Virgin media ad banned for ‘misleading’ customers over potential savings

14 August 2014

bitterwallet mad menWe all know advertising is supposed to make you want to buy stuff, but we have a reasonable expectation that the adverts we are subjected to are not a bunch of outright lies. That’s what the Advertising Standards Agency is there for,right?

However, just because businesses can’t lie, doesn’t mean they aren’t found guilty of stretching the truth a little bit. Strictly speaking, you might consider it lying but the ASA calls it ‘misleading’. A new ruling from the ASA has just banned  a Virgin Media advert claiming that Sky customers could save over £400 a year by switching, when chances are, they actually couldn’t.

A regional press ad for Virgin Media Ltd compared Sky's 'The Family Bundle' with Virgin Media's 'Premiere Collection'.  The 'receipts' shown in the advert listed the features and monthly total price of the respective packages. Sky's Family Bundle was priced at £103.65 and Virgin Media's Premier Collection at £67.99. The advert stated an "Annual saving with Virgin Media £427.92".

The problem was not, actually, with the facts- while Virgin had handily included the cost of BT Sport, which is actually paid to BT rather than Sky- Virgin maintained that 100% of Sky customers who took the exact combination of services set out would achieve the claimed saving. Nor was this disputed by the ASA. Virgin also claimed that the trifling detail of the exact amount of consumers holding this particular combination of services did not affect the comparison being made or a consumer's understanding of the price saving.

However, on this point the ASA disagreed, given that fewer than 0.1% of Sky customers did have those services, and could therefore possibly save over £400. The ASA noted that the ad was phrased conditionally, and that Virgin Media did not claim that all customers would save over £400, however the ASA felt that “it was necessary for a reasonable proportion of consumers to achieve the claimed saving,” adding that “using the comparison in this example, only a relatively small proportion of Sky customers would save to the degree claimed. “

As a result that advert was banned on the grounds of misleading by exaggeration. Moral of the story- don’t believe everything you read in the papers and do your own research when comparing costs of broadband and television services.

TOPICS:   Advertising

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