UK regulators uphold complaint against Virgin download caps


A complaint against Virgin Media has been upheld by Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, which ordered it not to run its "HATE TO WAIT?" ad campaign again. The ad, regulators said, did not accurately depict the speed of its internet service.

A complainant registered by rival British Telecom claimed that Virgin misled users with the ads, because its traffic management policy capped speeds during busy hours, during which the marketed speeds would not be available.

In effect, regulators enforced a component of Net Neutrality on somewhat imaginative grounds: if you don't offer a free and fast internet, you may not advertise it.

Virgin's response was that it only focused on heavy downloaders and uploaders, whose activities it claims saturates bandwidth. It added that a typo in the ad that made it look more ungenerous than it is (a 300MB cap was printed as 300Mb – a megabit being just one eighth of a megabyte) and that it was essential to manage excessive network use.

The ASA's response? That's all fine and dandy, but it's not what you advertised:

The ad did not make clear that the 26 minute download time was only possible during off-peak hours, or that by downloading one full TV show in peak hours customers would automatically be in breach of the download limits...

Because that was not the case we concluded that the ad was misleading. The ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness). ...

We told Virgin to make clear in future ads that download times would be restricted during peak hours. We advised them to seek guidance from the Copy Advice team when preparing similar ads in the future.

The ASA recently ordered Apple not to run iPhone ads without making it clear the depicted internet speeds were simulated.

About Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.
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