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Virgin Media broadband ad banned over comparison claims

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert for Virgin’s Gig1 Fibre broadband package after a complaint from rival provider BT.

In the website and TV ad, seen in August 2021, Virgin claimed to be the “UK’s fastest major broadband provider“, but it failed to include sufficient information to verify its comparisons.

Smaller text on the advert said “Based on Gig1 Fibre avg download speed 1,130Mbps vs avg download speeds of major UK ISPs. To verify see below. Gig1 available in selected cities. Check availability”.

Further text compared Virgin’s speeds with those offered by BT, Vodafone, TalkTalk, EE, Sky, Post Office and Plusnet.

BT challenged whether the claims were misleading and could be substantiated, and whether the claims were verifiable.

The ASA found that the evidence “substantiated” that the average download speed (1130Mbps) of Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre service was “faster than other major broadband providers”, and concluded that the claim was “not misleading“.

However, the regulator still ruled that the adverts shouldn’t be shown again due to the fact that they didn’t include sufficient information to allow consumers and competitors to verify the comparisons made in the advertising.

The ASA also noted that BT’s full fibre 900Mbps service was available in some locations where Virgin Media’s Gig1 Fibre service was not. Therefore, for those consumers, the fastest major broadband provider was not Virgin Media but BT.

The ASA said in a statement: “The CAP and BCAP Codes required comparisons with identifiable competitors to be verifiable. That meant that an ad which featured a comparison with an identifiable competitor or competitors needed to include, or direct a consumer to, sufficient information to allow them to understand the comparison, and be able to check the claims were accurate.

“We considered that Virgin Media did not necessarily need to make available the underlying data that had been used to calculate the median download speed of their Gig1 Fibre service. However, we considered that in order for consumers to verify the comparison, further information should be provided in ad (a) about the methodology used to calculate the figure for Virgin Media’s own speed, and to clarify the source of information for the download speeds for the other broadband providers. Because that had not been provided, we concluded the verification information was not sufficient to allow consumers or competitors to understand the comparison, and as such, the claim as it appeared in both ads (a) and (b) was not verifiable.”

The ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in the form complained about and told Virgin Media to ensure it included sufficient information to allow consumers and competitors to verify the comparisons made in its advertising.

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