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ASA UK Bans Virgin Media Broadband Bundle Advert for Super Tiny Small Print

Wednesday, Apr 25th, 2012 (8:36 am) - Score 783

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a press advert for Virgin Media’s “Faster for a fiver” broadband and phone bundle promotion after it was deemed to be “misleading” because the small print was too small to be legible.

In addition the ASA noted (official report) that Virgin Media’s advert “contained information that did not appear elsewhere in the ad, such as the price of the line rental and the minimum contract length“, which they considered “to be material to consumers’ understanding of the offer“; but only if you’re able to read it. On top of that Virgin’s reams of small print gave us a headache when we tried to read it ourselves. Give it a go below (note that the press adverts font was many times smaller than ours).

Sample of Virgin’s Small Print (1st February 2012 Promotion)

VIRGIN MEDIA LINE RENTAL £13.90 APPLIES. SERVICES AVAILABLE IN VIRGIN MEDIA CABLED STREETS ONLY. Subject to network capacity, status and credit checks. 18 month minimum contract applies. If you cancel during your minimum contract period an early disconnection fee will apply. This offer requires you to pay by Direct Debit and use ebilling. If you prefer not to pay by Direct Debit you will incur a monthly £5 payment handling fee payable to Virgin Media Payments Ltd. If you would like paper bills, the fee is £1.75 a month. Equipment remains the property of Virgin Media. Offer ends 31/03/12. New customers only. Subject to status and credit checks. To get bundle discount applied you must take a bundle containing Broadband XL with a phone line. A discount of £13.50/month will be applied with a Broadband XL phone bundle. Standard prices apply after first three months. Virgin Media reserves the right to withdraw or amend discount if you change any part of your offer package. May not be used in conjunction with any other offer, unless stated by Virgin Media. Headline bundle price (i.e. prices before discount is applied) may vary during this offer. ^Source Ofcom review of UK broadband speeds published in July 2011, based on Ofcom May 2011 test results. General All prices include VAT. Information correct at Jan 2012. Payment may be required in advance. Further legal stuff applies. Go to virginmedia.com for details“.

Naturally Virgin Media challenged that the minimum font size for small print in their press ad was between 5.5 and 6 points, which they claimed to be clearly visible to a normally-sighted person. The ASA countered that “the size of the text, in combination with the low quality of the print, meant it was not clearly visible to a normally-sighted person reading the marketing communication once, from a reasonable distance and at a reasonable speed“.

As usual the ASA warned Virgin Media that its ad, in the current form, must not appear again.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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