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UK Advertising Watchdog Rules Virgin Media Broadband is NOT The Fastest ISP

Posted: 13th Jul, 2011 By: MarkJ
best virgin media uk broadbandasa uk virgin media misleading advertisingThe UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today upheld six out of ten complaints against a series of major national press, circular, TV and radio adverts for Virgin Media and its cable broadband services.

In particular the cable giants prominent TV advert, which featured the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales and a claim of being "The fastest in the UK" for broadband, was promptly crushed by the ASA for being too "absolute" (i.e. some smaller ISPs do offer faster speeds) and thus "misleading".

In fact all of the upheld complaints, which were brought by members of the public and two rival ISPs ( BT and XILO ), focused almost entirely upon Virgin's various different broadband speed and performance claims. A summary of the upheld complaints can be found below.

The ASA's Upheld Advertising Complaints vs Virgin Media

BT challenged whether the claim "Ofcom have proven our fibre optic broadband is around twice as fast as BT" and similar in all the ads was misleading and could be substantiated because:

1. they understood the comparison failed to take BT Infinity, a broadband service that offered speeds of up to 40 Mbit/s, into account;

3. the ads failed to state clearly which services were being compared; and

4. they believed Ofcom's findings were misrepresented in that Ofcom had not compared Virgin Media's cable service with that of BT as implied.

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7. Three members of the public challenged whether the claim "Fibre optic broadband from Virgin Media. The fastest in the UK" in ad (e) was misleading and could be substantiated because other providers offered a faster download speed than Virgin Media."

9. BT challenged whether the claim "Virgin Media is up to twice as fast for ... shopping, tweeting ... " because they believed those activities depended on web browsing speed and DNS resolution as well as download speed and that they were also affected by factors such as the performance of the connecting server and the amount of traffic accessing a website.

10. BT challenged whether the claim "Virgin Media is up to twice as fast for ... gaming" was misleading and could be substantiated because they believed it suggested internet connection speed was the only factor in achieving optimum game performance. They believed that other factors such as latency and jitter as well as factors not influenced by the internet service provider (ISP) also had an impact.

Today's outcome is only the latest in a long line of promotional blows for Virgin Media, which last month saw the ASA force its controversial www.stopthebroadbandcon.org website off the internet with a similar ruling (here). Many disagreed with the ASA's move, while others whom had suffered poor speeds accused the operator of double standards.

The ASA warned Virgin Media that its adverts were misleading and said that they "must not appear again in their current form". The ASA has no real power to penalise firms for repeated abuses.
Full ASA Ruling vs Virgin Media
http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2011/7/Virgin-Media-Ltd/TF_ADJ_51082.aspx
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