ASA Raps Relish And Virgin Media For ‘Misleading’ Broadband Adverts

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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BT says claims in competitors’ adverts cannot be substantiated

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has censured wireless broadband provider Relish and Virgin Media following complaints that both companies’ broadband adverts were misleading.

Relish launched earlier this year and offers broadband to customers using its 3.5GHz and 3GHz spectrum to addresses in central London, claiming to be more flexible and cheaper than landline alternatives.

BT objected to Relish adverts that claimed the minimum cost for the service was £20 a month, as this price applies just to the consumer service, not the business product which is £25 a month. It also said that should customers take out a monthly rolling contract, they would have to pay £50 for a router.

‘Misleading’ claims

Mo Farah Virgin MediaRelish’s claim to serve ‘central London’ was also disputed as some parts of the capital are not covered, while BT also complained that comparisons with its own broadband service made on Relish’s website were misleading as they described BT’s most expensive package and di not mention additional benefits like BT Sport, BT Wi-Fi and cloud storage.

The ASA agreed with BT that the adverts implied business services were available for £20 but did not uphold the complaint about the £50 charge as no specific reference to a rolling contract was made and most prospective customers would assume the offer was for a fixed period. The authority also ruled that the comparisons with BT’s services were misleading.

However the ASA accepted Relish’s claim that 90 percent of addresses within Zone 1 of the London Underground map were covered by the service and that ‘central London’ was much more accurate than simply ‘London’ as this would imply a much greater reach.

BT also made five complaints against Virgin Media, accusing the rival firm of exaggerating potential savings of special offers and making misleading claims about when such deals were set to expire. The ASA sided with BT saying that Virgin had used inflated reference prices, had extended offers it said would expire and used ambiguous terms like “offer available until at least…”.

These adverts must not appear again in their current form and Virgin has been told not to make misleading statements in its communications in the future.

“Relish strives to meet all relevant codes, rules and regulations that apply to the marketing industry, and abides by all the processes required by the relevant authorities,” a Relish spokesperon said. “In terms of the issues raised in the two complaints that were upheld, we had changed our website and advertising to address these issues as soon as we became aware of them while the ASA investigation was still ongoing. We welcome the fact that two further complaints were not upheld, and accept all decisions by the ASA Council.”

Virgin Media had responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

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