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ASA Bans Virgin Media Advert for Misleading UK Fastest Broadband Claim

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 (9:31 am) - Score 833

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a technology magazine advert for Virgin Media’s 50Mbps superfast broadband service after BT complained that its claim to offer the “UK’s fastest broadband” was misleading. Several other ads were also banned because they failed to include the cost of Virgin’s Phone Line service.

Virgin Media disagreed with BT and believed that its “UK’s fastest broadband” claim was adequately qualified and that it would not be misleading to consumers, although the ASA then reminded Virgin Media of a previous adjudication, published in July 2011, where they had been banned from using a similar (“The fastest broadband in the UK“) absolute claim because other niche ISPs were known to offer faster services.

ASA Assessment – Upheld

We considered that the similar claim “UK’s fastest broadband” was also an absolute claim, because it implied that it was not possible to obtain a broadband connection in the UK that delivered a faster maximum download speed than Virgin’s 50 Mb service. However, we understood that there were some instances of localised niche providers that delivered download speeds which were faster. We understood that those equated to a small percentage of homes in the UK, but nonetheless considered that, because some UK consumers could achieve faster download speeds than those delivered by Virgin, the claim was misleading.

We also understood that, where their ads included the claim “UK’s fastest broadband”, Virgin usually included qualifications to the effect that the claim was made in relation to broadband services which were widely available to UK consumers. We considered, however, that if such a qualification appeared in a statement additional to the absolute claim “UK’s fastest broadband”, for example in the body copy or small print of the ad, it would contradict rather than clarify the claim. We considered that in order for such a qualification to clarify rather than contradict the claim, it should be included within the claim.

Separately the ASA also banned several press, circular and TV adverts after 18 people complained that the ads were misleading because the cost of the Virgin Phone Line service was compulsory, but was not included in the headline price. The ASA reminded Virgin Media that it’s code “required quoted prices to include non-optional charges that applied to buyers“, thus any bundles that exclude the cost of a mandatory phone service would be in breach of its rules.

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

ASA Adjudication on Virgin Media Ltd (“UK’s fastest broadband”)
http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/5/Virgin-Media-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_175341.aspx

ASA Adjudication on Virgin Media Ltd (Virgin Phone Line Cost)
http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/5/Virgin-Media-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_186186.aspx

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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