Virgin Media and BSkyB feature in ASA adjudications again
The Sky complaint was raised by a viewer who challenged whether a trailer for the Sky Anytime on-demand service for the PC was misleading, as it was not clear whether a Sky Digital subscription was needed. This arises because you can be a Sky Movies 1 & 2 subscriber through a third party such as Virgin Media. The ASA upheld the complaint and has told Sky to be clearer about the requirements of the service.
The Virgin Media adjudication is a bit more complex and runs to five pages and covers seven different adverts across radio/TV/press/internet. While BSkyB challenged two adverts, a number of members of the public raised concerns about the other ads. To summarise, in the main the complaints revolve around a headline statement such as "if you get broadband with no download limits, you can download me once, twice, three times. In fact, you can download me as many times as you like".
The response from the ASA has been mixed: Two complaints where Virgin had omitted the words 'up to' when describing their broadband service have been upheld. Five other complaints were not upheld and these relate to the use of phrases such as 'unlimited downloads'.
"2., 4., 5., 7. & 8. Not upheld
We noted that footnote text in ads (c), (d), (e), (f) and (g) stated "Acceptable Use Policy applies" or similar, that the policy did not have any price implications for heavy users and that the speed of heavy users' internet connection was subject to temporary limits only. We concluded that the claims "absolutely no download limits" in ad (c); "unlimited downloads" in ad (d); "unlimited* broadband ... there's no limit on how much you can download*" in ad (e); "Broadband with no limits" in ad (f) and "Virgin broadband doesn't have any download limits on any of their packages" in ad (g) were not misleading when qualified with "Acceptable Use Policy applies" or similar.
On this point, we investigated ads (c), (d) and (e) under CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness) but did not find them in breach.
On this point, we investigated ad (f) under CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications) but did not find it in breach.
On this point, we investigated ad (g) under CAP (Broadcast) Radio Advertising Standards Code Section 2, rule 3 (Misleadingness) but did not find it in breach. "Extract from ASA adjudication
This gives the green light to providers that have Acceptable Use Policies to use phrases like 'unlimited downloads' in there advertising so long as the small print warns about the presence of a fair usage policy or similar. In the UK broadband market this area is perhaps the biggest grey area that exists, and gives a licence for providers to out advertise perhaps more honest providers who give clear usage limits.
The Virgin Media traffic management system claims to target the top 5% of users, but in reality this can mean any of its users. If you subscribe to Broadband L, an up to 4Mbps product, and you download more than 750MB between 4pm and midnight, your maximum speed is halved for the next four hours. Other providers run similar daily quota systems, whereas, providers that average the quota out over a month would appear to target the heavier users better.
What the various providers do in terms of traffic management is hard to say as many of the larger providers remain very cagey about the systems they use. BT Retail broadband customers are increasingly complaining about the traffic management systems in place, and Tiscali customers have had some form of traffic management in place for a long time. While the various broadband campaigns by Computeractive and The Gadget Show appear to focus on raw connection speeds, the real bogey man is vague traffic management policies that make it impossible to compare one provider against another.