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ASA Ban Virgin Media Gig1 Fibre Ads Over Insufficient Comparison UPDATE

Wednesday, May 4th, 2022 (8:21 am) - Score 5,112
virgin_media_gig1fibre_broadband

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has responded to a BT complaint by banning a UK website and TV advert for Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre broadband package, which saw the operator promote itself as the “UK’s fastest major broadband provider“, after they failed to include sufficient information to verify their comparisons.

BT’s complaint related to two adverts that were seen in August 2021. The rival ISP questioned whether Virgin Media’s claim of being “the UK’s fastest major broadband provider” was misleading and could be substantiated. On top of that, they also questioned whether that claim was “verifiable.”

The ASA found that the evidence “substantiated” that the average download speed (1130Mbps) of Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre service was in fact “faster than other major broadband providers” – emphasis on the ‘major‘ (i.e. faster alternative networks didn’t count due to limited coverage) – and thus concluded that the core claim was “not misleading“.

Nevertheless, both adverts still ended up being pulled because the ASA found that they didn’t include sufficient information to allow consumers and competitors to verify the comparisons made in their advertising.

ASA Ruling (REF: A21-1121986 Virgin Media Ltd)

The CAP and BCAP Codes required comparisons with identifiable competitors to be verifiable. That meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors needed to include, or direct a consumer to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate.

Ad (a) included the table which detailed the average download speed for Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre service and the fastest average download speed figures for BT, EE, Plusnet, Post Office, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone. Ad (b) did not include that information but did include a URL which took viewers to ad (a). We considered that ad (b) therefore adequately signposted viewers to where they could find more detailed information about the comparison.

We considered that Virgin Media did not necessarily need to make available the underlying data that had been used to calculate the median download speed of their Gig1 Fibre service. However, we considered that in order for consumers to verify the comparison, further information should be provided in ad (a) about the methodology used to calculate the figure for Virgin Media’s own speed, and to clarify the source of information for the download speeds for the other broadband providers. Because that had not been provided, we concluded the verification information was not sufficient to allow consumers or competitors to understand the comparison, and as such, the claim as it appeared in both ads (a) and (b) was not verifiable.

Admittedly, the outcome of that first complaint might have been different had the advert focused on upload speeds instead of downloads, which is 52Mbps (average) on Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre package (i.e. well below what most rival FTTP networks can offer). On the other hand, Virgin’s package can reach 15.5 million homes, while rival FTTP networks still have a long way to go to catch up with that.

UPDATE 11:16am

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “As the only ISP where gigabit broadband actually means gigabit speeds, it’s great to have confirmation, should it be needed, that we are the country’s fastest major broadband provider.”

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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
12 Responses
  1. Rich says:

    >As the only ISP where gigabit broadband actually means gigabit speeds

    This annoys me given the balance-rr to 10gbe hoops I have to jump through to get >1g out of their hub, given their failure to provide >1G ports.

    There’s always the hub5 but they still won’t seem to actually roll that out in any numbers.

    1. jason999 says:

      Exactly Virgin’s 1 gig internet that you can’t actually reach due to the limitation of the equipment that they provide with my hub 4 you can’t get anywhere near 1gig and even with my ax11000 you can’t reach 1gbps.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      Except there’s more than 1 Gigabit port on the router and you also have WiFi, so while I agree that the HUB4 did need a 2.5G port, it’s also still possible to max out the line without that.

    3. Ben says:

      Even in modem mode you can just bond together two of the ports into your own router

  2. Ben says:

    I’d love to see CityFibre roll out a faster product simply to dethrone Virgin. I’m not quite sure how it would work given their use of GPON caps them out at 2.4Gb/s per node, but I’m sure there’s a way…

    1. AQX says:

      VM claims to be the fastest major ISP, until CityFibre etc can cover 50% of the U.K.and have a larger user base they’re never going to “dethrone” VM unfortunately

  3. Rich Branston says:

    The Ookla Speedtest app (not website yet) has expanded ping and jitter data from idle-only tests to download and upload pressure tests which aren’t so flattering. Not on my VM connection at least!

    Idle: 16ms ping / 3ms jitter
    DL: 495ms ping / 65ms jitter
    UL: 88ms ping / 37ms jitter

    Full-fibre providers should be promoting their uploads, downloads, latency figures as well as (where applicable) IPv6 and performant consumer premises equipment that Virgin Media continually fails to provide.

  4. Stephen Wakeman says:

    Again, two rival companies squabbling and pooing on one another’s doorsteps by getting the others advert banned nearly a year after it was last seen. Waste of everyone’s time and money.

    What’s the point of the ASA when it only seems to review anything retrospectively? For it to have any value wouldn’t they have to review adverts, I dunno, before they’re advertised? Then they’d have found that there was insufficient comparison data in that one and told Virgin – no, you have to put xyz in it before you’re allowed to air that.

    The way it’s being run presently is just like a little cottage industry designed to keep a few people in jobs. It doesn’t act as a service or produce anything. And it has no actual value.

  5. Chris says:

    Virgin compare their 1gig tier to other providers slower tiers and the ASA thinks that’s an ok comparison!!

    Adverts like that are misleading and directly lead to customer confusion.

    I can’t wait till I have a better choice than slow fttc or virgin.

    1. AQX says:

      Their adverts compare “widely available” which the widest availability from BT/Sky etc is the 80-90% of the UK which Openreach covers via their slower FTTC. From adverts I believe the 900Mbps from OR only covers 17-18% of the UK. But even then VM is still faster as their Gig1 is 1140 down (restricted to 1Gbps on Ethernet and the remaining to be picked up through multiple devices on WiFi (lol) with OR 900Mbps being just that. The only thing that they would get beaten on is the upload, coverage and download does favour VM.

  6. tech3475 says:

    In practice, I see VM’s gigabit plan as inferior to my OR FTTP considering the minimal difference in download speed but over half the upload speed.

    Although the VM packages can be more competitive, presuming the upload speed isn’t as much of a problem, such as the offer some people I know recently took.

  7. Paganini says:

    yep, 1gbps from Virgin is not equal to 1gbps from FTTP, because of upload speeds, I recently moved from Virgin to CityFibre and x30 upload boost does make a difference… we keep files on cloud these days, come on ISPs…

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