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ASA complains to itself about misleading Virgin advert

# 15 April 2009, 11:21 by Frank

In an unusual move, The Advertising Standard Authority joined BSkyB in challenging claims made in a major Virgin Media advertising campaign in national newspapers. The advert compared ADSL to Cable, claiming that “ONLY 3 OUT OF 10 HOMES IN THE UK CAN GET 8Mb OR MORE OVER BT PHONE LINES. 10 OUT OF 10 HOMES WITH OUR FIBRE OPTIC BROADBAND CAN GET 20Mb”.

Unsuprisingly, competitor British Sky Broadcasting (Sky) challenged whether the claim “10 out of 10 homes with our fibre optic broadband can get 20Mb” was misleading, because they did not believe there was sufficient capacity in Virgin’s network to provide all customers with 20Mb at the same time.

The ASA itself challenged whether the comparison between the speed available on Virgin’s service and the speed available over BT phone lines was misleading and unfair.

Both aspects to the complaint were upheld after considering Virgin Media’s responses. With regard to the first challenge, the ASA concluded that the ad breached the advertising code for Substantiation and Truthfulness, and that furthermore the footnotes actually contradicted the headline!

Virgin was also rapped on the knuckles over their misleading speed comparisons, with the ASA saying that they consider “it was not appropriate to compare the actual access line speeds of ADSL over BT lines, with the expected, or theoretical, access line speeds of cable broadband as stated in the ad”. No surprise on this point then, when the comparison was deemed to breach CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 6.1 (Honesty), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Other comparisons).

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