Two adverts from Virgin Media have been banned by the ASA, one was an advert on a sponsored search engine, and the second referred to advertising copy on the virginmedia.com website. In both cases the issue revolved around the speed doubling programme underway by Virgin Media.
British Sky Broadcasting challenged whether the claims:
1. "Cabled areas only" and "100Mb customers will see price-cut instead of speed doubling" in the small print in ad (a) was misleading and contradicted the main claim.
British Sky Broadcasting and two members of the public also challenged whether:
2. "I'm doubling everyone's broadband speeds" in ad (a) and "Richard Branson's doubling your broadband speed" in ad (b) were misleading, because exclusions applied.
Extract from complaint
While Virgin Media had consulted the copy advice people at CAP, who had advised that the phrase "I'm doubling everyone's broadband speeds" would be difficult to justify if the advert carried exclusions and the copy should have made it immediately obvious that the claims only applied to Virgin Media customers. It appears that this advice did not carry through to the final adverts.
The ASA upheld both of the concerns due to the exclusions, which were that existing 100 Mbps customers would see a small price cut, and Virgin Media National (ADSL/ADSL2+) customers would see no doubling at all.
The speed doubling is intended to take 18 months to complete, and confusingly for consumers, some see the downstream connection speed double, but the upstream speed does not. This is because the upstream speeds sometimes require further work due to the architecture of DOCSIS cable services.
As with many larger providers they rely heavily on claims from the Ofcom speed testing results, but the fact that this testing concentrates on the largest providers, and does not publish any results for areas like the Digital Region may result in consumers being less willing to sign up to new entrants to the market who may actually provide a better broadband experience. Is the maintenance of the existing duopoly an unintended consequence of Ofcom attempting to inform the speed debate?