Virgin Media Adverts
Virgin Media claims to offer the fastest broadband in the UK. They have signed up Usain Bolt and now Mo Farrah to make sure we get the message. According to Virgin’s ads, speed is everything – but honesty seems to be a distant second.
Published 10 October 2012:
Over the last year and a half the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned 25 Virgin Media adverts for being either misleading or factually incorrect. Watchdog decided to look into a few of them to find out why so many of them are falling foul of the regulator.
One of the adverts wrongly claimed that everyone’s speeds were being doubled when in fact there were exclusions. Kostas Lampris’ service is a case in point – although Virgin promised to double speeds to 100Mb, at peak times he gets just 0.5Mb, leaving him unable to do anything at all between 6pm and midnight most days.
Kostas views the internet as a fourth utility and argues that if it was an electricity company failing to provide a service in the evening, then it wouldn’t be tolerated.
Virgin Media have also had ads banned for not making their costs clear enough. The ASA felt that one, which was titled ‘free for three months’, didn’t make it clear enough that the offer involved paying line rental charges.
Linda Spence fell foul of that ad – despite those promises of three free months, she was landed with bill for £16.90. As far as she is concerned, if a company tells someone that a service is free then that is exactly how it should be.
Others were caught out by ads claiming that there was free TiVo box activation for everyone. Virgin were activating boxes for free – but only once they’d charged customers a £49.95 installation fee.!
Another casualty was one of the high profile television adverts featuring Usain Bolt. The ASA banned it because they felt the statement, "I want everyone to say bye-bye to buffering and hello to a superfast broadband" would be interpreted by viewers as an objective claim. They decided that the ad could lead customers to think that by choosing the up-to 30 Mb broadband service from Virgin, they would no longer experience buffering. This is of course not the case, as Glyn Anslow can attest to. Despite their promises, his Virgin Media service remains plagued by buffering problems.
He says that the service keeps starting and stopping and his daughter finds it impossible to play games on her console. Glyn has managed to turn his 3G mobile into a router for his PC but he feels it’s unacceptable that he has to go to these lengths considering he’s paying Virgin Media for a service he’s not getting.
So what exactly is going on?
A Virgin Media spokesperson says,
We recognise that we sometimes make mistakes and, when we do, we put our hands up and do everything we can to fix the problem. But the facts, as Ofcom's reports consistently prove, are that Virgin Media offers the UK’s fastest widely available broadband and we typically deliver the speeds we promise. This is one of the reasons why, again according to Ofcom, we’re one of the UK's least complained about telecoms providers. We always work within advertising guidelines and clear all TV and radio ads before they’re broadcast. We welcome scrutiny of broadband advertising but, given our competitors failure to communicate the speeds the vast majority of their customers actually get, we find the authorities' failure to address the issues that really matter to consumers deeply frustrating."
Ofcom publishes regular broadband speeds research, covering 90% of the market, using a consumer panel and independent broadband speeds measurement
Ofcom has repeatedly proven that Virgin Media delivers the fastest widely available broadband in the UK - we deliver what we advertise
According to the latest Ofcom report, published in August, Virgin Media’s ‘up to’ 100Mb service is the fastest broadband in the UK – please see table below
The ADSL2+ services from BT, Karoo, O2, Plusnet, Orange, Sky and TalkTalk were being advertised as ‘up to 20Mb’ or ‘up to 24Mb’ services until, following a campaign from Virgin Media, the ASA finally forced a change. Broadband providers now have to advertise speeds that 10% of their customers can actually receive. We don’t think the 10% rule goes far enough to ensure consumers have all the information they need to compare broadband packages and make an informed choice about how to spend their money. And you can see that we deliver much more.
The ASA adjudications are based on competitor complaints only – at least four since January 2012 on our count.