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ASA tell Virgin to pull misleading 'stop the broadband con' campaign
Wednesday 29 June 2011 10:32:22 by John Hunt

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have today told Virgin Media to pull their 'stop the broadband con' campaign after broadband providers filed various complaints about it. The initial campaign launched in November 2010 was designed to help bring clarity to broadband speed marketing, but focused on the fact that their service doesn't suffer from slow downs in the same way as other broadband providers due to the length of telephone line from the local telephone exchange.

Both Sky and BT lodged complaints with the ASA and these included complaints about various bits of text used in the campaign including misleading phrases such as:

  • "Are you getting what you pay for? Lots of people arent"
  • "Faster broadband means better broadband, whether youre surfing the web, watching TV online ... "
  • "Ofcom found Virgin Media broadband is twice as fast as other providers"

The providers also complained that phrasing focusing on being 'conned' and getting the 'truth' implied that other broadband providers dealt with consumers dishonestly and were denigratory towards other ISPs.

The ASA upheld all 8 complaints against Virgin and concluded that these breached various points of the advertising code including: misleading advertising, substantiation, exaggeration, comparisons with identifiable competitors, imitation and denigration. The ASA therefore deemed that the ads must not be shown again in their current form, and that Virgin must ensure marketing material in future offers a clear basis for comparative claims and did not discredit or denigrate other companies.

"Stop the Broadband Con was not an advertising campaign. The site enabled visitors to run an independent speed test, take a look at Ofcom's official broadband report, hear views on why 'up to' advertising needs to change and add their support.

Advertising 'up to' broadband speeds you can't deliver is a con. The ASA, Ofcom, numerous consumer groups and thousands of internet users have all reiterated our call for change and, instead of complaining about a legitimate effort to give consumers a voice in the debate, Sky and BT should step up to the challenge and start being honest about their broadband."

Virgin Media spokesperson

Whilst Virgin claim this wasn't an advertising campaign, it does still fall within the scope of the ASA. Somewhat ironically, Virgin included within the text of their campaign "You deserve the truth from all ISPs and we're urging the Advertising Standards Authority to put a stop to misleading broadband advertising once and for all ...". In this case Virgin, it seems you have gotten what you wished for!

Comments

Posted by driz over 3 years ago
So Virgin also want to ASA to stop themselves calling their service 'fibre optic'? :(


Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
Seems like a sensible decision by the ASA. There is no con involved in 'up to' - just consumer ignorance and/or unwarranted optimism. In any case no network connection speed can be guaranteed. If your traffic is travelling half way round the world through servers owned by a couple of dozen companies anything could happen.
Posted by GMAN99 over 3 years ago
lol, so.. that backfired then. Hopefully they ASA will put a stop to their 2 page magazine ad's stating they are the best provider for online gaming when in fact many of their users have been unable to play on Xbox live, WOW (and other PC online games) and PSN for 3 months now once their STM kicks in on a night
Posted by russianmonkey over 3 years ago
Even virgin's cable services are labelled up to... they're saying they're conning themselves!

What total idiots.
Posted by themanstan over 3 years ago
Indeed russianmonkey and on their flagship "up to" 100Mb fibre broadband product too...

http://shop.virginmedia.com/broadband/up-to-100mb.html

this is unparalleled muppetry from VM... beating most of BT's muppetry IMHO.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
I believe current Ofcom regulations require them to label all their services "up-to".
Posted by tommy45 over 3 years ago
The thing is most isp's don't give you as much as the line can /will support, they shirk on it by implementing DLM and other nonsense that most simply don't need for a stable connection, then some will throttle and shape ect too,doesn't leave many isp's
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
this just proves the ASA "dont get it" on adsl, VM have their faults, but they were bang on right that adsl is essentially a con with its "up to" claims. Or the ASA do get it but they knew ruling on it would damage the market too much and didnt have the balls to do it. As one of their remits is to not damage profitability of those they regulate.
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
have the SA gave an explanation as to how they think ofcoms own data is misleading? the ASA here are essentially saying another regulator has published misleading data, and that the fact more than 3/4 of users on adsl2+ not even getting max adsl1 speeds isnt relevant.
Posted by chrysalis over 3 years ago
andruec not guaruantueed no, but I think you bneen ignorant if you dont recognise that even on a congested VM line you will at some point of the day around dusk get full speeds whilst on a long adsl line you will never get full speeds as its physically impossible. There is a reason average speeds on VM completely outclass adsl. This is twice now the ASA have told VM they not allowed to advertise the differences between FTTN and copper.
Posted by Dixinormous over 3 years ago
To save further snap judgements and assumptions before actually reading the ASA decision it's at http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2011/6/Virgin-Media-Ltd/TF_ADJ_50892.aspx

Why isn't this link in the news story? Kinda important to cite the original source of information you're summarising no?
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
@Chrysalis:That depends on the ISP. Not all ISPs have a DLM system in place in which case, yes, users will get the full speed at some of the day. Most won't get reach theoretical maximum but they will get what they have paid for and that's all the ASA should care about.

If you want to start a crusade against the concept of a rate adaptive service then that's something completely different. But for a given line attenuation most xDSL users will indeed get close to their maximum speed at some point.
Posted by AndrueC over 3 years ago
(cont'd) As a delivery technology cable has many advantages over xDSL and if Virgin want to continue saying that then good for them. However on the particular point being discussed by this news article they were bang out of order.

xDSL Customers are not being conned. They are being sold a rate adaptive, line quality dependant service and that's what they get. No-one is hiding that fact from them. They might not like it, it might be inferior to other technologies but they are getting what they pay for by and large.
Posted by mattewan over 3 years ago
ADSL1 is a con... its not up to 8mb at all... its up to 7mb... because the highest profile you can get is 7150, regardless of what speed you sync at.
Posted by alan-borers over 3 years ago
"comparisons with identifiable competitors"
If that is an offence under ASA codes then the codes were written by cretins.

Is it illegal for a skilled carpenter to claim that his real wood constructed table will last longer than a MDF FlatPack table from M.F.I. ?
Posted by Sonic21 over 3 years ago
alan-borers

If he names or implies a certain company - then yes!
Posted by shamus72 over 3 years ago
@AndrueC

Upto is a complete rip off and if you cant see that then it is you who is being ignorant.
It should not be used as it is very misleading.

Why cant they be honest in the ad's and tell you what you will get depends on where you live etc etc and quote an average speed.

As Virgin use cable to get the high speeds then they are not the same as Sky etc so cannot compare themselves with them

Comparisons with identifiable competitors selling the same products should be allowed.Supermarkets do that all the time on prices and i dont see any problem with that.
Posted by herdwick over 3 years ago
" tell you what you will get depends on where you live " - like using "up to" for example ?

The ASA rules do require supporting text about line lengths etc on services over 2M.

Average speeds are useless as nobody gets them - seen anyone with 1.95 eyes ?
Posted by steveputman over 3 years ago
Virgin/NTL provide genuinely fast broadband and what they advertise is what you get, unlike BT and other telephone line providers who make out they can provide much faster broadband than the reality. BT are best avoided unless you have no cable option.
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