ASA Slaps Virgin Media over Broadband Adverts

By: MarkJ - 04 February, 2009 (1:02 PM)

The UK Advertising Standards Association (ASA) has wrapped Virgin Media's knuckles after four out of five complaints made by BSkyB (Sky Broadband) against the providers national press and direct mailing adverts were upheld.

The adverts all made a big deal out of Virgin Media's broadband infrastructure, specifically its use of fibre optic cables to deliver next generation super-fast services. Likewise rivals were slated for basing their products off "old-fashioned copper phone wires" (i.e. ADSL/ADSL2+).

Sky challenged whether:

1. the claim "old-fashioned copper phone wires that other broadband companies use, are struggling to cope" in ad (a) was misleading and could be substantiated, because their own broadband network used copper wire and was not struggling to cope with demand;

ASA Response - Complaint UPHELD.

2. ad (a) was misleading, because it implied that Virgin's fibre optic broadband was the solution to the increase in consumer demand for broadband when in fact Virgin operated a traffic management policy which restricted use during peak times, which suggested that its fibre optic system was unable to satisfy the demands of its customers.

ASA Response - Complaint NOT UPHELD.

3. the press cuttings in ads (a) and (b) and the claim "why wait 4 years when you can get/have it now" in ads (c) and (d) gave a misleading impression, because the press cuttings were taken out of context and implied that Virgin Media was already offering the same service as that which BT planned to introduce. Sky believed Virgin only offered fibre optic cable broadband to street cabinets (FTTC), whereas the BT services referred to broadband delivered straight to the home (FTTH) and in ads (c) and (d) were for both FTTC & FTTH.

ASA Response - Complaint UPHELD.

4. the claim "fibre optic broadband is already here and paid for" in ad (b) was misleading, because they believed Virgin Media served only 50% of the UK with fibre optic broadband and would have to invest considerably to achieve nationwide fibre optic coverage as claimed in the ad.

ASA Response - Complaint UPHELD.

5. A member of the public challenged whether the claim "... with the massive growth of the internet, these wires are finding it hard to cope. Which means your broadband can be rather slow." in ad (e) was misleading and could be substantiated.

ASA Response - Complaint UPHELD.

It's noted that the ASA only upheld part of Sky's third complaint, specifically because Virgin Media didn't provide FTTH. The ASA instructed Virgin Media to make sure that three of its adverts didn't appear again in their current form.

It also warned the cable provider to avoid exaggerating the impact that high bandwidth applications were having on the speed of delivery of ADSL broadband.

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