Skip Navigation

Virgin Media becomes a repeat offender at the ASA
Wednesday 30 October 2013 09:29:11 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media broadband advertising has drawn an unusually high number of complaints, with 20 from the public and both Sky and BT complaining about 'unlimited' claims in adverts and also the claim the service has 'no caps'.

The complaints range over a period of time, but we believe they were made after a previous ruling where Virgin Media was told it could only keep advertising if its traffic management was implemented in a moderate manner, this led to some rearrangement of the traffic management, but as our poll back in April showed the 30% and 40% reductions this resulted in were still not what the public considered moderate.

"Virgin Media explained that even where their customers were under traffic management, they could continue to carry out typical activity at or close to their normal connection speed. They said that was relevant to the speed of the service they were using as opposed to the potential headline speed. For example, a cable customer under traffic management on their 30 Mb/s service would have more than sufficient bandwidth to complete the streaming of BBC iPlayer in HD at a reduced headline speed of between 18 Mb and 21 Mb (the resulting speed having been reduced by 30% to 40%). They explained the customer's normal connection speed was unaffected in respect of the activity and their usage was not hindered or prevented."

Part of the Virgin Media presentation to ASA

The new judgement is pretty lengthy with Virgin Media attempting to justify its STM system as a moderate system, and interestingly they prefer to compare it to the ADSL2+ services rather than the FTTC based products, when FTTC is a lot closer in terms of headline speeds.

"We noted Virgin Media's comments that the correct data to consider was the distribution of average peak-time speed as a proportion of advertised maximum speed for ADSL2+ products. However, we considered that it was appropriate to use the average actual consumer experience across all technologies (ADSL, ADSL2+, cable and fibre), which we considered reflected broadband use in the UK, as an objective measure on which to base consumers' likely expectation of the service. Although the headline speed is important, we considered that consumers were more likely to base their expectations of a service advertised as "unlimited" on how it performed in terms of variations in speeds during the day in actual use, rather than in comparison to the headline speed stated in the ad."

Extract from ASA ruling

The end result appears to be the new STM levels where download speeds are reduced by 10% or 16%, which should mean advertising of unlimited downloads is within what the public and industry consider moderate. The advert people though need to be careful to avoid promoting unlimited use of the upstream side of the product which is still subject to hefty reductions in speed.

The ASA ruling does not cover this, but from our years of seeing people going through the process of buying a broadband service, we suspect that people are much more tolerant of slow downs in service due to what others are doing, than a provider imposed sanction. In theory congestion at peak times should be a very variable experience, unless a provider has so little capacity available that as soon as the kids are home from school through till when people finally put down their tablet that their local capacity or a region node is saturated for hours on end.


Posted by Kushan over 3 years ago
"The advert people though need to be careful to avoid promoting use of the unlimited side of the product which is still subject to hefty reductions in speed."

Am I being dense or does this sentence make absolutely no sense?
Posted by kwikbreaks over 3 years ago
It's clear what the intended meaning is to me. I'm not in the least certain that VM marketing will agree with it though.

I wonder how long it will be before complaints about the unchanged heavy upstream STM speed redutions are made.
Posted by kwikbreaks over 3 years ago
Ah - in fact the maening wasn't all that clear as on reflection I think it is in fact aimed at the unchanged upstream.

It should read ...
"VM advertising though needs to be careful to avoid mebtion of upstream which is still subject to hefty reductions in speed."
Posted by otester over 3 years ago
Be interesting to see whether VM just changes the ads or lowers upload STM thresholds.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
Have updated the wording, the words did not land properly when I threw them at the screen.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 3 years ago
@otester VM announced new moderate levels of downstream throttling under STM last week - linked in news or at
Posted by adslmax over 3 years ago
they still get away with -65% on upload and cap on it.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 3 years ago
When it was 72mbps I got 70. Now at 100 I get 96.. They just can't get it right but bless them they do try.

In any case it's much better now full throttled.
Posted by leexgx over 3 years ago
the ASA needs to look into T-Mobile and VM mobile

Virgin Mobile unlimited data with an 3.5GB data cap (speed limit is 386kbs or basic UMTS 3g speeds only good enough for browsing) funny thing is the next plan down is only £2 cheaper and has 3GB of data, so they are charging you for 500mb of extra data for the VIP package (also they tried to hard Cap to 2mb down as well no good for some HD streams, network melted when they did that as i guess the india person pressed a typed a incorrect command)
Posted by leexgx over 3 years ago
not sure what T-mobile Hidden FUP is, as they cut you to 2g speeds when you hit it (thought it was between 5-10GB unless they removed the cap) hard cap of 4mb down and 1mb UP
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.