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Virgin Media UK Advert BANNED for Confusing Broadband Bundle Prices

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 (7:47 am) - Score 683

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again banned a press advert for Virgin Media’s bundles after BT complained that one of their promotions misleadingly implied that tv, broadband and calls could all be had for £3.50 a month when in fact they couldn’t.

The ad itself headlined with a claim of “TV, broadband and calls from £3.50 a month for 6 months” and mentioned that a Virgin Phone Line at £13.90 was also required (note: this is an old price as the latest costs £14.99). But a little further down the ISP displayed three boxes headed “TV and calls £3.50“, “Broadband and calls £7.50” and “Essential Collection £12.50” respectively.

In short the ASA agreed with BT that, despite the boxes stating Virgin Media’s correct pricing, customers could actually only take TV and calls for £3.50 per month (excluding broadband). Virgin Media claimed the ad did not imply that all three services were available from the lowest price shown and “believed the average consumer would not consider the headline claim in isolation from the body of the ad but rather in the context of the ad as a whole“.

ASA Assessment (Complaint Ref: A12-210931)

The ASA considered the headline claim “TV, broadband and calls from £3.50 a month for 6 months” would be understood by the average consumer to mean that all three services (TV, calls and broadband) could be obtained from £3.50 per month. However, the body of the ad listed three available packages which ranged from ‘TV and calls’ from £3.50 per month up to the full bundle of ‘TV, broadband and calls’ for £12.50 per month.

We therefore considered that the body of the ad contradicted rather than qualified the headline claim and that when considered in its entirety, the ad provided ambiguous information about what consumers could obtain as part of the £3.50 bundle. We therefore concluded that ad (a) was misleading.

As usual the ASA banned Virgin Media’s advert and yet again advised the operator to “ensure that headline claims provided clear information about the price of available services“. The provider was heavily criticised last year, including by the BBC TV’s Watchdog consumer affairs show, after it amassed more complaints about its broadband and bundle promotions than any other ISP.

A similar complaint against a second press advert, which was raised by Sky Broadband against wording that said “Prices start from just £3.50 a month“, was not upheld because the advert’s context and structure were not as contradictory. A member of the public also criticised a third advert for Virgin Media’s TV service that was not upheld (here).

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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.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. I wonder if Virgin consider that where an advert is subsequently banned by the ASA it then represents a successful ad campaign? 🙂

    1. FibreFred says:

      I wonder if they purposely do flout the rules knowing that:-

      1) They’ll get a good few months out of the ad before a decision is made
      2) The ASA will do nothing but ban the ad, no further action

      Win, win

    2. DTMark says:

      (cough)

      Infinity: Superfast fibre-optic broadband only from BT (superfast? only from BT?)

      8x faster fibre-optic broadband (than what? cable? you’re having a laugh)

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