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ASA sides with Sky over Virgin Media broadband price comparison ad

Not a fair comparison
Wed Aug 13 2014, 12:34
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THE UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has had to rule on another internet service provider (ISP) advert involving bold claims about broadband performance.

In its latest adjudication the ASA has sided with Sky's argument that a comparison advert from Virgin Media offered a flawed and unfair comparison.

The ASA had one complaint about a Virgin Media regional advert, and that complaint came from the rival ISP Sky. It decided that the complaint was fair.

The advert told Sky customers that switching to a bundle from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Media could save as much as £400 a year. Sky baulked at this and challenged the advert on a couple of grounds.

Its first complaint was that the ad was "misleading" because the savings quoted were not based on reality, and its second was that the comparison was not like for like, which was therefore also "misleading".

The ASA agreed with Sky. It found that 0.01 percent of Sky users are contracted to the bundle option that Virgin Media was using as a comparison against one of its own and that it could not support the headline claim that a number of Sky customers could benefit from making the switch.

"Given that the ad was targeted at Sky customers generally through its headline claim, we considered that it was necessary for a reasonable proportion of consumers to achieve the claimed saving," the ASA said.

"The ad encouraged Sky customers to switch to Virgin [Media], but using the comparison in this example, only a relatively small proportion of Sky customers would save to the degree claimed."

Virgin took the decision on the chin, telling the INQUIRER that it can't be sure if any actual consumers were moved by its advertisement.

"The complaint was made by Sky so it's clear not a single consumer felt misled but we will take on board the ASA's clarification and continue to communicate the significant advantages sports fans can get by choosing Virgin Media," said Ashley Scott, a spokesperson for the firm.

The ASA directed that the offending Virgin Media advert not be shown in the same format again. µ


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