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ASA UK Ban Direct Mailing Sky Broadband Ad for Denigrating Virgin Media

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 (7:24 am) - Score 604

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a direct mailing (post) advert for Sky (Sky Broadband) because it “misleadingly exaggerated” the effect of Virgin Media’s broadband Traffic Management Policy (TMP) and unfairly “denigrated” their brand.

The promotion, which included both a letter and a booklet, was presented in the style of a conversation between a customer and Virgin Media’s customer services. It began by saying, “So this super-duper fast broadband I’ve got is always going to stay that way, right?“. The response followed, “Well that depends. We do have a traffic management policy.”

The next page began, “At Sky, when we say our broadband usage is unlimited, that’s exactly what we mean..”. The fictional conversation then proceeded on to use the same form of negative publicity against Virgin Media’s TV service. Needless to say that Virgin wasn’t happy and complained that the promotion “misleadingly exaggerated the effect of [their] traffic management policy” and “was denigrating to the Virgin Media brand by presenting an overly negative portrayal of the service“.

ASA Ruling (Ref: A13-231567)

Because we understood Virgin Media’s traffic management policy affected only a small percentage of their customers and did not reduce the speed of the service customers on their 60 Mb and 100 Mb services received to below 30Mb, we considered the ad misleadingly exaggerated the effect of Virgin Media’s traffic management policy on its broadband customers.

Furthermore, we considered the ad was presented in a manner that went beyond a robust and objective comparison of the services offered by Sky and Virgin Media and denigrated Virgin Media’s brand. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code on this point.

As usual the advert was banned and the ASA told Sky not to “misleadingly exaggerate the effect of competitors’ services in future” and “not to denigrate Virgin Media’s brand in future“. But it wasn’t a total loss for Sky as some of their additional remarks about Virgin Media’s TV service, which centred on Virgin’s lack of a dedicated 3D TV channel and their limited HD quality Sports and Movie channels, were not upheld.

One interesting aspect of the ASA’s ruling though is the general decision to seemingly ignore the impact of TMP on Virgin Media’s popular entry-level 30Mbps package, which could arguably suffer a greater detriment due to traffic management. The ASA didn’t seem to feel as if the 30Mbps service was “superfast” and instead focused on “those with speeds above 30Mb” (Ofcom defines superfast as 30Mbps+ but the government still equates it to 25Mbps+).

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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.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred says:

    The small percentage quote always makes me laugh. A potential customer doesn’t care what percentage of the existing customer base is affected, they care how they will be affected. And if they go over the threshold they will be affected, its that simple is it not?

  2. Avatar Henry says:

    It is diffult to see how either “Virgin Media did not reduce the speed of the service customers on their 60 Mb and 100 Mb services received to below 30 Mb ‒ the speed at which broadband was described as superfast” or “Virgin Media’s superfast services, namely those with speeds above 30 Mb, were likely to have the speed of their service reduced to below 30 Mb as a result of Virgin Media’s traffic management policy” can be read as saying anything about whether the ASA thinks that 30 Mbps plus or minus a bit is superfast. As for “super-duper fast”, which is what Sky actually said about Virgin Media services, who knows what that means?

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