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Virgin Media welcomes NCC's call for action over Sky channels dispute

# 2 March 2007, 14:18 by Cable Forum

National Consumer council (NCC) was calling for action this morning as it issued a press release stating that the current dispute, between BSkyb vs Virgin Media, which has resulted in Sky’s basic channels being axed from the cable groups TV network, is ‘bad news’ for consumers.

The NCC’s call for action also insisted that both companies put consumers first, they are also concerned about the disputes exposure will have revealed a fundamental flaw in the digital television market, and the extent to which it is competitive for consumers.

The NCC also insisted that Virgin Media confirms without delay, if its customers are entitled to cancel without penalty.

Virgin Media have this afternoon responded to NCC’s call for action, they state they welcome the NCC’s call for action and that consumers will not be ‘short-changed’, they also said Virgin Media customers who are still under contractual obligations, can cancel their TV service, up until the end of March.

In the statement from Virgin Media, it said:-

We strongly agree with the NCC—there are flaws in the UK pay TV market which are harming the interests of consumers and an investigation is warranted. As we have said repeatedly this week, anything that will shed daylight on these problems and our recent dispute with Sky is welcomed by us. We have invited independent arbitration to resolve this matter and Sky rejected that.

We will fully cooperate with the NCC and the regulators, should they be asked to intervene.

We are working hard to ensure that our customers have the best in programming.

To help address any concern over the loss of Sky’s channels, we will soon be announcing a major movie promotion which will be available to our existing TV customers and those that have joined us this week. They will receive information about this offer shortly.

The NCC has asked us to clarify our position regarding contractual issues.

In recent months we have made major enhancements to our TV service, including significant discounts on Sky’s sports channels. In view of this and the declining viewership of the Sky channels, the withdrawal of Sky’s basic channels does not breach our agreement with customers. However, if any of our TV customers wish to cancel their contract, we will allow them to do so at any time up to the end of March. This commitment will not impact our contractual rights to recover any outstanding arrears owing at the time of cancellation.

We are available to meet with the NCC, and any other interested parties, at the earliest available opportunity to try to find a solution to this dispute that serves the consumer.

Responding to the NCC’s statement, Virgin Media’s CEO Steve Burch said: “Virgin Media wants to do the right thing by its customers and resolve this dispute, as well as its underlying causes. We think our customers will quickly recognise that the improvements we’ve recently made to our TV service, together with other exciting enhancements we’ve got in the pipeline, make Virgin Media’s TV service the most comprehensive and exciting in the UK. Over the next month, however, if they don’t agree, we will not use technical legalities to stand in the way of them switching to another service.

Among both our customers and the public as a whole, we believe there is a significant groundswell of support for our decision to stand up to Sky: we are determined to ensure it is the customer that benefits from our determination to do so.”

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