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BT and Sky Get Virgin Media Ads Banned for Best Streaming and Hub Claim

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 (7:58 am) - Score 622

BT and Sky Broadband have successfully lobbied the Advertising Standards Authority to ban three adverts for Virgin Media’s broadband, which misleadingly claimed that the cable ISP was the best for “streaming” (e.g. Netflix) and that it also offered a “faster wireless hub” (router) than the others.

The complaints reflected a TV, press and website advert for Virgin Media’s service, which claimed to either be “the UK’s best widely available broadband for streaming” or simply “the best for streaming, when compared to BT, Plusnet and Sky.” The press advert also added that Virgin allegedly offered a “Faster wireless hub than Sky and BT,” which the ASA viewed as being related to the wireless broadband streaming claims.

Naturally Virgin Media attempted to defend its claim by pointing to the faster download speed of its service (152Mbps at the time) and Ofcom’s related speeds tests from 2014, which further highlight the performance of their network. Virgin also pointed to Farncombe’s testing of their SuperHub 2AC router (example), but the ASA rejected the “Faster wireless hub” claim.

ASA Statement

We did not consider the testing adequate to support the claim, especially in relation to their comparison with Sky’s and BT’s services due to the limited device and operating systems used and because it did not reflect typical consumer situations, including the likelihood that multiple devices were commonly used within a household.

Similarly the ASA also rejected Virgin Media’s “best widely available broadband for streaming” claim because the evidence provided for it did not specifically relate to streaming services, although it should be said that Netflix’s own ISP Speed Index does put them at the top (here).

However the nature of streaming services makes it hard to identify if any specific ISP is actually the “best” because speed alone is not the only gauge and most streaming services do not require superfast connectivity (until you get to 4K, but the advert wasn’t that specific).

The ASA also complained that Virgin’s testing evidence had not factored in enough potential scenarios, such as if the end-user was using multiple devices at the same time. In other words, Virgin might be the best, but they simply didn’t do enough to prove it. Advert banned.

ASA Statement

We therefore considered that the testing had not taken into account typical consumer use to substantiate that Virgin Media’s wireless hub was faster in relation to streaming and generally superior to Sky and BT’s products and concluded the claims were misleading and had not been substantiated.

Because we considered that consumers would understand the claims to relate to an internet connection from the telephone network to an internet enabled device, including when the device was connected to the router via Wi-Fi. As Virgin Media had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate these claims, including that their service was superior to BT, Plusnet and Sky, we concluded the ads were misleading.

As usual the advertising regulator gave Virgin Media a mild slap on the wrist and told them to stop being so naughty (i.e. the advert, which has long since stopped running anyway, was banned in its current form). “We told Virgin Media Ltd not to make claims of superiority against their competitors, claim they provided the best service for streaming or to state or imply their wireless hub was faster than their competitors’, in the absence of adequate substantiation,” added the ASA.

Leave a Comment
1 Response
  1. Avatar Oggy says:

    These slaps on the wrist need to start having financial implications otherwise they’ll never stop.

    First breach free, then £500k and doubling for each subsequent breach after that.

    Money talks and we’ll suddenly find that their adverts become a lot more truthful.

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