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Virgin Media and BSkyB feature in ASA adjudications again
Wednesday 14 November 2007 10:52:11 by Andrew Ferguson

For the second week running Virgin Media and BSkyB have ASA adjudications against them. The adjudications, once they appear on the Advertising Standards Authority website, can be read in full.

The Sky complaint was raised by a viewer who challenged whether a trailer for the Sky Anytime on-demand service for the PC was misleading, as it was not clear whether a Sky Digital subscription was needed. This arises because you can be a Sky Movies 1 & 2 subscriber through a third party such as Virgin Media. The ASA upheld the complaint and has told Sky to be clearer about the requirements of the service.

The Virgin Media adjudication is a bit more complex and runs to five pages and covers seven different adverts across radio/TV/press/internet. While BSkyB challenged two adverts, a number of members of the public raised concerns about the other ads. To summarise, in the main the complaints revolve around a headline statement such as "if you get broadband with no download limits, you can download me once, twice, three times. In fact, you can download me as many times as you like".

The response from the ASA has been mixed: Two complaints where Virgin had omitted the words 'up to' when describing their broadband service have been upheld. Five other complaints were not upheld and these relate to the use of phrases such as 'unlimited downloads'.

"2., 4., 5., 7. & 8. Not upheld
We noted that footnote text in ads (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) stated "Acceptable Use Policy applies" or similar, that the policy did not have any price implications for heavy users and that the speed of heavy users' internet connection was subject to temporary limits only. We concluded that the claims "absolutely no download limits" in ad (c); "unlimited downloads" in ad (d); "unlimited* broadband ... there's no limit on how much you can download*" in ad (e); "Broadband with no limits" in ad (f) and "Virgin broadband doesn't have any download limits on any of their packages" in ad (g) were not misleading when qualified with "Acceptable Use Policy applies" or similar.

On this point, we investigated ads (c), (d) and (e) under CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness) but did not find them in breach.

On this point, we investigated ad (f) under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications) but did not find it in breach.

On this point, we investigated ad (g) under CAP (Broadcast) Radio Advertising Standards Code Section 2, rule 3 (Misleadingness) but did not find it in breach. "

Extract from ASA adjudication

This gives the green light to providers that have Acceptable Use Policies to use phrases like 'unlimited downloads' in there advertising so long as the small print warns about the presence of a fair usage policy or similar. In the UK broadband market this area is perhaps the biggest grey area that exists, and gives a licence for providers to out advertise perhaps more honest providers who give clear usage limits.

The Virgin Media traffic management system claims to target the top 5% of users, but in reality this can mean any of its users. If you subscribe to Broadband L, an up to 4Mbps product, and you download more than 750MB between 4pm and midnight, your maximum speed is halved for the next four hours. Other providers run similar daily quota systems, whereas, providers that average the quota out over a month would appear to target the heavier users better.

What the various providers do in terms of traffic management is hard to say as many of the larger providers remain very cagey about the systems they use. BT Retail broadband customers are increasingly complaining about the traffic management systems in place, and Tiscali customers have had some form of traffic management in place for a long time. While the various broadband campaigns by Computeractive and The Gadget Show appear to focus on raw connection speeds, the real bogey man is vague traffic management policies that make it impossible to compare one provider against another.

Comments

Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"The Virgin Media adjudication is a bit more complex and runs to five pages and covers seven different adverts across radio/TV/press/internet."
My god and Virgin have they nerve to beehatch about sky.
Its a pity that as usual the ASA didnt uphold the complaints that really mattered. Maybe another way for users to get virgin would be complain about the advert that quotes "super fast broadband" and point out to the ISA at certain times it isnt "super fast" due to traffic management.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"appear to focus on raw connection speeds" - and yet most (all ?) ISPs clearly predict connection speeds in their ordering process and The Gadget Show is attempting to use an overloaded speedtester to measure whatever it thinks it is trying to complain about.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
That gadget show programme i had high hopes for (yes i was being stupid) and i agree that speed test is a waste of time. The amount of data it downloads (seems to be around the 1Mb mark)to test your connection is hillarious, with my adsl2+ line i can finish the test before the full speed of my line gets measured the only thing there speed test will show is if you have a very slow line, again its biased and doesnt show that many do indeed have a good connection.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Also a good point about when ordering herdwick.. DO virgin cable quote an estimated speed of service for your like others do?? I sincerly doubt it. I imagine they just lie and say you will get UP TO 20Mb when in reality you may only get 4Mb and could have saved yourself a fortune ordering one of their cheaper services.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Urm - with cable broadband products your cable modem will connect at the speed you purchase. If it does not this is a configuration fault.

Whether people will see close to 20Mbps down to the factors of traffic management, contention, computer set-up, wireless networks are some of the variables.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"Urm - with cable broadband products your cable modem will connect at the speed you purchase. If it does not this is a configuration fault.
Whether people will see close to 20Mbps down to the factors of traffic management, contention, computer set-up, wireless networks are some of the variables."
And surely Virgin know the state of things such as contention on their service in certain areas and should advise the customer due to things like that you wont hit the top end speed.
(continued)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Also if you are going to connect at that 20Mb you purchase then why do they call it UP TO 20Mb on their web pages? Either you are gonna get it or you are not and if you are not they like others should give an estimate of what speed you will get.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Contention varies by its nature from day to day - by its nature it is down to what others are using their connections for.

The up to phrase provides them a catch all to allow for things like contention like I've already said.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Hmmm well others dont seem to have issues with contention to the extent virgin do than. My service i signed up to quotes UPTO 22Mb and they estimated i would get 15Mb, which i do 24/7 (IT has never dropped below what they estimated, in fact most of the time its a Mb higher, and thats down to SNR fluctuations during the day).
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
It also doesnt even bring up the moral implications that if someones service is so contended that on a 20Mb service they can never exceed 4Mb that virgin are taking money of people for a service they cant provide and people could have saved there self a fortune by signing up to a cheaper 4Mb service in the first place.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
if a service has a modem connection speed of 20M and will speedtest to that level at some point in the day then its a 20M service. It is also a contended service and will go slower when its busy, that's why it isn't a leased line.

In parts of LLA LLA land there are so few users that contention isn't an issue, but economics are and at some point they'll go bust or withdraw the service if enough punters aren't recruited to make it busy.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
"This gives the green light to providers that have Acceptable Use Policies to use phrases like 'unlimited downloads' in there advertising so long as the small print warns about the presence of a fair usage policy or similar."

So its fine for a provider to restrict you to dial up speeds 24/7 because they have a page of vague, revenue-protecting blurb entitled "Fair Use Policy" which completely and utterly contradicts the service being offered.

What a complete and utter waste of space the ASA are.
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
perhaps a solution is to have a "Guideline usage" figure in GB/month the ISP has designed/sized/costed the product at. This ought to help a consumer know if they're on the wrong product and likely to have issues, it would also be a comparison guide between products.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
Herdwick. The providers can't be trusted to set "guideline" limits. Tiscali and the usual suspects market their light-use products at being suitable for heavy users as they have no intention of helping consumers pick the right product - only to lock them into long term contracts before they have a chance to suss out the reality.

Ofcom have to do the job, just as they attempted to do with the 5 day Mac code rule. No small print or FUP rubbish. Its either "unlimited" or its not.

Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
quote"if a service has a modem connection speed of 20M and will speedtest to that level at some point in the day then its a 20M service. It is also a contended service and will go slower when its busy, that's why it isn't a leased line."
What about those on virgins 20Mb service that have never hit 20Mb??? Reading previous virgin storys there are plenty of people about like that.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
I agree with keith_thfc Ofcom need to grow some balls and sort out providers like virgin, fines dont work, so maybe what they should do is pull their license to operate for a few months that would buck up their ideas and see users migrate/change provider in mass, they would soon learn their lesson then.
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