Sky slams Virgin's 'broadband con' ads
Friday, March 25 2011, 09:39 GMT
By Andrew Laughlin,

Sky has launched a legal challenge against Virgin Media's recent "broadband honesty" online PR campaign, arguing that it was "grossly misleading".

Lawyers representing the satellite broadcaster have called on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to investigate Virgin's "Stop the Broadband Con" online viral campaign.

In a letter to the regulator, seen by The Daily Telegraph, Sky claimed that the campaign "wrongly implies" that certain internet service providers "dishonestly deceive consumers".

The letter also hit out at a video posted by Virgin Media on YouTube before Christmas, which contained the message "learn from Aladdin...Don't get conned this Christmas". Sky took the line to be a reference to its own 'Fairytales' broadband advertising campaign.

Osborne Clarke, Sky's lawyers, said that Virgin's campaign gave the "implication that Sky 'say they'll give you superfast broadband but deliver a service stuck in the slow lane'".

The letter added: "[The ads] clearly go beyond the scope of robust and objective comparison and amount to an unjustified denigratory attack on Sky and its business practices."

Discussing the complaint, a Sky spokesman said: "All ISPs provide individual line speed estimates before any customer signs up, meaning consumers are making informed decisions about which broadband services are right for them.

"In helps [to] explain the high broadband satisfaction levels Ofcom found in its own research. On that basis, we've asked the ASA to investigate Virgin Media's campaign, which it now is."

BT has also complained to the ASA about Virgin's campaign.

Virgin Media responded by saying that "Stop the Broadband Con" was intended to show the general dissatisfaction among consumers with broadband speeds.

"Consumers continue to be misled by broadband providers who simply do not deliver on their advertised speed claims," said a spokesperson for the cable operator.

"The ASA, Ofcom, numerous consumer groups and thousands of internet users have all reiterated our call for change and we look forward to Sky stepping up to the challenge and being honest about their broadband rather than relying on the fairytales and broken promises of current broadband advertising."

According to recent research from Ofcom, average broadband speeds received by UK consumers remain less than half the 'up to' rates advertised by some ISPs.

The media regulator found that the average broadband speed in Britain increased from 5.2 megabits per second (Mbps) to 6.2Mbps by the end of 2010, but that was still just 45% of the average advertised broadband speed of 13.8Mbps.

Earlier in the month, Ofcom submitted its response to a Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) and Broadcast Committee for Advertising Practice (BCAP) joint consultation on broadband speeds advertising, which is expected to recommend major changes to broadband marketing.

Ofcom wants ISPs to advertise broadband speeds on a Typical Speeds Range (TSR) basis, giving a clearer picture of the actual rates received by the average customer.