Virgin Mobile USA Phone Number Port Snafu

Update 1:59 PM 9/19/2011: Tier 3 support at Virgin Mobile was able to change my Beyond Talk Plan back to $25/month, which was the resolution I was looking for. Nice work, Tier 3.

12:26 PM 9/17/2011

I bought a Virgin Mobile Android phone on July 15, 2011, back when the least expensive plan was $25/month (a terrific deal, IMO). Today, I ported my T-Mobile phone number, but as a result, I was put on the current least expensive plan, which is $35/month (the included minutes and unlimited text, messaging, and data levels of the service are all unchanged). The cost of porting my number, which was only revealed after the port was successful, will be $10/month, to be paid in perpetuity.

The customer service rep that handled the actual porting didn’t seem to know what was going on. At one point, because he seemed so confused, I stopped and asked him point blank if porting numbers was something that happened very often. After the number was ported, I received the text message confirming the change, which noted that my plan was $35/month. The phone, which was supposed to start working after the port, wasn’t able to receive calls. I couldn’t even log into my account at virginmobileusa.com because I had a $0 balance, reportedly because hadn’t paid my $35 monthly bill yet (even though I’d just paid for another month at $25 two days earlier).

I called back, but the rep I reached this time couldn’t change my account back to $25/month, and put me on hold to speak with her supervisor. When she came back, she said the supervisor couldn’t convert my account to the $25/month plan either, and all they could do was credit me the additional $10 that the new plan would cost me this month.

She said that, had the first rep noted in the call that I had been on the $25 plan, this wouldn’t have happened. But because there was no such note, the system wasn’t allowing her to change to the $25 plan.

I told the rep that I would like to keep pursuing a different resolution, and asked for an email address. She gave me fraudalerts@virginmobileusa.com (which seems like a strange address for a department that handles non-fraudulent billing problems, but OK), so I sent the following message.

Date: Sat, 17 Sep 2011 12:25:00 -0500
To: fraudalerts@virginmobileusa.com
Subject: Porting my phone number resulted in my $25/month plan being cancelled…

Hello, there.

I have been a Virgin Mobile customer under the now discontinued $25/month plan for a few months. Before becoming a Virgin Mobile customer, I had a T-Mobile Prepaid – Pay As You Go plan. At the time I bought the Virgin Mobile phone, I still had a few hundred minutes on the T-Mobile plan that I wanted to use before porting that number to Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile changed the plan pricing structure after I became a customer, increasing the price on the $25 plan to $35/month. When I ported the T-Mobile number, my Virgin Mobile account changed to the $35 plan. I wasn’t told at the time that my plan would change, and honestly, I would have stuck with the original Virgin Mobile phone number if I had been told that it would cost me $120/year to port my number.

I think it’s probably possible to activate a $25/month plan, even if the helpful phone support staff cannot do this. Someone, somewhere must have adminstrative access to do this.

Can you please provide contact information for the department that would be able to return my account to the $25/month plan, even if that means putting me back on a Virgin Mobile-assigned phone number?

If the porting of a number is going to cause a change to the account, and I’m not sure why this must be the case, it would be gracious to alert the customer.

Here’s my plan:
1. Try again to submit a ticket using the virginmobileusa.com web site (the first time, I got a page not found error: “The specified URL cannot be found”).
2. Call one more time.
3. Give Virgin Mobile 48 hours to respond to the email to fraudalerts email.
4. File a complaint with the BBB.

8:40 PM 9/17/2011

A few more thoughts:

Virgin Mobile seems to be treating this as a new account when it’s just a number port. I even got an “About Your Phone & Phone Number” email from Virgin Mobile that is identical to the email I received when I first became a customer back in July:

Hey OLIVER,

Thanks for joining Virgin Mobile! We know there are a lot of wireless options out there and we’re really glad you chose us.

Your Phone Number Is: (xxx) xxx-xxxx

Top-Up Now To Start Using Your Phone:
To start using your Virgin Mobile Service all you need to do is add money to your account. If you haven’t done that yet, click here to log in and do it now. Or, give us a call at 1-888-322-1122.

As soon as you’ve Topped-Up, you should be able to start using your phone. Access to Downloads and Voicemail can take up to 4 hours to come online, but usually it’s a lot sooner.

If you want to learn about your phone click here and then click on the Phone, Apps & More page to see additional information about your phone.

Stay Tuned:
We’ll be back in touch soon with some more info about your service. If you have any questions in the meantime, check out virginmobileusa.com or give us a call at 1-888-322-1122. Thanks again, and welcome aboard!
Virgin Mobile

At the bottom of the message is an email address that I hadn’t found when looking for ways to contact customer support: ourteam@virginmobileusa.com. I’ll be sending them a copy of my first email shortly.

Also, the FCC’s Guide to Portability doesn’t mention anything about whether a service provider can change your service on you during a port, but they do state that you can port your number at any time.

The FCC also has an online form for filing a complaint, so along with the BBB, this makes two avenues of recourse if Virgin Mobile won’t resolve this themselves.

11:53 PM 9/17/2011

Just for the record, before I became a customer, I wanted to be sure that the rates for existing customers wouldn’t increase on July 20, 2011. I emailed Virgin Mobile on 07/14/2011 at 10:02 PM, and this was their response (4 days later):

Response Via Email (Jennifer) 07/18/2011 12:54 AM
Hello Oliver,

Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer Care.

We are so glad to know that you want to become part of our Virgin Mobile family!

You have a great option to take advantage of, purchasing a Virgin Mobile phone that is compatible with our Beyond Talk plans because you cannot sign up for a monthly plan if you have not activated yet a phone, sorry about that! Remember that as of July 20th, 2011, new Virgin Mobile customers will be activated on the new plans while existing Beyond Talk customers will be able to stay on their current plans.

If you need additional assistance, feel free to respond to this email or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *VM from your handset). You can reach us Monday through Sunday from 4am-9pm PST.

Thanks,

Kim
Virgin Mobile At Your Service
www.virginmobileusa.com

I’m pretty sure that I’ve got a good case here.

8:28 PM 9/18/2011

I received a response to my email to ourteam@virginmobileusa.com.

Response Via Email (Jose) 09/18/2011 02:22 PM
Hello Oliver,

Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer Care.

First let us extend our apologies for any inconvenience this has caused.

Virgin Mobile values each customer and is disappointed to know how you have stated your issue was handled.

Unfortunately, the $25 Beyond Talk Plan is no longer available and there is no way for us to get it active in your account. These rate changes affect new activations and plan changes in our system, and in order to process a Port In Request, the phone serial number needed to be free. That is the reason we needed to deactivate your old Virgin Mobile phone number.

Please accept our apologies for being unable to give you a different response, but this is the policy we are ruled by.

If you need additional assistance, feel free to let us know how we can assist further or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *VM from your handset). You can reach us from Monday to Sunday from 4:00 am- 9:00 pm PST.

Thanks,

Heydi
Virgin Mobile At Your Service

Right off the bat, I think it’s unlikely that there isn’t some administrative override possible. While the $25 Beyond Talk Plan is no longer available, I suspect there is a way to charge my account $25/month. But let’s assume that changing the plan is not an option. Another resolution could be that Virgin Mobile credits me the difference between the $25 Beyond Talk Plan and whatever plan they want me to use. That can be as little as $10/month, or $120/year, for as long as I am a customer. This way I’m not incurring a cost for porting my number, and Virgin Mobile isn’t confronted with the hassle of making that administrative change to my account.

I don’t believe the average wireless customer could be expected to consider the porting of a phone number as a plan deactivation and a new plan activation.

I sent the following reply:

Hello there,

Thanks for writing back to me.

Unfortunately, the issue is not yet resolved to my satisfaction, as I still strongly feel that porting my number should not cost me $10/month for as long as I am a customer.

Now that the plan has been changed, however, there is still a way to resolve this to my satisfaction. Virgin Mobile can keep me on the $35 Beyond Talk Plan, and so avoid the problem of putting me back on the $25 Beyond Talk Plan, but then credit my account the difference each month.

I think that this is a fair and manageable way of handling the issue.

I’ll wait a day to hear back from my friends at ourteam@virginmobileusa.com and then go to the FCC and BBB.

12:30 PM 9/19/2011

I received a response from ourteam@virginmobileusa.com last night.

Response Via Email (Mariela Valenzuela) 09/18/2011 10:49 PM

Hello Oliver,

Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer Care.

Please accept my apologies on behalf of Virgin Mobile, our customers are highly valued and we are sorry to know that at this moment your experience has not been pleasant and easy.

Regarding your request, unfortunately we will not be able to process a $10 adjustment every month to cover your monthly charge. We are very sorry about that.

We understand your point of view and our main goal is your satisfaction, but our system cannot proceed against our terms of service. We are very sorry for any misunderstanding and inconvenience that you had regarding this issue.

If you need additional assistance, feel free to let us know how we cana ssist further or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *86 from a Virgin Mobile handset). You can reach us Monday through Sunday from 4am-9pm PST.

Thanks & Best Regards,

Maryelah
Virgin Mobile At Your Service
www.virginmobileusa.com

So, it seems that it’s time to file a complaint with the FCC and the BBB. The FCC has a nifty online form for complaints (but it’s limited to 1000 characters), so I submitted the following.

Hello,

I became a Virgin Mobile USA mobile phone customer in July, 2011 under the $25/month plan (“$25 Beyond Talk”). Since then, the $25 Beyond Talk has been discontinued and a new plan, at $35/month, has replaced it for new customers. Existing customers remain on the $25/month plan.

I recently ported my T-Mobile number to my Virgin Mobile account. During the port, my $25/month account was cancelled and a new account was created on the $35/month plan. I was not told of this at the time by the CSR handling the porting and would have declined to port the number.

I have contacted Virgin Mobile in an attempt to resolve this problem, but they have only offered me a one-time $10 credit to my account. Virgin Mobile reports that they are unable to put me back on the $25/month plan, and are unwilling to credit me the difference of $10/month each month going forward.

Details of the correspondence are at //ardamis.com/2011/09/17/virgin-mobile-usa/

Thank you for your assistance.

After submitting that complaint, I received a reply to my email to fraudalerts, sent by Stephanie M from the email address Tier3@virginmobileusa.com. I had only asked fraudalerts for the contact information of a department that could help, and so didn’t provide my phone number or PIN in that email. The reply from Stephanie M was just a request for that information. I replied to Tier3@virginmobileusa.com with the phone number and PIN.

I think I’ll wait to see what comes of the FCC complaint and the Tier 3 investigation before going to the BBB.

1:59 PM 9/19/2011

Well, that was fast. Tier 3 came through with the fix that all other contacts at Virgin Mobile claimed was impossible. Stephanie M set my account to $25/month. Her email to me:

YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN CREDITED 35.00 SO THAT I COULD TAKE OUT 25 .00 FOR THE
25 BEYOND TALK PLAN YOUR ACCOUNT CASH BALANCE IS 10.00

Thank you,
STEPHANIE M
Virgin Mobile Tier 3

I logged into my account at Virgin Mobile and confirmed that the price for my Beyond Talk plan is $25.00/month. I sent Stephanie a thank you.

Stephanie!

Oh my goodness! Were you really able to put my account back to $25/month?

You have no idea how many people have told me this was not possible.

Thank you very, very much.

I think this is the end of the story. I’ll have to try to contact the FCC and cancel the complaint.

A moment ago, a new email arrived:

Hey OLIVER,

Thanks for switching to our $25 Beyond Talk Plan.

For worry-free monthly service, make sure you’ve registered a payment method with us. Or, buy Top-Up cards to cover the cost of your monthly charge.

Manage Your Account The Easy Way.
To Top-Up, get downloads, and check your balance, log in at virginmobileusa.com. Just enter your phone number and Account PIN.

With Virgin Mobile, you’re in control. It’s just that simple.

Thanks, bye.
Virgin Mobile

4 thoughts on “Virgin Mobile USA Phone Number Port Snafu

  1. John

    hi, thanks very much for your information . I follow the same way, change back to $25. I want to say , very very thanks for you.

  2. Phil Rivera

    I Ported in a phone number to virgin mobile and had a previous number with the $35 plan can i get credited for that $35?

  3. Leon Andreev

    Thank you for posting your detailed story. I just got exactly the same problem – virgin mobile increased my monthly rate to $35 after I ported a number without informing me that it would happened and the customer service was not able to correct the issue. You info will definitely save me some time as I will try to follow your steps.

  4. Leon Andreev

    I emailed fraudalerts this morning right after reading your post. By 10:30am my account was back on the $25 plan. Thanks again.

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