Virgin shredded by ads watchdog once more

Cable firm rebuked for making unsubstantiated claims about its broadband speeds

Barry Collins
13 Jul 2011

Virgin Media has once again incurred the wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over claims made in its broadband commercials.

In a mammoth ruling by the ads watchdog, six out of 10 complaints about the company's broadband adverts were upheld. It comes only a fortnight after Virgin was last censured for its broadband ads (albeit unfairly in the opinion of PC Pro editor Barry Collins). It's the 21st occasion over the past four years when Virgin Media has either had a decision upheld or partially upheld by the ASA.

The latest complaints largely focused on Virgin's assertion that its "fibre optic broadband is around twice as fast as BT, Sky and Talk Talk's comparable packages".

Virgin was comparing its up to 10Mbits/sec fibre packages with the rivals' up to 8 or 10Mbits/sec ADSL services - a comparison made by telecoms regulator Ofcom in its regular broadband speed tests.

While the ASA didn't uphold BT's complaint that Virgin wasn't comparing like for like (i.e. pitting fibre against ADSL), the ASA did uphold two complaints that Virgin failed to take BT's Infinity fibre lines into account, and Virgin was further rebuked for failing to "state prominently which services were being compared".

Virgin's claim that it offered the fastest fibre broadband in the UK was also struck down by the watchdog, which noted there "were localised instances of niche providers or other ISPs providing trial products to a limited number of consumers that offered speeds that were faster than Virgin's".

Finally, Virgin was handed another couple of raps on the knuckles for claiming that faster download speeds would make low-bandwidth services such as online shopping and social networking faster, and also for suggesting that faster download speeds necessarily equated to better performance in online gaming.

The ASA delivered its now customary punishment to the cable provider: Virgin must not run the ads again.

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