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Virgin ads “misleading” advertising Watchdog rules
Virgin Media has had its knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency following complaints about its “fastest broadband” campaign which ran last year.
In a series of adverts, between September and November 2010, Virgin claimed its fibre optic broadband was “around twice as fast as BT, Sky and Talk Talk’s comparable packages, even at peak times”. After receiving ten complaints from eight businesses and individuals, which included BT, the advertising watchdog ruled that the campaign was “misleading”. Although not all the complaints were upheld the ASA ruled that Virgin could no longer run the ads (which had appeared on national television, radio and in the press) in their current form.
BT argued claims made by Virgin, such as “Ofcom have proven our fibre optic broadband is around twice as fast as BT” were misleading and could not be substantiated. This was because they understood the comparison failed to take BT Infinity, which offers speeds of up to 40 Mbit/s, into account and the ads failed to state clearly which services were being compared.
Virgin stated that the comparisons were made with “comparable services” of three named competitors, not with BT on its own and not with the entirety of its services either. They said the adverts explained the specific services that were being compared (i.e. “Virgin Media up to 10Mb broadband compared to competitors’ 8Mb or 10Mb broadband”) and cited Ofcom’s report as the source of the claim. According to the ASA, Virgin noted that Ofcom’s comparisons had not included BT Infinity. They argued the report noted that BT Infinity was not a nationwide service and that by summer 2012 availability to UK households would not reach 40 per cent. Virgin therefore believed it was clear in all the ads that the “twice as fast” (and similar) claim was a comparison against the 8 to 10Mbit/s DSL services of the named providers.
However, in its adjudication the ASA said: “Because of the variety of products and speeds that were available from the providers whose services were compared in the ads, we considered ads needed to state prominently which services were being compared.” Stating that the information identifying the services being compared was not stated sufficiently prominently in some ads, and not at all in others the ASA said: “We concluded that the ads were misleading.”