for my father-in-law not paying his bill last month, but what with him being dead and all, it's probably slipped his mind," he added.
"[Virgin Media] are to be publicly commended for swooping in with all the sensitivity of a charging rhino [for] instantly fining him an extra ten pounds for having the unheard-of nerve to be dead and therefore being unable to pay you."
Boyden went on:
You also deserve a further honourable mention for promptly sending us next month's bill as well. I'm simply not paying it as, ever since passing away, I have noticed a sharp decrease in the amount of television my father-in-law has been watching. I simply cannot think why that would be.
I might pay it if you can prove to me he's been watching any of your channels in heaven, but given that British Sky Broadcasting is beamed in directly from the clouds I think he's much more likely to be enjoying that. Your infernal cable pipes seem only to come up from the ground (same location as hell - spooky coincidence) where I imagine you train people in the art of customer service.
It is understood that the slip-up was the work of an automated system, which doles out bonus charges when payments fail.
A Virgin Media spokesman said: "We've spoken to the family and offered our sincerest apologies as automated responses from banks should not appear on customer bills. We have a team in place to ensure bereavements are managed sensitively and are investigating how this happened. Once Mr Boyden brought this to our attention on Facebook, we sought to identify his father in law's account straight away which we have since closed with late payment charges removed."
Social networking expert Dr Lisa Harris, head of the digital marketing master's degree programme at the University of Southampton, told the BBC that big firms hadn't quite mastered new-fangled forms of communication.
She said: "Corporations are very good at promoting themselves, they recognise that everyone needs a Twitter and a Facebook account, they are aware the networks exist but they don't have the strategies in place to deal with the issues that can arise from those networks.
"A lot of people as a result of seeing this will now think, 'I had that problem as well' - it can mushroom. Companies need to recognise that people have more power than they used to." ®