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Double whammy for Virgin Media with the ASA
Wednesday 15 October 2008 11:04:02 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media and its fibre to the cabinet and then coax to the home broadband service features twice in this weeks adjudications from the Advertising Standards Authority, but in reality the complaints are fairly similar.

People may remember some of the headlines used in recent Virgin Media advertising such as "HATE TO WAIT? THE UK'S FASTEST BROADBAND IS FIBRE OPTIC" and "THE UK'S FASTEST BROADBAND FOR ONLY £20 A MONTH". As is usual the number of complaints is actually just a handful, but the ASA still has to look into them.

The adjudication with the most complaints (three), centered on two issues, whether the Virgin Media 20Mbps product was the fastest in the UK, with some providers offering ADSL2+ at up to 24Mbps. Also Sky challenged whether the Epitiro data was sufficient to substantiate the fastest broadband claim.

In this instance the ASA actually upheld both complaints, with the results the adverts must not be shown in the same form again and Virgin Media were told to not imply their 20Mbps service was the fastest broadband available and to ensure they held robust comparative evidence from all ISPs in the UK before making similar claims.

Since ASA rulings apply to the current advert and form a rule set for all advertising to follow, by saying that to compare broadband speeds and make claims you have to have evidence from ALL providers seems a bit of a sweeping statement. The UK broadband market is dominated by around six providers who hold around 90% of the market. The remaining 10% is split between hundred's of providers, and getting sensible data from more than around 30 providers is difficult.

The second adjudication covered five different press adverts and Sky challenged four things, mainly over implications that ADSL was always slow, and the implication that Virgin Media cable broadband never slows down.

The ASA upheld three out of the four complaints, with the result that Virgin Media in future adverts includes a disclaimer that speed could be affected by user volume on its products, and not to imply that ADSL was always slow or that fibre-optic cable would never slow down.

The battle between cable broadband and ADSL started in user forums and advertising in the USA way back in 1998, and it provides easy fodder for advertising. Perhaps the way forward is rather than trying to set one broadband technology up against another, that providers advertise the actual user experience. The general public cares little about how their broadband arrives, so long as it does what they want it to do when they want it to do it.

Comments

Posted by carrot63 over 8 years ago
> that providers advertise the actual user experience.

If you insisted on that including the customer service experience, you could slow broadband advertising to a trickle overnight.
Posted by keith_thfc over 8 years ago
"Perhaps the way forward is rather than trying to set one broadband technology up against another, that providers advertise the actual user experience"

I'd certainly love to see the likes of SKY tear VM to bits by interviewing customers who were mis-sold an unlimited service and have been traffic shaped to death in the past.

I'm sure the ASA will eventually rule against it but hey - it will take them 6 months to even look at it - and its not like SKY would even get punished.
Posted by kendal01 over 8 years ago
the asa doesn't have a clue about technology! vm's claim on fibre optic bb is a lie, it's a hybrid and should not be advertised as fibre in it's current form yet the asa will not rule against them on that.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Wow from the recent news stories it seems the ASA got one decision right... THIS ONE...

I like keiths idea though, lets see a TV advert from the likes of say bethere poking fun at other so called throttled, capped and SLOWER fibre broadband services, they probably wouldnt get away with it for long but it would be damn funny LOL
Posted by CaptainW over 8 years ago
My ad suggestion:

Do you remember our friends over at Virgin Media claiming they were the "THE UK'S FASTEST BROADBAND FOR ONLY £20 A MONTH"? 20Mb is the potential maximum speed Virgin can offer however we can offer speeds up to 24Mb and if our maths are correct, our service has the potential to provide a higher speed.

The advertising standards authority agree with us, do you?

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Warning to anyone who thinks ADSL2+ hits 24Mbps. It may do at the ATM layer, but TCP/IP throughput tops out around 21.5Mbps.

VM 20Mbps is TCP/IP data, i.e. no ATM overheads involved.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
question is which is faster.
A product that is up to 24mbps where only 2 or 3% get over 20mbps.
Or a product up to 20mbps where probably the majority can get that speed.
Posted by CaptainW over 8 years ago
Fair enough Andrew - perhaps I should have had this vital piece of info in my advert marked with a ** - off course like ISP's out there, will be hidden in the fine, small print :)
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Warning to anyone who thinks ADSL2+ hits 24Mbps. It may do at the ATM layer, but TCP/IP throughput tops out around 21.5Mbps.

VM 20Mbps is TCP/IP data, i.e. no ATM overheads involved."

Errrr so the short version..... Virgin still isnt technically the fastest?

chrysalis... A fair point... HOWEVER they bother advertising as UPTO speeds and thats what both services are.
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
'fastest'??? well I think its still comparing apples to oranges... the orange being the PC!! :D :D
- to say nothing about the speed/quality variations across the UK!! (and how many are congesting the line..)

yes, you could say the apple browser is faster, but that depends on how complex it is, and what OS it is on.. ANY simple browser will go faster than a complex one, as long as you dont want graphics, movies, or any other sort of stuff that makes browsing 'more comfortable'... no bookmarks, no fancy fonts.. they just slow down the browser..

I think you can see that wont happen!!

Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Last night around 9pm (ish) that Vigin Fibre advert was actually on the TV again, This advert actually also clearly boasts their connection is the fastest IN fact it large letters on the screen it says THE UKs FASTEST BROADBAND (obviously it also lies about it being fibre which the ASA refuse to slap them on the wrists over). Why havent the ASA stopped this advert also?????
Posted by Slinkey over 8 years ago
Good job Virgin dont have to mention their misnamed customer service. Trying to get a sensible reply from them is like pulling teeth. That's if you can get a UK call center, or someone who does something more than read from a troubleshooting guide on their PC.
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
VM's 'Fibre' claim is, as we know, b******s.
All broadband could be associated with the words 'fibre-optic'. After all, isn't that the type of cable that the country's backbone (and hence all broadband internet) ultimately runs on? VM's marketing department would get a kick in the balls before a beer from me if I ever met them in the pub.
Also a 20:1 Down/Up-load ratio (10Mb product) is absolutely pathetic in practise and a limitation of the cable network design.
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
Oh, and my broadband went down, I was 'only' 40 minutes on the phone to India, a lot of modem reboots and wondering why my laptop wouldn't work but my PC would before they (level 2 support) indirectly told me to stop MAC Spoofing. Which I hadn't been doing that day, but HAD been doing before via my router. Not in a way that evaded detection, but simply to try to force a new IP allocation onto a decent, non-over-subscribed UBR without having to phone up AGAIN. TWA (with a side order of) TS.
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