ASA tells off Virgin Media after Sky grasses it up

Virgin Media has been given a rap on the knuckles after the ASA partly upheld a claim from BSkyB.

BSkyB grassed up its rival about a misleading national newspaper and magazine insert, where Virgin Media claimed: “TV and calls from £5.50 a month when you switch to a Virgin phone line … And best of all, when you add a V HD Box we don’t charge an extra monthly fee to watch our amazing HD channels … It’s all yours from just £5.50 a month, when you switch your phone line to us …”.

The ad also said you get “All the best channels”, “a range of HD channels” and “loads On Demand” with each followed by logos of a number of TV channels and On Demand services.

Text underneath the On Demand logos read: “Over 500 movies On Demand, many in HD, and thousands of TV shows to watch whenever you want – it’s like a massive DVD collection”.

But footnoted text at the bottom of the advert proved you should always take a look at the small print: “On Demand movies are pay-per-title. TV Choice On Demand is included with TV size XL or £7 a month with TV sizes M and L. Music On Demand is included with TV size XL or pay-per-video with TV sizes M and L”.

Sky said the claim “It’s all yours from £5.50 a month” was misleading because it implied that all the TV channels and On Demand services listed in the leaflet were included in the £5.50 package; and the claim “All the best channels” was misleading because it understood that only three of the listed channels were in the top 15 most watched satellite and cable channels.

Virgin Media hit back saying it clarified that the 65 channels including BBC iPlayer, ITV Net Player and 4oD were available for £5.50. It also said it had been clear about those that would cost £23 a month.

It said 12 of the 22 listed channels and three of the five On Demand services were available as part of the £5.50 package, which was over 10 percent of channels included in the package.

However, it held its hands up and acknowledged that “Over 500 movies on Demand, many in HD” should have said “Access to over 500 movies On Demand, many in HD …” and that Virgin will amend the claim in future versions of the insert.

The ASA ruled that it was clear from the tick-boxes in the insert that 65 channels were included as part of the package. However, because there was no indication as to which channels those would be, it considered that the TV channel and On demand service logos next to “It’s all yours from just £5.50 a month” gave the impression that all the listed channels and services were included within the £5.50 package.

It said that because it understood that not all of those channels and services were included, the insert gave a misleading impression of which channels and On Demand services were available. As a result the insert breached regulations.

The ASA noted that the insert did not claim that all the listed channels were the most popular, but the “best”. It considered that the interpretation of which channels were the best was subjective, and therefore ruled that the claim “All the best channels” was clearly an expression of opinion, and therefore not misleading.

Sky has approached the ASA over its bitter rival’s ad campaigns before. In September it said there was an anti-BSkyB ad campaign which was misleading and denigratory.

The campaign, which ran with the headline “Why Virgin TV is better than Sky TV by ex-Sky customers”, included testimonials which were highly critical of BSkyB’s customer service and interrupted picture quality. The direct mail ads also said Virgin offered high-definition channels for free, while Sky charges £10 extra a month, and that Virgin has free set-up while Sky charges about £60. In its ruling the ASA said that the criticisms were legit and concluded that the comments were denigratory and likely to mislead consumers.

In the past it too has fallen foul of advertising regulations for running anti-Virgin Media promotions.