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Virgin Mobile to Scrap PAYG Service

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Customers of Virgin Mobile’s pay-as-you-go service will need to switch to a new plan as the mobile provider ditches the service and disconnects SIM cards.

Virgin Mobile will gradually phase out its PAYG mobile service between October 2021 and January 2022. During that period, customers will find that their SIM “will stop working… if [they] don’t take action” such as signing up for a pay-monthly plan.

The provider will contact customers closer to the time to inform them of the date their personal SIM will stop working.

Virgin Mobile said: “We regularly review our offerings to make sure we’re meeting our customers’ needs and usage. After careful review, we’ve decided to close our Pay As You Go services and focus on providing even greater Pay Monthly plans. You have at least 3 months to switch to Pay Monthly or request your PAC, after we have notified you.”

Virgin is reminding customers to use up any outstanding credit on their accounts before the PAYG service ends or request a refund for any leftover credit.

The closure of the service isn’t a surprise. In November 2019, Virgin Mobile imposed onerous new charges on PAYG customers. Rather than paying a low rate for every call minute, text message and MB of data, customers are being charged £2 for the first 200 minutes of calls each day, £2 for the first 200 texts each day and £2 for the first 200MB of data. The changes meant that infrequent phone users could find themselves paying £2 for a single brief call, text message or 1MB of data.

The changes were widely seen as a way of nudging users off the PAYG service. The gambit that worked: Virgin Mobile's prepaid mobile base collapsed from 233,400 in March 2020 to just 123,500 in March 2021. Virgin said it has seen a 75% reduction in active PAYG use over the last few years.

Other mobile operators have made similar moves to ditch PAYG and push users onto monthly contracts or bundles. O2 shuttered its traditional PAYG service to new customers in November 2019 but continues to sell bundles of PAYG minutes, texts and data to be used within a month.

In January of this year, Vodafone, the network Virgin Mobile currently uses, overhauled its PAYG prices much like Virgin Mobile did, charging customers £1 for the first text message, call or data they use each day.

Three retains a classic PAYG service but in January 2021 increased its prices by 400% in some cases, making its monthly bundles a more cost-effective choice. Its traditional PAYG service currently charges 10p/minute for voice calls, 10p/text and 5p/MB of data.

Customers looking for a classic PAYG service should also consider 1pMobile, on EE's network. The provider does what it says on the tin, charging 1p/minute of voice calls, 1p/text and 1p/MB for data. However, it requires you to top up £10 every four months or be disconnected.

Asda Mobile, on Vodafone’s network, also has a competitive traditional PAYG service, charging 4p/minute for calls, 4p/text and 4p/MB of data.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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