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Virgin Media told to stop advertising unlimited with no caps service
Wednesday 27 March 2013 10:31:15 by Andrew Ferguson

Whether a service is unlimited if it has time/volume based throttling has been debated for many years on user forums, and after a complaint by Sky and a member of the public the ASA has firmly come down on the side that a service that uses caps to slow a connection down should not be advertising itself as unlimited and with no caps.

"Claims on the broadband section of the Virgin Media website, www.virginmedia.com, stated 'The faster your broadband speed, the more you'll be able to do online. So, if there are a few of you at home gaming, downloading, streaming movies and shopping, then mega speeds of up to 100Mb will let you all do your thing without slowing each other down. If you're going to do a bit less than that, but still want consistently fast broadband even at peak times, then you'll be fine with our up to 30Mb or up to 60Mb tariffs ... You get all this with your package too ... Our fastest wireless ... Free internet security ... Unlimited downloads Download and browse as much as you like with no caps and no hidden charges'."

Detail of the original advert via ASA website

In its defence Virgin Media said that 97.7% of their customers would not be affected by the traffic management which after you have downloaded a certain amount will throttle the speeds back for a few hours. The 50% reduction in speed was not considered moderate by the ASA and the effect can be seen in the Virgin Media response where they stated "under traffic management customers would, on average, experience speeds of 15.5 Mb, 27.95 Mb and 44.15 Mb across the three advertised tiers" (the tiers being 30 Mbps, 60 Mbps and 100 Mbps).

The ruling does not mean Virgin Media has to abandon its method of traffic management, but that the firm needs to be much more careful in how it advertises the service, which in the advertising battle will be difficult now that Sky, BT, TalkTalk and Plusnet are all in the Unlimited arena.

For Virgin Media customers curious to know about the traffic management on the service, Virgin Media maintains a complex table showing all their products. It appears that as of 27th March changes are due, with the downstream reduction being 40%, and the trigger level starting at 3.5GB between 5pm and 10pm, with a higher trigger between 10am and 3pm of 7GB for the XL 30 service. Upload speeds that were not covered in the adjudication receive a harsher level of management, with a 75% reduction in speed if the trigger of 3GB is exceeded between 3pm to 8pm.

Update 11:10am After a call from Virgin Media we are adding this clarification. The changes in the traffic management to see the throttling change from a current 50% to 40% if people exceed the trigger level are apparently in line with the ASA adjudication.

Update 5th April 2013: The ASA has contacted us and the 40% throttle level has not had approval, it appears the jury is out still on whether the 40% reduction in throughput counts as a moderate reduction in speed. Importantly we note that Virgin Media is not reducing the management of upstream, so we assume future advertising will be download centric.

Comments

Posted by andywhy over 4 years ago
Finally some justice! It's been a long time coming and I'm disappointed it took the ASA this long to make the decision. It should have been done many years ago when their throttling first came in.

Maybe (just maybe) this might make them reconsider their throttling policies so they can continue to advertise unlimited (technically that should be unmetered, but lets not go there) products again.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
The good old ASA. How many Virgin ad's have they banned in the last few years and how much have Virgin taken notice?
Posted by jrawle over 4 years ago
About time they made this ruling. Now someone needs to complain that it's very hard to find upload speeds advertised by VM, yet alongside the download speeds it claims you can "upload photos to Facebook faster". This implies the upload speeds are as fast as the download speeds shown, whereas in reality (from the table you linked) they are much slower than on FTTC.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
How long until this one is banned?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=wTUlQtRxihg

"Virgin deliver what they say they will deliver" What about heavily congested areas that they won't upgrade despite many complaints?

Why even say such things? No-one run's a perfect network. 100% of their cabled customers do not get their advertised speeds, so.. why say it.
Posted by James1o1o over 4 years ago
Less than an hour and Virgin responded by reducing the cap? Fantastic!
Posted by Matchstick over 4 years ago
In what universe is a 40% speed reduction considered moderate ?
Posted by studal over 4 years ago
40% is outrageous. I am one of the 2.3% affected and it makes me so angry to get so restricted. It is not exactly the cheapest service either
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
I would say 10% is moderate, 40% being just less than half could never be called moderate.

Even the tax man considers 40% higher rate, not... moderate rate :)
Posted by adslmax over 4 years ago
goodbye virgin media, u riot in hell.
Posted by Kushan over 4 years ago
"Moderate" is not an exact amount. Less than half could, reasonably, be considered moderate. In any case, the ASA have done their job.
Posted by FTTH over 4 years ago
It all started with the Fibre Broadband ads.
Should never have been allowed to be called fibre broadband, started a very annoying trend.

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/news/3391-asa-rules-on-virgin-fibre-optic-broadband-claims.html
Posted by stanman24 over 4 years ago
cancelled my sign up

surely they should of made me aware of this considering i signed a contract and the install date is for next week
Posted by FTTH over 4 years ago
What Operators don't throttle heavy down loaders and P2P now?

Is it just SKY?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@stanman24 Urm they are making the service slightly better, before you lost half your speed if you triggered the limits, now you only lose 40%.
Posted by stanman24 over 4 years ago
I didn't realise how heavily managed the service is

basically I can only max my connection out for about 10% of the day before being throttled.
Posted by Joppy over 4 years ago
2.3% of Virgins customers is probably tens of thousands of them Not so small amount when you look at it like that.

Ridiculous that 50% reduction is not called as unlimited but 40% reduction is. Virgin LIMIT their connections, don't let them use the misleading term.

This fiasco should have someone examining the ASA, as this unlimited lark is all wrong. Even seen tariffs on mobiles that give unlimited data but then that its 500MB.

Don't let Virgin use the Unlimited term. It is unfair on the real unlimited providers such as BT and Sky.
Posted by leexgx over 4 years ago
VM unlimited cap per month is around 1000GB an month (norm over 3 months they send you an letter, not sure what they do after that as my customer kept his downloads below 500-900GB after that)

what VM should do is TM or drop there upload speed to 1mb for users who are constantly uploading all day or at peak time (but i guess an cut down of 75% is harsh enough on the upstream) it help if VM would add more upstream channels so to spread the load out even more
Posted by leexgx over 4 years ago
but for the moment the 2 upstream channels that have been enabled now has saved them losing 7 customers that i know, as the packet loss was very bad
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
There is no cap on cable. I have done 2-3TB a month for the past 3 months without a problem.

I don't do that now.
Posted by stanman24 over 4 years ago
You better tell virgin media their traffic management policy is not working correctly.

We cant have the minority wrecking it for everyone else.

oh wait your downloading at 4am lol
Posted by drh1210 over 4 years ago
You only get the Haters. I'm on 100mb in a heavy usage area. Get 80-100 all the time. Never been traffic managed. And if I was so what. I read the small print before I signed up. Go enjoy Sky. They will soon implement management once the network gets over subscribed.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
@drh1210

I reckon Sky would use their alter their DLM before they'd do that.

Sky has the power to screw with sync profiles.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Sky has zero power to mess with DLM profiles on the faster fibre services, which is really where the competition with VM lies.
Posted by stanman24 over 4 years ago
drh1210 has made one valid point

soon it will only be sky or virgin as they take over the market
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
@andrew

That's good news in regards to fibre, is the old BRAS system?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Ip profileexists just to take account of protocol overheads and is immediate at 96.2% of sync speed
Posted by neilstott over 4 years ago
im in VM heavy usage area been waiting 8months for them to fix the 25%+ peak time packet loss. half way there but still no gaming in the evenings (80+ ms pings)
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
It will be interesting to see what Virgin do next. Obviously they are not expanding their cable footprint, the takeover may change that but its doubtful. So what next? They are going to loose business to FTTC & FTTP, on their cable and national products, will they start to offer Openreach FTTC/P ?
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
It's back to front?

This is more like 60 not 40%

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/button/136466437151008019686.png

Uploads also been totally crapped on too. I only did this to see what it's like I rarely get STM'd otherwise.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@pcoventry76 that looks more like contention than an STM issue.

Virgin Media does produce impressive speeds if you look at a wide sample of people like we did at http://blog.thinkbroadband.com/2013/03/uk-broadband-speeds-it-is-not-just-about-averages/
Posted by weegiegeek over 4 years ago
Yeah, in some areas VM are great. They just need to sort out their network in places. I did a fair bit of research before joining, and I'm very happy with the service. over 100mbit down, and ~9mbit up pretty much all day long.

There are some real horror stories on their forum though, people getting less than 5mbit down on a 100mbit package, due to oversubscription.
Posted by scootie over 4 years ago
if the comp hammer theupload in there ads, what use it is and how good theres is vm will be like a duck in bath tub on open season day.

still on 3mb up with the 2upstreams bonded, latency ok and my forum thread silent, til they give the double speed and kill the rubbish docsis upstream tech again
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
@GMAN99

DOCSIS can take them up to 400Mbps so they still have some room to breath.

@weegiegeek

Tends to be the suburban areas which are fine.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Well they can't maintain 100Mbps in some areas never mind x4 the speed. I was thinking more about what will they offer outside of their cabled areas.
Posted by BTfanboy over 4 years ago
ah gmann, you never miss an opportunity to put the boot in when it comes to VM, just a shame you don't exercise non bias when it comes to BT.
with your fan boyish praises on them.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
Just wanted to chip in to say (not sure if the policy has niw changed) but they are still doing it!

"Unlimited downloads – no caps no hidden charges"

http://store.virginmedia.com/broadband/compare-broadband/100mb.html
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