Home
 » ISP News » 
Sponsored

BT Complaint Exposes Virgin Media’s “Misleading” Savings Claims

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 (7:52 am) - Score 762
uk advertising standards authority

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned five national press adverts and a website promotion for Virgin Media’s (Liberty Global) cable broadband, TV and phone bundles after rival BT complained that the savings claims and offer expiry dates being used were misleading. But the ruling could have an impact on other big ISPs.

All of the adverts promoted various special offer prices for Virgin Media’s Starter Collection bundle (note: these have since been replaced by a new range of ‘Big Bundles’, which is mostly just a name change) and listed different expiration dates for the promotions in a format akin to this, “Offer available until at least.. [Specific Date Given]” (expiration dates ranged from 31st October 2013 to 30th June 2014).

But interestingly BT’s complaint also appears to expose a growing industry trend of using so many offers that after a while it becomes almost impossible to know whether a ‘standard price’ even exists for a service, which is necessary in order to understand whether the claimed discount exists (furniture stores are notorious for using a similar tactic). BT thus made three general complaints against the promotions.

BT’s Complaints

1. The savings claims in the ads were misleading and could be substantiated, because they understood that new customers had not been charged the higher reference prices of £18 and £20 per month for the ‘Starter Collection’ on initial registration in the previous nine months.

2. The ads were misleading, because they understood that Virgin had extended previous offers relating to its ‘Starter Collection’.

3. The ads were misleading, because the claim “Offer available until at least …” did not make the closing dates sufficiently clear.

The ASA ultimately upheld all three of BT’s complaints against the adverts, although it should be noted that Virgin Media’s website advert (e) was excluded from complaints 2 and 3 above since it appeared to comply with the rules.

ASA Ruling (Ref: A14-265509)

Complaint 1 Upheld:

Because we had not seen evidence that new customers had paid the higher reference prices of £18 and £20 per month for the advertised ‘Starter Collection’ on initial registration, we considered the higher reference prices had not been established sufficiently. We therefore concluded that the presentation of the advertised offers was misleading.

Complaint 2 Upheld:

We considered ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) encouraged consumers to make a transactional decision within a limited time period. However, ads (a) and (d) were followed by offers that were the same and ads (b) and (c) were followed by offers that did not revert to a full, non-promotional price, as the ads implied. In that context, we considered ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) were likely to mislead consumers.

We considered ad (e) promoted the Starter Collection with Netflix free for six months as a time limited offer. We understood that the subsequent offer made by Virgin Media did not include Netflix free for six months. We therefore considered the promotion of the advertised offer in ad (e) as time limited was not likely to mislead consumers on this specific point of complaint.

Complaint 3 Upheld:

As noted in point 1, we considered consumers would understand the ads to mean that the advertised offers were time limited promotions. The small print in ads (a), (b), (c), (d) and (f) stated “Offer available until at least … “. However, we considered that wording was ambiguous and did not make the duration of the advertised offers clear, particularly in the context of ads that included prominent text that implied the offer was time limited. We therefore considered that the text “Offer available until at least …”, in those ads, did not make the closing dates sufficiently clear by when consumers would need to respond to the ad.

As usual the ASA banned Virgin Media’s related adverts in their “current form” (note: the promotions are already too old to have any impact) and the provider was also told to ensure that their future adverts “did not mislead consumers about the time limited nature of advertised offers“. The ASA further advised Virgin to ensure that closing dates are made sufficiently clear and to ensure that savings claims were not likely to mislead consumers. Never the less this is unlikely to stop serial offender Virgin Media from crossing the ASA’s path again on similar issues.

In fact, much as we said earlier, Virgin Media aren’t the only big broadband ISP to be using furniture store sale tactics in order to try and make packages appear to be cheaper. In the furniture trade the problem is particularly hard to police because every year the furniture is given a very slight redesign and a new name, despite effectively being the same product. Funnily enough it’s not uncommon for ISPs to adopt a similar approach.

At a certain point you see so many different variations on a theme (e.g. one month it’s £30 off a setup fee and the next the setup fee is back, but a similar amount has been taken off a year’s rental etc.) that it becomes very difficult to know what the packages standard price would actually constitute. Every once in a while the package will return to a supposed standard price, but that rarely lasts for more than a few weeks and then we’re back to sales speak. Aggressively competitive, but potentially very misleading.

Separately BT also took a pop at several adverts for TalkTalk and Sky Broadband, but none of their complaints landed a hit (here and here).

Add to Diigo
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
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Gzero

    I wish the ASA would put a block on their current adverts AND make them pay a fee to launch their next advert AND have it scrutinised by their direct competition (and ASA) that they are claiming to be better than.

    That will stop repeat offenders from false advertising in their tracks.

  2. Avatar RLP

    And the 2014 Limp Biscuit Award goes to…

  3. Avatar none

    bit rich from the up to 18 megabit broadband isp.

Comments RSS Feed

Javascript must be enabled to post (most browsers do this automatically)

Privacy Notice: Please note that news comments are anonymous, which means that we do NOT require you to enter any real personal details to post a message. By clicking to submit a post you agree to storing your comment content, display name, IP, email and / or website details in our database, for as long as the post remains live.

Only the submitted name and comment will be displayed in public, while the rest will be kept private (we will never share this outside of ISPreview, regardless of whether the data is real or fake). This comment system uses submitted IP, email and website address data to spot abuse and spammers. All data is transferred via an encrypted (https secure) session.

NOTE 1: Sometimes your comment might not appear immediately due to site cache (this is cleared every few hours) or it may be caught by automated moderation / anti-spam.

NOTE 2: Comments that break our rules, spam, troll or post via known fake IP/proxy servers may be blocked or removed.
Cheapest Superfast ISPs
  • Hyperoptic £18.00 (*22.00)
    Avg. Speed 30Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Code: HYPER19
  • Vodafone £21.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: Amazon Echo Plus
  • Direct Save Telecom £22.95 (*29.95)
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • Origin Broadband £23.00
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited
    Gift: None
  • SSE £23.00 (*33.00)
    Avg. Speed 35Mbps, Unlimited (FUP)
    Gift: None
Prices inc. Line Rental | View All
The Top 20 Category Tags
  1. BT (2428)
  2. FTTP (2040)
  3. FTTC (1613)
  4. Building Digital UK (1557)
  5. Politics (1355)
  6. Openreach (1352)
  7. Business (1191)
  8. Statistics (1055)
  9. FTTH (988)
  10. Mobile Broadband (984)
  11. Fibre Optic (948)
  12. Ofcom Regulation (891)
  13. Wireless Internet (873)
  14. 4G (858)
  15. Virgin Media (819)
  16. Sky Broadband (577)
  17. EE (564)
  18. TalkTalk (559)
  19. Vodafone (484)
  20. Security (399)
Promotion
Helpful ISP Guides and Tips
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
»
Sponsored

Copyright © 1999 to Present - ISPreview.co.uk - All Rights Reserved - Terms , Privacy and Cookie Policy , Links , Website Rules , Contact