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VIDEO BBC TV Watchdog Scalds Virgin Media for Repeated UK Ad Bans

Saturday, October 13th, 2012 (1:26 am) - Score 2,113
virgin media mr t

ISPreview.co.uk isn’t the only one to notice the ridiculous amount of banned adverts for Virgin Media’s broadband, phone and TV packages, which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has repeatedly accused of being “misleading“. This week saw the BBC’s famous consumer affairs TV show, Watchdog, take the ISP to task with a comical twist.

It’s fair to say that other ISPs, such as BT, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband, have also had a good number of similar adverts banned but none more so than Virgin Media. According to Watchdog, the operator has seen 25 of its adverts banned over the last 18 months. So far VM has failed to learn from its mistakes and sometimes even repeats the same errors.

Sadly the ASA has no teeth to penalise repeat offenders and its bans often take effect sometime after the advert has been run. This means that for some firms it could be more profitable to take the risk of having their advert banned at a later date than to simply tame it down and thus potentially leave the product looking less attractive.

The question is will Virgin Media, fearful of all the negative publicity and growing distrust of their advertising methods, now rein itself in. After all it’s not a bad ISP and so shouldn’t really need to resort to such methods.

A VirginMedia Spokesperson told Watchdog:

We recognise that we sometimes make mistakes and, when we do, we put our hands up and do everything we can to fix the problem. But the facts, as Ofcom’s reports consistently prove, are that Virgin Media offers the UK’s fastest widely available broadband and we typically deliver the speeds we promise. This is one of the reasons why, again according to Ofcom, we’re one of the UK’s least complained about telecoms providers.

We always work within advertising guidelines and clear all TV and radio ads before they’re broadcast. We welcome scrutiny of broadband advertising but, given our competitors failure to communicate the speeds the vast majority of their customers actually get, we find the authorities’ failure to address the issues that really matter to consumers deeply frustrating.”

Even their statement turned into a kind of advert, clever.

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Mark Jackson
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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37 Responses
  1. I doubt very much that VM could care less about the ASA banning their ads. Rather, would not surprise me if they use it as a test to gauge whether or not the ad is likely to be effective!

    Mind you, the same really applies for all the big ISPs I expect.

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    Ironic that even the quote above from the spokesperson is wrong!

    To quote Virgin “But the facts, as Ofcom’s reports consistently prove, are that Virgin Media offers the UK’s fastest widely available broadband …”. Whereas to quote Ofcom “The research found that BT Infinity’s ‘up to’ 76Mbit/s service delivered the highest upload speeds of all the packages, averaging 15.6Mbit/s”.

    See for yourself at http://media.ofcom.org.uk/2012/08/15/network-upgrades-boost-average-broadband-speeds/

    • Avatar Deduction

      Thats average speeds NOT each companies fastest.

    • Avatar Darren

      Yes it is average speeds, yet BT is still faster on the uploads, and is only between 11 to 5Mb behind virgins “100Mb” package at peak time, when it really matters.

      “During busy peak periods, a higher proportion of Virgin Media cable customers experienced speeds of less than 90% of their average maximum speed, compared to BT Infinity fibre customers.”

      Some even struggle with 0.5Mb on virgins “100Mb” package with fix dates streatching 6 months into the future: http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/10/virgin-media-uk-boosts-superfast-100mbps-broadband-customers-to-120mbps.html#comment-24701

      That for me screams bad ISP. Virgin couldn’t pay me to live with their unusable congested connection for 6 months while they fix it.

      I do hope all this coverage of their failings encorages them to improve though, competition is a good thing. Missleading ads to dupe customers onto your congested network is not.

    • Avatar Deduction

      NOPE…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/08/ofcom-report-finds-uk-average-broadband-speeds-rise-to-mbps.html
      “Overall Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mbps package was the fastest UK service and delivered average actual speeds of 88.3Mbps over a 24 hour period, while the 38Mbps and 76Mbps (advertised) BTInfinity service delivered a real-world average of 32.2Mbps and 58.5Mbps respectively.”
      Virgin is vastly superior to the majority. 0.5Mb is obviously a fault of some description be it equipment or line and would be so on any companies Fibre based product.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Quote “Thats average speeds NOT each companies [sic] fastest”

      Correct, it is the average of the speed achieved or a range of customers, your point is what exactly? If you prefer to look simply at the highest possible uplad speed for each company instead, feel free. The point remains Virgin does not offer the fastest widely available broadband when you consider upload speed, so the spokesperson is making a misleading statement (yet again!).

      And it’s not true to say all the iSPs are as bad as each other, Virgin has the worst record of the all ths year, hence the Watchdog programme.

    • Avatar Deduction

      He does not mention UPLOAD speed and neither do any of Virgins or BTs adverts.

      His statement is correct. Ofcom show Virgins download speeds are the fastest.

      His statement about one of the least complained about is also correct…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/06/ofcom-uk-names-talktalk-most-complained-broadband-isp.html

      The most complained about this year and prior years has been Talk Talk.

      Theres no doubt some of Virgins ads should had been and were rightly banned, some of the others they covered though (like the woman who was shocked got a bill) is down to them being stupid and not reading the small print.

      BT also do the same stunt with free broadband and calls deals regularly for xx months, read the small print though and just like that woman in the Virgin report you still have to pay the line rental.

      The whole report was a joke the majority of the complaints from people on the programme could had applied to numerous ISPs.

    • Avatar Deduction

      Based on that FACTUALLY COLLECTED DATA BT are the second worst provider.
      Unless you are going to claim people just complain about Talk Talk and BT for fun and Virgin have all the issues but hardly anyone bothers to complain.

      Virgin and some dodgy adverts, yes. That applies to most big players though. Virgin the worst ISP and slow…… Nope the testing of thousands rather the Mr jones on Watchdog says otherwise.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Well I partially agree with yu. The Virgin spokesperson does not mention upload speed, however he/she does not mention download speed either, just makes a sweeping statement about Virgin offering the fastest widely available broadband. Since download is not mentioned, the statement is factually incorrect, just like the TV adverts.

    • Avatar Deduction

      That is a silly argument i may as well say all BTs FTTC TV adverts are factually incorrect as the Homehub in every single one of them seems to be amazingly providing broadband to a whole bunch of people and be powered up without a single wire plugged into it.

  3. Avatar adslmax

    Ban BT & VM for advertising copper/coax BB as fibre.

  4. Avatar FibreFred

    Good to see Virgin being exposed anyway. For me they’ve take an existing cable network, invested little and made changes to the access speeds and then regularly advertised a load of non truths to get more customers on board, more customers need more bandwidth meaning misery in those areas that don’t have any.

    It could be a great network it just needs some proper investment.

  5. Avatar Bob

    I would say that BT have been far more guilty of misleading people than VM have. Most of VM’s asdverts are resaonably accurate.AS for someone claimg that a VM user gets as little as 0.5M on a 100Mbs package thats pure fiction.THe only way that would occur is if there were a fault

    • Avatar FibreFred

      ASA doesn’t agree with you Bob

    • Avatar FibreFred

      So are you saying the guy on the article was lying about his speed then?

      A fault that only occurs during peak hours 🙂

      It doesn’t have to be a fault, an oversubscribed UBR or local congestion can cause that, you’ll seem similar complaints on their forums.

      They lie plain and simple and more than other ISP’s

  6. Avatar Deduction

    Bob has a point, the advert which was banned about the Tivo box as an example is utter madness, BT are doing the exact same thing with their Youview box, claiming its free when it isnt…
    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/09/uk-isp-bt-bundle-free-youview-tv-box-with-new-superfast-broadband-signups.html
    In fact all the big boys basically lie on all their adverts to some degree, you name a single BT, Sky or Virgin add that has never had small print that in part contradicts the bold claims of the advert.

    • Avatar Deduction

      Furthermore if you go to the ASA website half of the banned Virgin ads are from receiving less than half a dozen complaints (a couple of them are from a single complaint). No doubt hurt BT fans/workers/shareholders, that still cant believe how rubbish their so called 80Mb FTTC product is that actually only goes at 50 odd MB on average.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      Based on the Watchdog programme, a lot of Virgin customers would be very pleased to get the 60Mbs+ average download speed for FTTZc, let alone the nearly 16Mbps upload speed!

    • Avatar Deduction

      Must be the minority looking at this which have speed issues…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/08/ofcom-report-finds-uk-average-broadband-speeds-rise-to-mbps.html

      Watchdog is far from a serious programme now anyway, one of their own done for benefit fiddling and week after week stories about weight of food packaging changing… shock horror like that hasnt happened for years.

      Id personally take anything they have to report on nowadays with the same pinch of salt they want to level at ANY broadband provider. That is not defending Virgin either if it was a report about BT i wouldnt take much notice of watchdog now anyway. All the big players have their ups and downs, none of them are squeaky clean when it comes to advertising though.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      hahaha so now you believe Ofcom reports with data from Samknows? Priceless

    • Avatar FibreFred

      And why should we take the Watchdog report with a pinch of salt? It was about Virgin having a load of ad’s pulled which is true. Must be hard to stomach but there it is.

    • Avatar Deduction

      Id sooner believe Ofcom figures over watchdog. If you want to believe a programme whos idea of hard hitting consumer journalism is to moan about tubes of toothpaste and similar shrinking while not mentioning a single thing about how their own staff were diddling the tax payer for a considerable time, you go right ahead.

      I also have no issue that some Virgin adverts got yanked, i totally agree some of them deserved to. (Press one with small print smaller than the font sized allowed for example) Banning adverts like the free Tivo box claiming its free when it isnt free though is a bit stupid considering BT have done that for years with the BT Vision box and are now doing it with the Youview offering.

      Same goes for the woman that was shocked to get a bill for line rental, maybe she needs to learn to read terms. As that type of offer is something all the big boys have pulled, including BT, Talk Talk and Sky at some point. The broadband and calls are indeed free… The line in which to get that offer obviously isnt though.

  7. Avatar Darren

    Losts of defending the indefensible going on again, suprise suprise.

    As long as Virgin have customers willing to put up with it they will do fine, good luck to them when FTTC is more widely available and people see it doesn’t go to pot at peak times.

  8. Avatar Sal

    It’s already gone to pot, more so than Virgin.

    Average speeds – August 2012

    8pm to 10pm weekdays
    Virgin 100Mb = 80.1Mb to 86.6Mb
    BT 76Mb FTTC = 54.7Mb to 61.1Mb

    Average over 24 hours
    Virgin 100Mb = 85.7Mb to 90.9Mb
    BT 76Mb FTTC = 55.3Mb to 61.7Mb

    • Avatar Deduction

      I linked to those findings earlier but the he would sooner believe Watchdog than actual broadband testing of thousands of people.

  9. Avatar DanielM

    Strange how people are complaining about virgin’s speeds. I have great speeds around the clock. Upload is always constant (Providing STM aint hit obv)

    According to ICM

    September speeds where averaging

    Download Speed = 80.77 Mbps

    Upload Speed = 8.75 Mbps

    And in JUL

    Download Speed = 81.41 Mbps

    Upload Speed = 7.94 Mbps

  10. Avatar Bob

    VM normally delivers speeds close to what they advertise. Clearly at peaks will slow a bit thats the nature of a contended service

    With BT who use the “Upto” approach with the Upto not meaning you might get up to that speed but just someone might get that speed you get a hell of a lot lower.

    Typically with VM a service advertised as a 100Mbs service will deliver you very close to a 100 Mbs service except at Peaks with BT a !00Mbs service will typically only deliver you about 40Mbs with that slowing down further at peaks

  11. Talking of porkies, how about this extract from the TalkTalk website…

    “At TalkTalk we own all our telephone lines..”

  12. Avatar nicknick

    Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics, and Advertising. Try and name an advert that doesn’t distort the truth. Do you really think Lynx can turn a spotty oik into the world’s most desirable man. Zoopla claim to give you the current price of any UK house (but watch for the small print ‘Zoopla estimate only’). Tesco, ASDA, Sainsburys, Waitrose choose a different basket to try and pretend you are the cheapest etc etc

    • Avatar Deduction

      Exactly nicknick and thats what ive been trying to explain to the regular bunch of everyone and everything is evil except for BT when in most cases its the other way round 😉

  13. Avatar Dave Gray

    I believe all ISP’s provide “potential” figures which, due to restrictions, throttling and equipment problems are only achievable theoretically. I have been an NTL/ Virgin customer for many many years and since Tivo arrived with it’s 10mb data I’ve noticed my own service deteriorate (perhaps Tivo is given preferential data access over broadband customers, who knows). I have a 20mb line (which means VM throttle me down to around 4MB they admit to throttling 75%) but on their help forum the staff tell me to achieve download speeds exceeding 11mb I’d need a 100mb line. Speed test sites may well show “theoretical” speeds 1 in particular shows my speeds as higher than the service I pay for) but only real download/upload speeds can be attained by transfering large files. VM can call it a 20mb line (they call call it a 20000MB line if they like but it will not change the fact that I pay £18.50 per month for 4mb download limits but I accept that. Most adverts are stretching the truth but anyone who believes what manufacturers claim about their own products are fools, even allowing for the A.S.A.

  14. Avatar CURIOUS

    Virgin Media offers speed of up to 100MB but people should know that they offer 3 different speeds to customers which are 30MB/60MB and 100mB… so the speed their customers will get depends on what speed they subscribed on.. fibre optic connection is different with ADSL or throuh phone wires where speed is dependent to their location… people should also consider that on peak hours.. no matter who the provider is, the speed really slows down!!

  15. Avatar Bob

    Quote”
    Based on the Watchdog programme, a lot of Virgin customers would be very pleased to get the 60Mbs+ average download speed for FTTZc, let alone the nearly 16Mbps upload speed!”

    That statement is factualy inaccurate the AVERAGE speed of FTTC is knowhere near 60Mbs+

    VM do not claimthat their Uploadspeed is fast. THe cvast majority of people have little to no neeed for fast uploads and do not regard it as importent

    It is the same with jitter. It iss only the relatively small number of gamers that are concerned with jitter but unfortuatly most are not prepared to pay the price and go for the very cheapest offers

  16. Avatar Neil F

    Having suffered Virgin Media and their 60mb broadband, I can safely say it is nowhere near as fast as they claim. Granted I can get 60mb at 7am, any other time it’s anything from 4mb upwards, all due to a congested network they have known about since October and have done nothing to fix. Apparently it will be fixed on the 6th Jan, if it’s not, I’m off. Fed up with the poor service and lies.

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