Businesses use Advertising Standards to grass each other up

Technology businesses are grassing up rivals left, right and centre in a bid to gain a competitive edge over each other.

Some companies are trying to discredit competitors by complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

A spokesperson tells TechEye: “We get lots of rival companies complaining about each other.”

“Most companies are happy to be named if they complain and a member of the public will remain anonymous unless they choose otherwise,” said the spokesperson.

We noticed that too, as the comments follow yet another potshot at Virgin Media from its nemesis Sky, which managed to get BT on side too.

The pair approached the ASA with claims that a website and an internet banner ad, for Virgin Media, which appeared in December 2010, was inaccurate. And it also ruffled the ASA, which slapped it with eight counts of wrong doings.

The furore was down to a Virgin Media campaign that had a dig at its rivals, highlighting where they had failed to match their claimed speed promises.

It pushed a website – – which highlighted the speeds of ADSL broadband which it alleged didn’t match those advertised. It compared them unfavourably, it is alleged, with the rates offered by its cable service.

Even Richard Branson took some time out from adventuring to say: “Some internet service providers just aren’t keeping up with their promises.”

To rub salt in the wounds that little bit more, Virgin decided to make claims about other ISPs advertising superfast broadband speeds they can’t deliver. It also said the “up to” 20MB claims averaged at just 6.5Mb.

It said that when it came to its services, it offered twice the speed of others. Virgin had a dig at Sky’s current fairy story adverts, saying other ISPs should advertise real-world speed not the “fairytales and broken promises of current broadband advertising”.

It roped Ofcom in too, saying it “found Virgin Media broadband [was] twice as fast as other providers”.

Of course this ruffled the feathers of its competitors particularly BT and Sky, which complained that the ads were wrong on eight counts. One of the disputes by BT was that Virgin’s claims were misleading because it had not included BT’s Infinity fibre packages.

The ASA agreed and upheld all eight complaints. It said that the advert had pointed the finger at other ISPs with false claims that they treated their customers dishonestly.

Virgin was told to remove the ad and never show it again.

Like BT and Sky, Virgin has also badmouthed rivals to the ASA to stuff up their advertising campaigns. It has locked horns with BT as well as other ISPs by running to Ofcom with survey findings that were favourable to its services, and knocking others. 

Behemoth BSkyB has taken aim at Virgin before. Last year it took offence to a misleading national newspaper and magazine insert.

In September it also took a swing at Virgin over what it thought was an anti-BSkyB ad campaign it decided was misleading and denigratory.

More recent playground scraps have come from the likes of Dixon, which this month went running to teacher to complain about an advert by Comet.