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Virgin Media Get ASA to Ban Sky Broadband “Super Reliable” TV Ad Claim

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 (7:42 am) - Score 4,838

A complaint by Virgin Media has prompted the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ban a major TV and national press advert for Sky Broadband’s service after they were found to have misleading claimed that the ISP offered a “Super Reliable” broadband service.

The TV advert in particular carried on Sky’s tradition of using major movie characters to sell their services and in this case they adopted the computer generated ones from ‘The Secret Life of Pets‘, which featured a hyperactive talking fluffy dog-like creature that jumped around a lot. The crazed animal later appears to become rather frustrated at its broadband connectivity.

As a side note, in the video below the ASA appears to have overlooked that the router is clearly smoking and so this could be more of a hardware than a ‘broadband‘ fault.. ehumm.

Suffice to say that Virgin Media challenged whether the claims in both ads – that Sky Broadband was “Super Reliable” – were misleading and could be substantiated. However Sky said they did not think the claims would be understood to be a comparison with other ISPs and felt as if it would have been interpreted by viewers to mean that their service was simply very reliable.

Sky also felt as if their claim was supported by favourable results from Ofcom’s study of consumer complaints and broadband performance. However in a lengthy response the ASA proceeded to explain why this was not the case and upheld Virgin Media’s complaint. Interestingly it seems to have been Sky’s slower ADSL based broadband packages that dragged them down, rather than their “Fibre” (FTTC) options.

ASA Ruling (REF: A16-358763)

We considered that overall the Ofcom data demonstrated that Sky’s two fibre packages, Sky Fibre and Sky Fibre Max, delivered consistency in all measurable factors of relevance, and that Sky’s ADSL2+ package delivered consistency in all but one factor of relevance (achieving more than 90% of maximum speed during peak-time). We concluded the non-comparative “Super Reliable Sky Broadband” claim in ad (b) was therefore likely to mislead consumers, because it implied that all of Sky’s broadband packages were “Super Reliable” when that was not the case for Sky’s ADSL2+ package.

With regard to the comparative claim “Switch to super reliable Sky broadband” in ad (a), we considered that the Ofcom data demonstrated that Sky’s broadband packages delivered a similarly consistent connection to that of the comparable packages of their competitors, but did not deliver a more consistent connection. We therefore concluded the comparative claim “Switch to super reliable Sky broadband” in ad (a) was likely to mislead consumers.

As usual the ASA banned the adverts and told Sky not to use claims which “implied that all three of their broadband packages were ‘Super Reliable’ unless they held sufficient evidence” to support it. Only last month another one of Sky’s broadband TV adverts, which featured Lego Batman, was similarly banned for misleadingly claiming to offer the “UK’s lowest priced fibre including line rental” (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
10 Responses
  1. Simon says:

    Yeah. because they are the gospel example of reliability…..

    Jealousy, much?

  2. Jonny says:

    I’m glad they’re so happy with their own side of things that they have the time and budget to pursue something like this.

    Nobody comes out smelling of roses in the proxy war fought through the ASA.

  3. dragoneast says:

    As adverts become ever more ridiculous I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere. Though why? I stopped paying any attention to ads decades ago, and suspect I’m not the only one.

    Was there ever a regulator for children’s comics? They were a fantasy too.

  4. Ian says:

    I moved from virgin to sky (now TV). I have restarted my sky router maybe twice in a few months, otherwise nothing to complain about. While with virgin I was reliably recieving less than 3% of what I was paying for.

    Maybe virgin should be spending less on their legal department and more on their network.

  5. dragoneast says:

    and therein lies the problem. Believe the ads and everyone has the same experience. They don’t. The only time I have a router reboot is when I do so upon adding a new gadget to the wifi, but speeds and the connection are always consistent, with errors in single digits. Would I recommend my ISP or service to anybody else? No never, they could have a totally different experience depending on their usage, local network and capacity. You have to do your own homework, no-one else can do it for you.

    Laziness is the bain of life.

    1. Chris P says:

      And how does the ASA ensure advertisers relay that lesson to potential customers?

      I personally believe the ASA have over stepped the mark here.

      They permit Virgin to advertise their coax as fibre (seen the engineer on tv peering down the cable in disbelief too) yet ban this sky add because 1 of 4 measurements is less than 90% and they think customers will be mislead.

      I hope they revisit the Virgin fibre adds and ban them on the same basis, of course they don’t though.

  6. ultraspeedy says:

    I personally like Skys current despicable me adverts better than the batman and Secret life of pets one.

  7. Marty says:

    Virgin media can talk considering the over congestion on lines and the Intel puma 6 issue on all the superhub 3 routers

  8. timeless says:

    personally having been with Virgin media and experiencing their unreliability at peak times and still being with sky fibre there is a big difference in reliability.

    granted lve had a few days of issues (for some reason l was getting disconnected in mornings for three days running) but considering my only issues have been in the middle of the night maybe once every few months l put that down to load balancing or Openreach issues, because lve been with sky fibre for 7ish years now, and lve barely had an issue and lve had no problems whatsoever with their speed. so yeah ld say its “super reliable” compared to most other ISPs lve been with, only one thats really beat it was Aquiss and l only moved because l wanted fibre at a price l could afford at the time :p

  9. comnut says:

    Chris P: ALL superfast comes on fibre these days!!! 🙂 A friend of mine wanted Sky BB, and was told that standard speeds were around 1Mbps in his place near apex corner, Hampton… so they ran fibre all the way from Whitton, to get him 40Mbps… 🙂

    In most cases this is just FTTC (Fibre to the cabinet) and **satellite grade** coax that will be able to supply 1 Gbps when it is possible by the provider..

    Virging media already has 300Mbps, when you are lucky that the contractor has not got it wrong… 🙁

    There is NOTHING WRONG with the technology, but VM is now owned by ‘Liberty global’ and seem quite hopeless at maintenance and support…

    I have PERSONALLY experienced this, I know the Guy! I saw him on the street, and told him about the problem, he said no-one had told him,(not even HQ!) he was just about to do things that they had already done!!!

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