Virgin Media won’t return the £23,000 I accidentally transferred to pay for my mother’s phone bill

I accidentally transferred £23,000 instead of £23 from my elderly mother’s account to pay her phone bill with Virgin Media: where did it go?

  • Reader accidentally transferred £23,000 instead of £23 to pay his mother’s bill
  • He contacted Virgin as soon as he realised, but customer service was no help
  • The matter was closed after it was assured that the money would be refunded

At the beginning of May I accidentally transferred £23,000.19 on her behalf instead of £23.19 from my 86 year old mother’s account to pay her phone bill with Virgin Media.

When I realized the error, I made many calls to Virgin’s customer service team where I was transferred to a call center outside the UK, which was of no help whatsoever.

I then complained to Virgin. Someone contacted me and said the money would be returned to the account and immediately closed my complaint. But the money never came.

Wrong: Virgin Media, owned by parent company Virgin Media O2, has now, after two months, refunded the £23,000 this reader accidentally paid when trying to pay a £23 bill

I then made a second complaint and was told that the money would be returned in the form of a check in the mail.

After two weeks, the check never arrived. I then agreed with Virgin to cancel the check and that they would contact me with details of how they intended to return the money. There has been no more contact from them.

We have told Virgin Media that this money is my 86 year old mother’s savings. This situation has a serious detrimental effect on both her mental health and mine. I hope you can help us get this money back. RB, by email

Helen Kirrane from This is Money replies: I’m sorry to hear you had to experience this. It was a simple mistake that you feared would have cost your mother’s savings.

After I contacted Virgin to ask what had happened, on June 27, you received a check for the full amount. Hopefully you can breathe a sigh of relief.

However, almost two months passed between your first contact with Virgin and the arrival of the check on your doorstep.

I asked Virgin if it could explain what happened here.

First, it said it had only sent one check, which was issued on June 7, not two as you might have originally thought – so obviously there was some confusion.

Virgin said someone called you regularly to ask if the check had been received, but I think it could have done more because you felt like you were left in limbo while you waited for the money to show up.

It told me that one of the factors behind the delay in refunding the amount was that due to the large sum of money involved, additional checks had to be made before they could issue a refund. For example, the fraud team had to investigate to make sure it was a real mistake.

However, one of the call center staff you spoke to made a mistake when they told you that the £23,000 could be returned to your mother’s account.

Under Virgin’s rules, a refund of this size must be paid by cheque. Virgin said the agent involved has since been reminded that Virgin cannot offer such a refund in this way.

In recognition of this initial delay, Virgin added a credit worth one month’s bill to your mother’s account.

It raises the question of whether a check is the best way to make such a refund. Obviously it is possible for it to get lost in the mail or for delays like the four weeks you experienced.

A spokesman for Virgin Media said: ‘Due to the large amount of money involved, we had to exercise due diligence to make sure it was a real mistake.

“After completing those checks, we issued a full refund to [the customer] via check on June 7th and she has confirmed that it has now been received.

“We recommend that any customer who pays a bill in this way always make sure they enter the correct amount.”