back to article UK's competition watchdog gives £31bn Virgin Media and O2 merger the seal of approval

The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has greenlit the proposed £31bn merger between Virgin Media and O2. In its final report on the proposed alliance [PDF], the CMA said the combined entity would not be able (or wasn't incentivised) to disrupt the market for mobile backhaul or MVNOs meaningfully. Virgin Media …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    Yeah Virgin customer service!

    Ring Ring (repeat for 20 minutes).

    Hello my name is David (it clearly isn't), how may I help you.

    I can't get a signal on my phone. I can't make or receive calls or texts. Its OK on WiFi, so I can get Internet. I've rebooted it and took the sum in and out.

    No problem can you restart the phone.

    I've done that several times

    I need you to reboot the phone please.

    Still nothing.

    OK I noticed you said your WiFi isn't working.

    No it's OK on WiFi.

    OK can you reboot your router?


    I need you to reboot your router.

    /repeat crap like this until you give up and get a new carrier.

    1. Julz

      Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

      So what was the problem?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

      Sorry dude, but you are ringing someone who has a script. Just play along. When my cable box broke (a capacitor went bang when I switched it on):

      Can you turn it off, wait 10s, and turn it on again?

      OK... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... OK, I've turned it on... Still no lights.

      Thankyou. I will need to arrange a visit from one of our engineers [rest of conversation snipped]

      "David" or "Sharon" have a script. They are paid to follow the script. They aren't allowed to deviate. Just (pretend to) follow their instructions, give the right responses, and the script will lead them along to the outcome you want. Me arguing with them that the power supply was faulty would just have wasted my time, and theirs.

      If you want properly bad customer service, try one of the (increasing number of) companies who don't even have a customer helpline. Got a problem? Scream on social media. No social media presence? Sucks to be you.

      1. Captain Scarlet

        Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

        Only problem is when they have one script that is also the wrong script.

        One of my first ADSL providers was a reseller, I used it with a router and one day it stopped working. The person on the phone had a script for a USB modem and couldn't respond to me going I don't have a USB modem I have a Router. After 30 minutes of getting no-where and trying to follow the script with the usual I don't have a USB ADSL Modem I can't create the connection that way I slammed the phone down. Phoned back that's when I realised it was a one man band outsourced helpline even back then.

        As I worked for an ISP helpline at the time I thought I'll call next day, but first I put my number into the ADSL checker and that's when I discovered the problem was they had disconnected me. Phoned and got the same crap, asked for supervisor and apparently there wasn't one. Thought screw it signed up where I work, cancelled the direct debit and that's when someone called and asked why I had cancelled the direct debit. They threatened to disconnect me straight away, I obviously responded that they had already disconnected me which is why they were getting no more money from me.

      2. Annihilator

        Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

        Spot on. And equally, it doesn't makes sense for Dave to be trained and paid to be intelligent enough to deviate from the script and actually resolve these sorts of problems, otherwise you've got a bunch of highly paid and technically astute people answering calls that for the vast majority will be "have you tried turning it off and on again".

        Dave is the guardian of the real engineer. He's deflecting the hours of pointless calls.

        Similarly on the "I don't have a USB modem". Just pretend you do and give the answers they're expecting to unlock the real engineer.

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

          hmm I suppose I could have done, but at the time I had no script and I don't think I had ever encountered it.

          We were a reseller for ourselves but we had our equipment we gave out next to us so we could tinker as and when was needed.

      3. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

        Script or not ringing Customer service / tech support always results turn it off turn it on. Even at work where the engineers who are in the same building and know their stuff, turn it off turn it on. So whats the point of arguing the time it takes is no more than a minute. You will waste more time arguing the toss.

        Couple of months ago my Virgin Tivo stopped working. Customer service turn off and on they can't connect send out a new box. That's the script.

    3. Chad H.

      Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

      As opposed to O2 Customer service.

      They don't have any. They got rid of it all to Capita, as Customer Service isn't a thing mobile companies do apparently.

      Ask anyone on Disability benefits what they think about Capita's service.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Yeah Virgin customer service!

      Yeah Virgin customer service!

      Ring Ring (repeat for 20 minutes).

      Hello my name is David (it clearly isn't), how may I help you.

      I can't get a signal on my phone. I can't make or receive calls or texts. Its OK on WiFi, so I can get Internet. I've rebooted it and took the sum in and out.

      No problem can you restart the phone.

      I've done that several times

      I need you to reboot the phone please.

      Still nothing.

      OK I noticed you said your WiFi isn't working.........

      Same sort of thing when I used to be a customer of the predecessor NTL: The cable channel I wanted to watch a film on was showing an advert that had stopped midway through and there was an on screen display (OSD). I called the customer service number and was put on to a nice lady. I explained that the channel had frozen and she asked me to do things with the remote. I explained that I worked for a broadcaster and had engineer in my title. I said their headend for that channel has fallen over and needed rebooting. She insisted it could still be my box and could we try the remote please.

      I offered to identify the headend manufacturer based on the OSD. She then said she agreed with me, but she had to follow procedures so I acquiesced and followed her instructions. At the end of these she confirmed it wasn't my box. I wanted to know when it would be rebooted and she said nine o'clock great says I just before the film starts. Ah no it'll be 9am not 9pm before anyone gets there to do any work. I said if I ran my services like that the company would be fined. I wasn't a customers for much longer after that.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Jedit Silver badge


    What are MVNOs? The article doesn't say.

    Perhaps it is Mergin' Vidia Network (O2)?

    1. GlenP Silver badge

      Re: MVNOs

      Mobile Virtual Network Operators, i.e. companies that sell mobile services but use a physical Network Operator to provide the actual connections.

      1. Jedit Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: MVNOs

        Thanks for the answer. I knew about Tesco Mobile and the like, just not what they were called.

    2. ThereBePirates

      Re: MVNOs

      Virgin Mobile is the MVNO

      O2 is the carrier

    3. batfink

      Re: MVNOs

      Tesco Mobile is a good example. Obviously Tesco can't be arsed building and supporting a mobile network, so Tesco Mobile is just O2 with a Tesco label on the front.

      (or 3 with a Tesco label if you're in Ireland IIRC)

  3. Unep Eurobats


    Bluesky creatives are thoughtstorming the new branding even as I type.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    And... then there were four no, three, no two,... one

    The phone/cable companies get bigger and bigger.

    We continue to get shafted with piss poor service, multiple price rises every year and crap speeds even on Vermin.

    The 'C' level execs meanwhile play merry-go-round between the remaining players getting fatter and fatter on our money.

    Situation normal then.

    1. batfink

      Re: And... then there were four no, three, no two,... one

      But, but... 5G is going to be The Solution Of All Evils isn't it?

      1. Jedit Silver badge

        "5G is going to be The Solution Of All Evils isn't it?"

        Well, I'm told it's the solution to COVID-19!

        (Mine's the one with two needles in the arm...)

  5. Anonymous Coward


    > It also found that backhaul represents a relatively small proportion of the cost of delivering mobile services, and thus any chicanery would result in minimal cost increases for customers.

    I'm more worried (as an O2 subscriber) about now being bilked to pay the interest on Liberty Global's massive debts. Thanks very much CMA.

  6. TimMaher Silver badge

    CMA Bastards

    They won't allow the merger of Crowdcube and Seedrs but this anti-competitive deal is fine.

    It's not what you know...

  7. dave 81

    NTL were the worst.

    Virgin Media are still NTL under it all, and now O2 will be part of that great tradition of monumentally (rap customer service, mid fixed contract price rises, and out right theft (continuing to debit after the contract was terminated).

  8. MJI Silver badge

    Too confusing

    I used to be on BT Cellnet years ago with work. On BT at home.

    BT offered me a mobile phone contract.

    "I have work one already with you with O2, used to be BT Cellnet."

    It confused them.

    But confuses me anyway.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Too confusing

      Yes, but they spun of O2 as a separate company, then took over EE.

      EE was formed from the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK.

      Orange used to be owned by Hutchison, who sold it, and then set up a new company called Three.

      Orange was at one point owned by NTL, who later merged with Telewest, and were taken over by Virgin

      It was also at one point owned by Vodafone, who sold the UK division to France Telecom along with the trademark, and France Telecom changed their own name to Orange.

      Because ... reasons

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Too confusing

        NTL are now Liberty with Virgin licensed branding. I don’t think Virgin took them over.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Too confusing

          I think NTL Telewest took over Virgin Mobile and changed their own name to Virgin.

          Or maybe Virgin Mobile took over NTL Telewest.

          There was a bankruptcy at one point, and it was bought out from the liquidators by someone. That's when they stopped owning Orange. They hadn't paid the previous owners the full price for the shares at that point, so the previous owner took it back.

          1. Claire Sweet

            Re: Too confusing

            They pay Branson for the Virgin Trademark - I think that's the only connection to Virgin that there is.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Too confusing

              Following the sale to Liberty Global, yes, but I think Beardy did own part of it at one point.

          2. adam 40 Silver badge

            Re: Too confusing

            You missed out Cambridge Cable.... (and probably lots of others)

            Also Virgin as an MVNO use EE don't they? Not O2 (used by GiffGaff).

            So how is this all gonna pan out?

            I got my text today from Virging (on the ridiculous) announcing the news, so it must be true.

      2. Soruk

        Re: Too confusing

        I must have missed the NTL ownership. I may well be wrong but I thought Hutchison sold Orange to Mannesmann. Vodafone did s hostile takeover of Mannesmann and were thus forced to sell Orange quickly, the buyer being France Telecom.

    2. hopkinse

      Re: Too confusing

      I'm still on a contract that started life as a BT Cellnet one 20 odd years ago. Better the devil you know and all that.

  9. Peter D

    You must be young. It started as Telecom Securicor Cellnet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Securicor were an interesting company. If they needed services they usually just bought a company to do whatever they needed instead of just paying someone else.

  10. Dynamite
    Paris Hilton

    Ownership of MBNL

    I thought that MBNL was owned by 3 & EE not o2.

    Have I missed something in the news recently?

    1. Soruk

      Re: Ownership of MBNL

      MBNL was originally Three and T-Mobile. EE inherited T-Mobile's share. O2 and Vodafone were never involved (they have their own, Cornerstone).

  11. Chad H.

    This is well overdue. My experience of Telefonica/O2's management during the time they decided to get rid of customer service (and broadband) was that the management team wanted to do anything but run a telco. Now, they finally get their chance not to.

  12. PaulR79

    I think this is my favourite bit from the piece.

    "The CMA found that its existing contractual obligations would mean that, in the short-to-medium term, Virgin Media would be unable to degrade or withdraw the services it provides to rivals."

    Well, as long as things are ok in the short-to-medium term go ahead with your short-to-medium term plan for a $31 BILLION merger. Clearly this won't last long so we have nothing to worry about.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can someone wake me up when they announce the next price rise to recover the billions wasted on a non-meaningful merger and £10 billion investment promise (a stunt).

    Wondering whats in it for O2, really.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prices

      Telefonica have wanted rid of O2 for some time now.

      Remember they nearly flogged it to Three a couple of years ago, but apparently that was anti-competitive, and was stopped by one of the competition overlords. Shame really, as O2's healthy allocation of low-frequency spectrum combined with Three's mainly higher-frequency spectrum could've made for a bl**dy decent network.

      Anwyays, suspect that "Merger" actually means "Virgin Media will take the lead on it all for now whilst Telefonica becomes a quiet partner for a couple of years or so, then VM will buy-out Telefonica's shares if all is going to plan."

      Watch this space...

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