Virgin Mobile uses debt collection agency to hunt person with dementia

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Virgin Mobile has been branded ‘despicable’ after asking a debt collection agency to sue an 88-year-old with dementia over a £38 bill.

Kenneth Harkins, from Edinburgh, had a rolling contract of £10 a month, but as his condition worsened he stopped using his mobile phone.

His family said Virgin refused to cancel the contract unless they could get the password to Mr Harkins’ account – which he could not remember due to his dementia.

When the exasperated family went ahead and reversed the direct debit, Virgin responded by taking the matter to a debt collection company.

Kenneth Harkins, 88, with dementia, stopped using his mobile phone when his condition worsened

The tweet Mr Harkins' daughter Julie sent to Virgin Mobile calling them

The tweet Mr Harkins’ daughter Julie sent to Virgin Mobile calling them ‘despicable’

They have put a ‘default’ against the pensioner’s credit report and written two threatening letters, one of which warns him of ‘further debt collection action’ if the £38 bill remains unpaid.

However, today Virgin Mobile, which said it had tried to contact Mr Harkin and his family on several occasions, said it had looked into the matter and settled the account balance as a goodwill gesture.

Mr Harkins, a former bricklayer and plasterer, his daughter Julie Abu-Husan and her husband Ali, also from Edinburgh, have been trying to negotiate with the company since last October.

Julie, 57, eventually took to Twitter, telling the company: ‘Virginmedia, my 88-year-old dad, had a mobile contract with you for £10 a month.

The <a class=debt collection letter sent to Mr Harkins as Virgin Mobile tried to recover the outstanding £38 bill” class=”blkBorder img-share” style=”max-width:100%” />

The debt collection letter sent to Mr Harkins as Virgin Mobile tried to recover the outstanding £38 bill

“He can’t use it anymore, but when we tried to cancel his contract, they insist on having his password which he can’t remember because he has dementia.” He now had debt collection letters. Contemptible.’

Speaking today, Julie, 57, said: ‘As he no longer used the phone and didn’t need it, we contacted Virgin to cancel the contract.

“The person we spoke to asked for my father’s password, but of course he had no idea.

“The blank employee kept repeating that he had to receive the password and could no longer offer help or discuss anything with us. My dad then started getting letters from a debt collection company for £38.

Ali, 58, added: ‘I don’t understand why they are suing him for such a small sum.

“We tried to explain to them, and they just didn’t listen. I mean he’s retired and they were asking for a doctor’s letter to prove he had dementia. I mean seriously? Why should I provide a letter to prove he is sick?

“I don’t understand why they didn’t cancel the service, why did they keep it going when we told them we were going to cancel the payment?” It does not mean anything.

The first credential arrived on March 26 and warned the retiree: “We would like to draw your attention to the fact that our client has registered a default against your credit report in relation to this account. The default may affect your ability to obtain credit in the future.

“Please don’t ignore this letter.”

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: ‘As a gesture of goodwill, we have cleared the remaining balance in Mr Harkins’ account.

They added: “Customers wishing to leave Virgin Media should contact us before canceling their direct debit to ensure they do not receive any unexpected charges.

“We pride ourselves on providing all of our customers with excellent service. If a customer thinks we have made a mistake, we encourage them to contact us so that we can investigate.

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