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Beware of Virgin Mobile’s Immutable Credit Limit

A couple of month ago, over Easter, I was puzzled, by a cryptic SMS from my operator, Virgin Mobile, letting me know that I was “approaching my agreed limit.” Not sure what they were referring to, and because we had been travelling past past the Blue Mountains that very day, with my trusty phone working as a GPS navigator, more for fun than need, I assumed I was getting close to my monthly 750 MB limit.

I was wrong. As it turned out, I was getting close to a never-agreed-upon forcibly-set-despite-my-requests credit limit of more than $350 on top of my monthly $25 fee. As it turns out, to “maximize the allowance completely” (I’m still not sure what it means, any suggestion welcome) without letting us “be hit with a massive bill at the end of the month,” Virgin enforces a limit of what one owes them, and cuts outgoing communication once it is reached.

This is a very commendable goal, and it would surely work but for two problems. First, this credit limit is based not on the monthly fee, (expressed in real hard dollars, R$, getting out of my pocket, 25 of them) but on the included usage (expressed in something akin to Virgin brownie points). For an added dose of confusion, and despite not having any link to real money, this included usage is also counted, at Virgin and many operators, in the same unit, dollars. I get 190 of what I will call fake dollars, F$, for R$25. Surely 25 is not equal to 190, so these two unfortunately like-named units are not the same. This becomes a problem when Virgin happily add up fake dollars, decides you have to pay them, and asks for real dollars. That’s a 7600% gain for them. Well done.

Second, once having discovered the speciousness of the entire business. it turns out that the customer has absolutely no say in what the limit is set at. Nobody can change it as it is “set to the correct amount.” Correct for Virgin, I’m sure…

As the icing on the cake, Virgin also seems to take pride in not warning their users when they reach their included quota, and only deems it appropriate to inform their customer about anything when the incurred debt is starting to loom close to this credit limit.

“Please help me create debts for you.” should be their motto.

So what follows is a summary of the email exchanges to get this charge I didn’t even know about reduced, and my credit limit lowered. It took putting the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in the loop to get a half satisfying answer (fee waived), and a rather lame excuse for not changing the credit limit (computer says no).

Well, I won’t be renewing my additional data plan. I can’t use it for fear of going above without warning. What is it good for then?

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