An Exeter-based letting agency has been directing its student clients to broadband deals that extend far beyond their tenancy.
Star Student Lettings, part of Star Property Centre, near-exclusively arranges student tenancies of a 12-month period or less. Prior to the commencement of their contracts, all tenants received an email noting “IMPORTANT INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR MOVE-IN”. This contained a link to a Virgin Media Business broadband offer for binding 24-month contracts.
The link is displayed by Star under the explanation that “Virgin media have offered an exclusive offer to Star Lettings student tenants for a broadband or broadband and TV package.” The broadband contract’s two-year length is not mentioned. Additionally, no explanation is provided for the direction towards Business contracts over Student or Residential.
Reportedly, the Virgin Media team went on to assert the possibility of a simple cancellation after 12 months, avoiding mention of the high Early Termination Charges this would incur.
All tenants received an email [in which] the broadband contract’s two-year length is not mentioned
Exeposé has reached out to several student Star Lettings and Virgin clients for comment. Multiple sources corroborated the assurance that an early cancellation would be possible, while also expressing irritation with the letting agency.
James Hammond, a student at Exeter, noted his frustration with both Virgin and Star. “[Star] haven’t been especially good letting agents this year … none of [us] were surprised that Star had been part of offering us a contract which is clearly double the length of our tenancy.”
Likewise, Hammond recalls being sold a 12-month contract by Virgin Media Business. “I’m fairly confident [they] said it would be a 24 month contract that we could just change to 12 months without any hassle”.
Deepa Lalwani, another student, was placed in a similar situation. “I was offered an exclusive Star Lettings and Virgin Media deal which was advertised with the first three months free. When I contacted Virgin about it, there seemed to have been some miscommunication … they’d put me down for 24 months despite the fact that I’d been told I could cancel at any time with no additional fee.”
“I really think that letting agencies and external services need to liaise properly before advertising so-called deals.” Star Lettings had again not given clear indication of what the deal would entail.
“Letting agencies and external services need to liaise properly before advertising so-called deals”Affected student, Deepa Lalwani
A third student, who requested to not be named, “went into Star and spoke to them about it”, only to be told that they “didn’t have any details on it”.
Similarly to Hammond and Lalwani, they “specifically asked [Virgin] what it was and they said 12 [months] at the time”. Asking for a recording of their initial conversation, Virgin responded that it was not an ‘important phone call’, and that it had not been recorded.
Despite these assurances from the Virgin Media Business support team, such a cancellation would incur Early Termination Charges (ETCs), which went unexplained by the service provider and unacknowledged by Star Lettings. These charges would necessitate the payment of the rest of the contract’s fees.
All three of the affected students have since come free of their contracts. In the exceptional circumstances, the Virgin Customer Services team allowed an early release after 12 months.
Asked for comment to Exeposé, Star Lettings echoed previous statements, noting that “the local Virgin Media representative would discuss the best options to suit the needs of the individual. The business contracts are perhaps more suitable to larger HMO’s [sic] (Houses of Multiple Occupancy)”.
Each student interviewed, however, was presented with no option from the representative other than Business. Star Lettings denies fault on their part.
“The length of the contract would be dependant [sic] on the package between Virgin Media and the individual.”
Virgin Media has before come under investigation by Ofcom in 2017 over serially overcharging customers through ETCs. The broadband company did not respond to a request for comment.