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ASA upholds complaint about Virgin Media advert
Wednesday 02 July 2008 01:04:52 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media had a warning over some previous advertising in the middle of June 2008 and now has had another complaint investigated which has resulted in Virgin Media being told to make it clear in future adverts that download speeds may be restricted during peak hours.

The full adjudication can be read on the Advertising Standards Authority website. The issue of publishing file sizes in bits rather than Bytes is a fairly easy mistake to make, but one that should not make final advertising copy. The much more interesting aspect is that Virgin Media claimed a 30 minute TV show (341 MegaBytes in size) could be downloaded in under 26 minutes on the entry level 2Mbps (2 Mega bits per second) product. Unfortunately the advertising department forgot about the traffic management used by Virgin Media to keep usage down at peak times, which would mean that the 2Mbps customers would break the 300MB limit that exists for this basic product. The download would continue to work, but at a slower rate.

The actual traffic management used by Virgin Media now has different time and usage limits to what the adjudication mentions. The latest limits can be seen in our previous news items. The biggest change has been the implementation of a further metered period between 10am and 3pm, which means that between 10am and 8pm in the evening there is only one hour where downloads do not count towards a usage limit. The limits do reset after a five hour period, so that at least usage one day does not affect a whole week or month. One key point often overlooked is the speed that upstream speeds are capped at, which on Broadband M and L may start to impact on online gaming particularly if the game has a team speak component.

Advertising of broadband is a double edged sword, almost everything is telling us of the great things we can do with broadband, but once a household embraces services like catch-up TV over the Internet and online backup services they will rapidly find that advertising can fall short of expectation. This is not just with respect to Virgin Media, but a great swathe of providers- BT Total Broadband make use of traffic shaping systems that can see some applications running slow while others run at full speed. A handful of providers using traffic shaping do come clean about it and offer a great deal of information, but this is still rare.

There was a hope that the recent Ofcom voluntary code of practice for broadband providers would make a difference, but as yet we have seen no evidence of any changes from the providers. In theory providers signed up to the scheme should be emailing subscribers when traffic management practices kick in on their service - at which point it will become clearer whether the grand statements of figures like 1% only being affected by traffic management are real, or just a carefully massaged statistic.

Virgin Media generates more complaints from its customers over the usage limits because when on their cable network, you are tied to just Virgin Media as your provider, and moving back on to the twisted pair network of Openreach for broadband can be an expensive affair both in terms of time and money.

Unfortunately the increasing amount of traffic management and usage limits in broadband products in the UK does not look set to go away. The current economic climate is such that companies are looking at ways of cutting costs to keep retail prices competitive and generally bucking the normal inflationary trends. £50 back in 2000 bought you an unlimited 0.5Mbps connection which had a maximum potential monthly download usage of around 150GB if used flat out. In 2008 you could be getting 4Mbps for £10 a month, but with just a 1GB usage allowance. If willing to spend £50 then products with monthly usage figures of 150GB or more are available.

It will be interesting to see whether this latest ruling from the ASA will see further adjudications particularly against providers claiming unlimited usage which can have fair use policies that are more restrictive than some providers who have a published usage limit.


Posted by Pigmaster over 9 years ago
"There was a hope that the recent Ofcom voluntary code of practice for broadband providers would make a difference, but as yet we have seen no evidence of any changes from the providers."

Just what is the point of voluntary codes from Ofcom as we all know they never work. We need an enforceable code of practice
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 9 years ago
So Ofcom are just pushing providers to use FUD FUP policies. Nice.
Posted by g-bhxu over 9 years ago
What the hell are Advertising standards doing?

It took just 1 complaint for Virgin to get a rap on the knuckles, yet they do sweet FA when I've complained about FUPs on "unlimited broadband!"
Posted by Richard_Hancock over 9 years ago
"If willing to spend £50 then products with monthly usage figures of 150GB or more are available."

Don't forget products -- for less than £50 -- that effectively have no limits, e.g. Be/O2.
Posted by g-bhxu over 9 years ago
In reply to Richard_Hancock

I know, I migrate tomorrow
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Expect them to get another pointless soft wristed slap soon judging on their new fibre TV advert i saw tonight.
Posted by keith_thfc over 9 years ago
What made me laugh about this is that the complaints were made by BT - who went out of their way to buy an ISP with traffic shaping kit so they could secretly throttle users to death and peddle a fake "unlimited" service.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Virgins new ad for those that havent seen any of it has a bloke that sounds like samuel L jackson harping on about Virgin being a fibre service and being the (and i quote) "Future" of the internet LOL.... Translation into reality is... The future is some fat bozo digging up you lawn screwing silly boxes to your home and fitting 1920s tech co-axial cabling LOL. If you dont laugh at the Virgin idiots you would cry.
Posted by kendal01 over 9 years ago
so the asa upholds a trivial compaint like this while vm get away with the bull**** about fibre broadband which is misleading in the extreme!!!!!
Posted by TerFar over 9 years ago
Well the ASA, Ofcom and FSA are all useless QUANGOs. Ofcom is totally to blame for the complete state of mess with the country's broadband and mobile phone industry.

The ASA matches Ofcom's incompetence. All those adverts for anti-aging creams, so called health foods (friendly bacteria, omega 3 additives), green SUVs... They think we are all stupid.

And the FSA is suppose to stop banks going bust and to protect our investments and pensions.

Shinning examples of incompetence.
Posted by partymarty over 9 years ago
Goddamn stop with the friggin acronym's TerFar. You're as bad a Virgin trying to confused people!
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
Is a joke of a ruling, BT who themselves throttle customers complain about VM and the ASA upholds it whilst allowing other dubious advertising. No consitency at all, and yes I have never known them to uphold a consumer only complaint only when competitors complain.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 9 years ago
Oh no chrysalis its not a joke BT are completely honest like when they offer free calls on a service you wouldnt normally get them on, they clearly (BIG COUGH) put all the terms like must redial after 60 mins, blah blah in nice easy to read 5mm high lettering on our TV screens, its not like your dear old gran cant read or understand it and phones uncle fred in Australia only to find that months bill is a few grand..... Nah that doesnt happen, the ASA are a wonderfull organisation (sarcasm off)
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