My husband and I are in our 80s and have been trying unsuccessfully for several months to stop our Sky television subscription.
We have been Sky customers for 19 years, but decided in June that we wanted to cancel our contract as we don’t watch as much TV as we used to.
Since early July we have written three letters to Sky, emailed several times and tried to phone many times, but there is always a 40 minute-plus wait.
We got through once, but we were told the Sky ‘system’ was down and they were unable to complete the cancellation. The person said we should call back later, but we gave up after 45 minutes on hold.
TV drama: This couple say they went to great lengths to cancel their Sky TV subscription – but it seemed to fall on deaf ears
After trying to cancel for a month, we cancelled our direct debit at the end of July.
We received a letter dated 24 September threatening debt collectors, to which we responded by post and never had a reply.
We then got an email dated 5 October from Sky saying it had tried to contact us, but couldn’t.
We are almost always at home and have had no messages from Sky on the answer phone. Can you help? B.R, Bucks
Helen Crane, This is Money’s Consumer Champion, replies: It should have been easy enough to stop your TV subscription, but the people you spoke to at Sky seemed to have their head in the clouds.
The advice, of course, is never to cancel a direct debit without first alerting the company that you wish to stop your payments.
However, based on what you told me (Sky’s version of events differs slightly, as I will explain below) I think you were justified in doing so.
CRANE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.
Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:
You went to great lengths to try and tell Sky you were leaving, and found it impossible to get in touch.
The one time you did, you were told you couldn’t cancel over the phone because ‘the system’ was down.
Could the operator have been telling porkies? Their job, after all, is to hang on to customers at any cost.
Surely they could have noted your desire to cancel and fulfilled your request when ‘the system’ was back up and running again?
Or – and this might seem like a radical concept – they could have called YOU back.
As loyal customers of almost two decades, simply being told to call back later was not the treatment you deserved.
I was also interested that you say you wrote letters informing Sky of your decision, but these got no response.
Pen and paper: Sky says customers can cancel a contract by letter – but they will need to then go through security checks over the phone
Some people prefer to communicate by post, and in my opinion companies have a duty to keep that option open.
I asked Sky if a letter was acceptable notice of cancellation, and it said a phone call was the preferred method of contact.
That is fair enough, unless customers are left waiting for 40 minutes for someone to pick up.
Sky said that cancelling via email or letter was also fine, but that customers would then need to confirm their security details over the phone – essentially defeating the point.
When I spoke to Sky, it said that it first picked up your request to cancel in an email – so either the letters weren’t received, or it didn’t act on them.
It said it then attempted to call you, but was unable to get through, and also emailed but did not hear back.
There was a £49 balance on the account when it closed, and Sky added a £10 late payment fee when this was not paid.
This was why a letter you received in October included the threat of debt collectors.
However, I am glad to say that Sky has now confirmed the cancellation, and waived the remaining balance on the account as a gesture of goodwill.
We’ll keep a beady eye on telecoms firms that make it incredibly hard to cancel. If you fall in that category, get in touch.
CRANE ON THE CASE
I tried to play the National Lottery but the app wasn’t working… then my numbers won the jackpot!
I’m a regular National Lottery player and usually buy tickets via the app.
In July, I tried to buy an entry for the Saturday 7:30pm draw. I logged on at 6:45pm, but the app was having problems, which I saw other users complaining about on Twitter.
This meant I couldn’t deposit money into my account to buy my entry. I tried to do so seven times but it didn’t work.
At 7:28pm, just before the draw, I managed to get through to add funds and buy a ticket. However, shortly after that the app crashed again and the ticket wasn’t issued.
To my horror, I was then notified by the app that the numbers I had tried to play with were the winning numbers.
Un-appy customer: This reader tried to buy National Lottery tickets on the app, but a technical glitch meant she wasn’t able to… and then her numbers came up
The jackpot that day was £11.75million, and there was one other winner so I would have been in line for £5.87million. I called the lottery and it said it could see I managed to log on four times.
I’m struggling financially at the moment as my husband is disabled, and the money would have absolutely transformed our lives.
I feel the National Lottery should compensate me, as I logged in in good time for the draw and was only prevented from entering by the technical problems. S.M
Helen Crane of This is Money replies: It is a lottery player’s worst nightmare: the one week you don’t play, your numbers come up.
You must have felt sick to your stomach when you realised what had happened.
If that was me, I imagine quite a few objects would have been thrown at the TV.
This is a moment millions of Britons dream of, and the chances you will ever be so lucky again are miniscule – one in 45million, to be precise – so I do understand your frustration.
But on the other hand, the lottery can’t be expected to hand out big prizes for a ticket that was never actually bought.
I contacted Camelot, the firm that runs the National Lottery, to see if it would offer you anything by way of apology for the technical glitch which dashed your hopes of winning a fortune.
It said: ‘We’ve looked into the player’s account history, and there is no record of her selecting that set of numbers online before the draw took place or indeed playing them in any other earlier draws.
‘Unfortunately, she also had insufficient funds in her account when she attempted to purchase her tickets and would have received an error message on each occasion.’
I would argue with the second point, as you said that you were trying to add funds to your account, but were not able to.
But it seems on this occasion, it couldn’t be you. May the balls fall in your favour in future.