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ASA gags Virgin Media’s ‘broadband con’ advertisement

BT, Sky welcome ASA's decision to reprimand Virgin over 'Stop the broadband con' campaign  

By CBR Staff Writer

The advertising watchdog in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Virgin Media to abort its Internet advertising campaign which Virgin says intended to highlight "widespread dissatisfaction among consumers about the advertising of broadband speeds."

ASA said that the campaign — ‘Stop the broadband con’ — was misleading and went beyond just highlighting the disparity between the speeds offered by different service providers, according to a BBC report.

A website launched by Virgin targeted rival service providers and accused them of "not keeping their promises." The campaign included a speed test, a letter from Richard Branson and links to an official broadband report by the telecom regulatory body Ofcom, which had found a discrepancy in the speed claims by broadband providers.

However it was the the video and its viral element that made the ASA reprimand Virgin. The video took on an advert of Sky and encouraged users to share the information.

Sky and BT complained to the ASA, which then ruled against the campaign.

The ASA said, "We considered the ad went beyond highlighting the disparity Virgin believed existed between advertised broadband speeds compared to those that were delivered and implied that other ISPs dealt with consumers dishonestly in relation to broadband speeds."

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BT has welcomed the ruling.

BT Retail consumer division managing director John Petter said, "This is incredibly embarrassing for Virgin Media."

BSkyB said, "More than three million customers have recognised the quality and value of Sky Broadband, so we’re pleased that the ASA has dismissed these misleading and denigratory claims."

Virgin Media maintained that the campaign aimed to highlight "widespread dissatisfaction among consumers about the advertising of broadband speeds."

In March this year, Ofcom had published a report saying that it had found a discrepancy in the speed claims by broadband providers.

The telecoms regulator found that the real-life performance of broadband speed is about 6.2Mbit/s on average to UK households, which is "less than half" of the advertised speed 13.8Mbit/s.

Ofcom carried out performance tests in 1,700 homes across the UK in November and December last year. The report is based on 11 broadband packages from the UK’s seven largest providers, including Virgin Media and TalkTalk.

Ofcom is expected to bring in a new code of practice in July this year.

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