Businesses across north London say they have lost custom after a mystery bug left potential customers unable to access their websites for weeks.

Virgin Media users were blocked from many sites hosted by internet firms Wix, Lyrical and BigCommerce.

Wix claimed the problem was with Virgin Media, but the broadband provider has not accepted responsibility.

People in Enfield, Camden, Islington and Hackney reported that sites were blocked.

It was first noticed in mid-September but not fixed until October 11.

Businesses said their takings fell during the outage and they fear long-term reputational damage.

“It looks bad when someone goes to look at your website and it doesn’t exist; they think you haven’t paid your bill or the business has closed down,” said Jo Wellings, from Kentish Town’s Pleasing Dance School of Ballet.

Some businesses are now considering legal action to recoup their losses.


Caitlin Pieters builds websites for businesses across north London.

She realised Wix’s sites were inaccessible on September 22.

By October 11, she said, she was “at the end of my tether”.

Her customers, who rely on local clients like fitness instructors, were worst affected.

“They have been complaining about low sales, low bookings,” she said.

Wix published a statement referring those affected to Virgin Media.

"We believe it is best to reach out to Virgin Media directly about this," it said.

But, said Caitlin: “The most frustrating thing is that every time you phone, you go through the same level of customer service. None of them realise what’s going on... It’s just not acceptable.”

Online retailer Patrick, who asked that his surname not be used, said local traffic to his website fell by 23.45%.

According to research firm Statista, 24% of UK broadband customers use Virgin Media.

“A 24% drop in turnover is significant for a lot of small companies, especially at the moment,” he said.

Last month, Wood Green massage therapist Jo Giles was fully booked for a training course.

This month, she said, she only filled a third of the places.

“I rely highly on my website because the booking form is on there,” she said.

“If you’re on Wix, you're unlikely to be a big company. It’s very much small businesses, freelancers and independent traders that are affected.”

Customer Service

Jo said Virgin Media seemed not to grasp that the problem affected an entire area, rather than individuals, nor to have any idea how to fix it.

A thread on the firm's help forum said the issue was first reported "four weeks ago".

By the time it was eventually fixed, the thread had over 350 posts.

Patrick, who used to work in IT, said he repeatedly reported the outage to Virgin and received different explanations every time.

When Chrissy Ryan, owner of Islington’s Bookbar, tried to report the issue, Virgin kept asking for account details – but the shop is not a Virgin customer, so she “got nowhere”.

Virgin told some businesses to change their internet “DNS settings”.

“I said, ‘I want other people to be able to access my website, not just me’,” recalled Jo Giles.

“Can you imagine trying to get everybody in north London to reset their DNS settings?”

Legal Action

Patrick has proposed a class action lawsuit to help recover losses. Others have expressed support.

Sarah-Jayne Whitworth, an Islington-based creative digital marketing specialist, said her website and customers’ sites were affected.

She had pre-paid for online advertising which, for Virgin Media customers, would have led for weeks to a dead website.

“I think I would be looking from compensation,” she said.

Ashley Hay-Campbell, whose company Love and Cake trades across north London, said she would consider legal action.

Her takings were down and she too had paid to advertise her website.

"To anyone visiting my site, it looks like I'm no longer trading, which is a complete waste of my time over the last few weeks telling people what website I'm at," she said.


Virgin Media said on October 11 that it was "pleased that we’ve found a workaround to the issue which meant some customers in London could not access certain websites".

It would not comment on the cause but suggested it was not to blame.

"We’re continuing our conversations with third-party website providers so they can put a permanent fix in place," it said.

Wix, Lyrical and BigCommerce were approached for comment.