On Saturday we rang Virgin Media to complain about the fact that our fibre connection was running at less than 2meg down.
This wasn't a new experience. For about two years our relationship with Virgin Media had been somewhat one-sided: we'd pay them about £50 a month and in return they would send us lots of glossy leaflets telling us how amazing a deal we were getting whilst singularly failing to provide any kind of usable internet connection.
To those not familiar with the workings of the British telecoms industry this may seem like a curious relationship to actively maintain. After all, why not simply move to a different ISP?
If you live in a country that has any kind of effective policing of the level of service its ISPs provide, then this is probably a reasonable question to ask. The trouble is, the UK isn't one of those countries. There are no effective rules here about making sure that the line speed a company promises actually equates to the line speed they provide and thus all of the major providers essentially over-promise and under-deliver.
If you're unlucky enough to live in an area with poor coverage then this means often your only real choice in the marketplace is thus deciding which of the big three (Sky, Virgin and BT) you mind being screwed over by least. For us, that was Virgin.
Mostly, we'd just accept that there was nothing we could do. Periodically though the connection would be so bad that either Mrs Bull or I would ring up and complain. Virgin would then force us to go through a ten minute diagnostic process which would end with them finally admitting that it was entirely their fault - the area was oversubscribed and they hadn't yet upgraded the infrastructure - and they would then begrudgingly refund us a whopping £10 off that month's bill.
We'd then ask why they couldn't just issue this refund every month until they did upgrade the local infrastructure, without us having to call up about it first. They'd then sigh and make it sound like we'd just asked them to repay our entire mortgage and start saying words like "customer management system" and "regulatory complaints process" until we got bored and hung up.
Normally, about a week later, we'd then get a letter telling us how great their complaints department had been on the phone and that this was one of the many things that our monthly fee was paying for.
These letters would always carry a faint suggestion that we should maybe stop harshing their vibe by suggesting they provide us some kind of usable internet connection.
On Saturday morning the connection was once again pretty rubbish. So Mrs Bull rang up to make our regular complaint. Having completed the Virgin-imposed penance process ("have you tried turning the router off and on again?") they put her on hold to discuss what compensation could be issued.
Or at least they thought they did...
Now understandably we were a bit annoyed by this. I mean, like all British broadband subscribers we do know our place. But actually insulting your customers to their face (or at least their ears) seemed just a little bit too much.
So after the call we had a think and decided that whilst all UK broadband companies are the same, this was definitely the final straw. And as we'd not signed a new contract with Virgin (meaning we were on a month-to-month arrangement) we decided to move companies . A new contract was arranged with another provider who promised to love us, and treat us right (ha!) and we drew straws to see who was going to have the cathartic experience of telling Virgin we were splitting up with them.
Or at least it should have been a cathartic experience. Instead it very quickly it became clear that Virgin Media were not prepared to end our relationship. We may have been ready to burn the photos of our time together in a wastepaper bin, but unbeknownst to us they had already planned our wedding.
If we wanted to leave, they said, there would be an early contract termination fee.
Wobbly lines, wobbly lines February...
Now this probably needs some explanation to avoid confusion. I mean, it confused us when they said it at first. But it seemed they were referring to events back in February when, during one of our regular complaint calls (Mrs Bull again), they'd suggested they upgrade us to a 100meg line to fix it.
Now this seemed like somewhat perverse logic to us. But sure. Why not, I mean they're the experts. Allegedly.
As long as, we stressed, this didn't count as a new contract.