- Posted June 23, 2014 by
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Do you also want to cancel Sky Subscription? Read This
How to cancel sky subscriptions? Finally Sky agrees to make it clear
After customers had their written cancellations ignored, pressure from The Telegraph forces Sky to amend its terms
Sky will tell its 11 million subscribers that they can cancel their contracts only by phone in an attempt to end the rigmarole imposed on those who try to leave.
The disclosure was made to The Telegraph in a meeting with Sky’s senior management at the company’s headquarters in west London this week following a discussion on why Sky needs to make it easier to cancel.
The television, internet and landline provider said it had amended the wording on its website in response to a series of articles published in this newspaper that detailed routinely poor treatment of customers who wished to terminate services.
Sky plans to change the wording on its paper contracts this summer, making it clear that customers will in future be unable to cancel merely by writing or sending an email.
Chris Stylianou, director of customer services, said: “When the Telegraph first highlighted the issue, we listened and recognised the need to be clearer about the process and make it a big priority.”
Sky subscriptions: Why is it so hard to cancel?
Unhappy Sky customershave inundated The Telegraph with personal experiences that appear to corroborate allegations that the television, phone and internet provider makes it difficult to leave at the end of a contract.
A report published on Saturday attracted more than 270 comments in just four days, while other readers emailed or wrote letters. Our consumer champion, Jessica Gorst-Williams, has also received numerous correspondences.
Many of the complaints centred on poor service from Sky, while other readers claimed difficulty cancelling phone or television services at rival firms.
Several readers said they felt so trapped that they simply cancelled their direct debits manually, only to be faced with threatening letters from Sky's debt collectors.
In particular, readers said they encountered difficulty in cancelling in writing or by email, despite Sky’s terms and conditions suggesting this is allowed.
'How do I cancel a contract with Sky?'
Jessica Gorst-Williams helps a reader cancel their contract with Sky after they failed to inform the telecom giant of their intention to leave.
Televisions 'to be fitted in contact lenses within ten years'
Sky closed the account and cleared the outstanding balance as a gesture of goodwill
In early March this year I decided to terminate my TV contract with Sky. The children had grown up and left, I am facing retirement and there is a need to control future spending. I contacted Sky to finish my contract and was put on to an operator who clearly had the remit to dissuade me from closing it. I was offered impressive reductions to my monthly repayment.
On finally persuading her that I was serious about ending the contract I was told that I was to be transferred to another department.
On being transferred, I waited for the call to be answered. Nobody was picking up. I waited a total of about 10 minutes then hung up and proceeded to cancel my direct debit.
What followed was a series of letters from Sky demanding that I pay them £24 so that my service could continue. The final letter came with a threat that, if no payment was made, the matter would be referred to a debt collection agency and my credit rating would be damaged.
Sky said: “Mr C cancelled his monthly direct debit without informing us of his intention to leave Sky. Despite several reminders, his bill was not paid and details of the account were eventually passed to a debt collection agency. We’ve been in touch with Mr C and closed the account and have cleared the outstanding balance as a gesture of goodwill.”
You are happy with this. It does show though how all the detailed conditions have to be met when trying to cancel such contracts, notwithstanding the frustrations that can be suffered in the process.
Four months ago we reported that Sky had conceded its cancellation processes needed reviewing and divulged that it had been placed under regulatory scrutiny after we submitted a large file of customer complaints to Ofcom, the regulator. But dozens of letters and emails from disaffected customers have continued to pour into our mailbag. Some complaints had dragged on for more than six months, while others had arisen since January. In most cases, it took our intervention to resolve the issues. Sky, to its credit, acted promptly by clearing balances, calling off bailiffs and apologising.
Our concerns over the apparent failure to improve the cancellation process prompted the meeting with company directors in Osterley, near Heathrow.
Mr Stylianou said some customers were “let down” because the firm had “not been clear enough about our cancellation policy”. He said it had always been vital to speak to customers on the phone before cancellation in order to satisfy data protection law and address outstanding payments. Sufficient proof of identification could rarely be garnered by any other means, he added.
However, Mr Stylianou admitted that this crucial piece of information had been poorly communicated.
In fact, it was never explicitly stated in Sky contracts, which now appear to have been misleading. This was evidenced by point 13 (c) of the contract, which stated: “Any notice you give to end this contract . . . must be given by phone or by writing to us.” On its website under the “Cancel Sky TV” section, the company listed a cancel-by-email option without indication that a telephone conversation would be necessary. As a result, some customers who wished to cancel wrote to Sky advising of their intentions, giving the required notice before stopping the direct debit.
But such written notifications were not considered sufficient by Sky, which kept charging monthly fees even if customers had disconnected their set-top boxes. When customers failed to pay, Sky called in bailiffs, who sent letters threatening to take customers to court over trivial “debts” that often amounted to £50 or less.
Stephen Huckle, 69,and his wife, Cherry, 67, faced this scenario when they tried to cancel Sky following several years of substandard television connection.
Mr Huckle, from Stanton by Dale in Derbyshire,wrote to Sky in September 2013 to cancel before the couple went on a post-retirement holiday to Florida. The company had said it was unable to improve the connection because health and safety regulations prevented engineers accessing the house’s flat roof.
Despite explaining the situation to Sky, Mr Huckle was chased for £53 after he wrote and cancelled his direct debit. Debt collectors threatened legal action.
Mr Huckle said: “I felt we were misled and maligned. It was very disturbing to get to the point where I would be taken to court, so I paid, wishing to avoid a blacklisting.”
Following The Telegraph’s intervention, Sky refunded the £53 and offered half-price subscription, which the couple have accepted.
At last week’s meeting, this newspaper urged Sky to make clear that written notification of cancellation, followed by shutting down a direct debit manually, was not accepted.
Mr Sylianou immediately updated the company’s website, which now states: “It’s really important you don’t cancel your direct debit or any other ongoing payment arrangement with us until your cancellation has been confirmed by us. This is because any outstanding balance will need to be paid and cancelling the direct debit may lead to your account falling into debt.”
Sky is introducing an improved call centre sky customer service which can customers can use to contact sky, so instead of an automated options menu, calls are answered almost immediately by staff who transfer the customer to the correct department. Mr Sylianou said this would vastly improve the service – but said the system would not be in place for some time for customers wishing to cancel.