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Virgin Media are not the fastest broadband provider according to an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling following complaints by members of the public that wording used in a Virgin Media TV ad, “Fibre optic broadband from Virgin Media. The fastest in the UK” was misleading. The TV ad was shown in October and November 2011 and featured the Warner Brothers character Speedy Gonzales with a voice-over of the speed claim. The issue was raised alongside various other complaints from both members of the public and ISPs such as BT and XILO about speed claims and comparison between products.

In the particular ruling about the fastest broadband speed claim, Virgin claimed that they didn’t think the market had changed significantly since 2009 when the ASA had judged that Virgin’s ‘fastest broadband’ claims were unlikely to mislead. They quoted an Ofcom report which showed the limited number and availability of next-generation broadband products that offered fasted speeds. The ASA did not however feel this was still the case.

“We noted that the claim was based on the findings of the Ofcom report, which covered 90% of the market. We also noted, however, that there were localised instances of niche providers or other ISPs providing trial products to a limited number of consumers that offered speeds that were faster than Virgin’s. Although the availability of those providers was limited and Virgin’s availability was much wider, we nevertheless considered the claim suggested it was not possible to obtain a broadband connection in the UK that permitted a faster maximum download speed than Virgins service. Because it was possible, however, for customers in some localised areas to obtain a faster download speed, we concluded that such an absolute claim was misleading.”

Interesting to note is that Virgin could argue that they do indeed offer faster services through trials, with a 200meg broadband version of their products in testing, and a separate limited1.5Gbps trial to businesses in Old street. Of course, whilst this is the case, under the ASA ruling, they would not be able to continue to advertise their existing services as the fastest broadband available, but they could still stake claim to the fastest service which is available generally, even if it is only on trial.

John Gillborn