Virgin Media gets its wrists slapped by ASA

Virgin Media has had its wrist slapped yet again by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after it was found to have mislead customers by hiding important information in tiny fonts.

The watchdog received a complaint about Virgin’s “Faster for a Fiver” ad that was distributed in February. It stated: “Our up to 30Mb broadband is four times faster than the UK average. And it’s all yours for just £5 a month for the first three months, then £18.50 after that.”

However, the important information – including billing charges, contracts, availability and the  £13.90 a month line rental costs – were hidden in small print.

A member of the public complained to the ASA claiming this was misleading, however, Virgin argued that its minimum font size for small print in press was between 5.5 and 6 points. It said the small print in this ad was well within that range at 5.866 points, which it believed to be clearly visible to a normally-sighted person.

Virgin said it also believed that the industry standard for small print was, on average, between point size 4 and 4.5, and so the small print in this ad was quite a bit larger than average.

It added that it had no control over the printing process of press ads and therefore was not in a position to ensure text was reproduced correctly and that there was no blurring of the words.

The ASA ruled that the combination of text size and print quality made the information hard to read. It said the text contained key information for consumers. It said:  “We considered that the size of the text, in combination with the low quality of the print, meant it was not clearly visible to a normally-sighted person.

“We noted that the small print contained information that did not appear elsewhere in the ad, such as the price of the line rental and the minimum contract length, and we considered this information to be material to consumers’ understanding of the offer.”

The ASA added that, because the small print was not presented clearly, and contained material information, it had to conclude that the ad was misleading. Virgin has been ordered not to run the ad again and in the future ensure its text is clearer.