The hyperbole of advertising is under the ASA spotlight this week, a series of Sky Broadband adverts promoting the 'totally unlimited' limit from the provider were complained about by Virgin Media. The competing provider felt the claim 'totally unlimited broadband' was misleading.
"Virgin said Sky's service could not be described as "totally" unlimited because the amount of data that a consumer could download was limited by the actual speed of the service, which was affected by a number of factors inherent in a copper DSL delivered service, such as distance from the exchange (known as 'signal attenuation'). They said the distance between a customer and the exchange affected their broadband speed and therefore the amount of data they could download in a given period. These restrictions were not applicable to all providers because some services, like those offered by Virgin, were not delivered over a copper wire. As an example Virgin stated that a 10-Mb/s Virgin customer with traffic management applying during peak times could theoretically download 87 GB of data over a 24-hour period, whereas a Sky DSL (copper wire) customer on an average speed of 7.5 Mb/s with no traffic management applied could theoretically download 77 GB of data in the same period. For these reasons Virgin considered the claim "totally unlimited" misleading."Extract from ASA Adjudication
The ASA decided this case in the favour of Sky. This was considered at two levels, the basic 'unlimited' requirement that a service has no provider imposed limitations that were more than moderate, and Sky passed that test. 'Totally unlimited' is the next step up, and Sky passes once more because the operator does not impose any restrictions on their 'totally unlimited' customers.
If Virgin Media had won its complaint, it would have destroyed the market for unlimited broadband on ADSL/ADSL2+ and VDSL services, since they all use copper wire to deliver the signal. The statement by Virgin Media to the ASA on service delivery is slightly misleading since while they don't use twisted copper pair, a metallic coax cable does provide their service the last few hundred metres into every premise. The continuing claims of fibre optic services from BT and Virgin Media has support from a previous ASA ruling, where since these services have a higher proportion of fibre than ADSL, they can be called fibre optic.