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ASA UK Reject BT Complaints Against Virgin Media Broadband TV Advert

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 (8:15 am) - Score 1,972

The UK Advertising Standards Authority has rejected two BT complaints against a TV advert for Virgin Media’s service that featured actor David Tennant. BT claimed that Virgin’s advert “misleadingly implied that VirginMedia customers always received “superfast” broadband speeds” and “exaggerated the difference in the performance“.

Several other complainants also supported BT’s challenge towards the advert, which opened with former Dr Who actor David Tennant sitting on a sofa and tapping buttons on a laptop. Tennant then said, “Isn’t it frustrating that sometimes you don’t get what you’ve paid for. Like superfast broadband.”

The advert then proceeded to use a parody version of the athlete Usain Bolt (called “Blot 1“) in order to illustrate that all packages with the label “superfast” are not always equal. David Tennant continued, “Virgin Media deliver what they say they’re going to deliver. You ask for superfast broadband, you get superfast broadband, across all their collections.”

Naturally Virgin Media pointed out that at least 10% of customers on their ‘up to 30 Mbit/s’ broadband service achieved the headline speed and they also referenced Ofcom’s speed report, which showed that the average speed across a 24-hour period for customers on the same entry-level service was actually 30.1Mbps.

Virgin also said that it was “not their intention to misleadingly exaggerate the difference in performance of superfast services between them and their competitors“. Virgin then noted how Ofcom’s results showed that they provided a “consistent service” and this supported their assertion that “a reasonable proportion of their competitor’s “superfast” customers did not, on average, receive superfast speeds” (though they do appear to mix results from BT’s standard and superfast FTTC packages).

By contrast part of BT’s complaint focused on Virgin Media’s Traffic Management Policy (TMP), which they said meant that “users could have their download speeds reduced by 50%, meaning that they might no longer get “superfast” speeds.” Likewise some complainants claimed that they could not get the stated “superfast” speeds on their own connections at home. The ASA disagreed.

ASA Ruling (REF: A13-225044)

We considered the data submitted by Virgin was suitably robust to demonstrate that they consistently delivered a superfast service to their customers. We did not consider that the existence of the TMP or isolated service issues with some individual customers contradicted the message of the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad had not breached the Code on this point.

We [also] considered Virgin had demonstrated that they delivered consistent superfast broadband speeds to their customers whilst a significant proportion customers on other superfast packages did not, on average, achieve superfast speeds, we concluded that the ad was not misleading on this point.

Normally we wouldn’t cover rejected ASA complaints but this one was interesting enough to be worth a mention. Needless to say that both of BT’s complaints against Virgin Media’s service were thrown out with the trash.

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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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