back to article BSkyB punches Virgin Media in ads watchdog fist fight

Virgin Media has lost its battle with BSkyB over a TV, newspaper and website ad that flogged "totally unlimited broadband", after VM claimed the commercials were misleading. However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) declined to uphold Virgin Media's complaint – in which the telco asserted that BSkyB's network was …


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  1. SMabille


    So in Virgin head:

    87Gb shaped = unlimited

    77Gb unshapped= outrageous restriction and customer rip-off

    twisted copper = outrageous rip-off

    coax copper = unlimited

    Wish I could get Virgin and them drag them to court as they sold me "unlimited" internet and I don't get infinite bandwidth? Downloading anything but the whole internet in less than 1 sec is a very serious limitation for me!

    Shouldn't (marketing) people have a look at their ridiculous claim before turning into El Reg laughing stock...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fail....

      Virgin is a damn sight better than when I was Zen ADSL with there download caps.

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Can't tell their ASA from their elbow

    > we considered that consumers would understand ...

    What they really meant is that customers understand that ALL advertisements for broadband are universally false, misleading and that none of the claims can stand up to any level of scrutiny. Customers also understand that as a watchdog, the ASA does just that: watches. It doesn't act.

  3. Matthew Forbes

    Not surprising

    Their current "No buffering" ad they are running suffered from buffering for me.

    Keeps happening when streaming, even though I've run a cable to see if it was just the wifi buffering. Thank god I have Sky at my proper residence to use their unlimited broadband.

    1. leexgx

      Re: Not surprising

      I have to agree the buffering advert Needs Pulling as its an Lie when you Live in an Oversubscribed area and you end up with a lot of packet loss and High pings between 2pm and midnight

  4. EddieD

    VirginMedia are extreme hypocrites.

    As SMabille said, VirginMedia are happy to tout their heavily shaped, content managed (i.e. Torrents are throttled) as unlimited, and go to the ASA to get the right to put that on their posters, but Sky, with no shaping or management are limited?

    VM have lost their fastest crown to BT, their unlimited crown to Sky, and have no superlatives left to describe their service.

    Hopefully this will spur them into giving equally good service to their customers.

    And I almost managed that last sentence without snorting derisively. Almost.

    VM's service,is, in my opinion, very reliable, stable, and reasonable value for money. However, I think that the only area where they are winners is in the war of the weasel words in adverts.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Virgin media shouldn't be allowed to advertise anything as unlimited, as it's limited to where they bothered to run cables the last time any investment was made in infrastructure... Some time last century IIRC!

  6. toadwarrior

    As much as I hate murdoch, BskyB was right. If someone say unlimited I don't expect to download infinity MB a day. I expect to mean the company is not going to impose limits on me if I choose to spend all day watching vidoes.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "BSkyB successfully argued to the ASA that it was the only ISP that offered unlimited usage without any provider-imposed limitations"

    I think BE might disagree.

    1. Dick Emery
      Thumb Up


      (Be)at me to it.

    2. Homer 1

      The only "unlimited" ISP?

      And BT.

      I've had many good reasons to criticise BT over the years, but I have to admit their Infinity service is not one of them. They promised 40Mb/s and unlimited downloads, and that's exactly what I get (as long as I don't try to "download" anything from The Pirate Bay, of course).

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Blubster


    " Virgin customer with traffic management applying during peak times could theoretically download 87 GB of data over a 24-hour period"

    Theoretically maybe. In real life total bollocks - on my 10Mb connection downloads and general surfing slows down to a crawl between certain hours. I'm lucky to get 1.5Mb most days.

  10. lumpaywk

    not sure what your on

    Virgin is the fastest and most consistant internet to say it slows down to 1.5mb shows either your lieing or there is something wrong with your line and you need to call them. Mine slowed to 8mb once and they sent a guy out to test the line. almost everyone i know on sky gets about 2mb best and pay 3times what i do for my 60mb line that stays at 60mb (well 58ish but still faster than the best sky can do) Yeah its a silly argument BUT to slate virgins BB is just laughable bt costs a fortune and sky is rubbish.

    1. Scott 62

      Re: not sure what your on

      No internet connection on earth is worth putting up with Virgins abysmal "customer service"

      I signed up with them this time last year, the kit they sent me was excellent, the broadband was very fast and the Tivo box awesome.


      I had more fuss with them in 2 weeks trying to get the correct package (each time I rung them I was quoted a different price, I also have young kids so kids TV channels are a lifesaver, but to match my initial Sky TV package would have cost a fortune) than i had in 4 years with Sky.

      Not to mention my initial bill of £145, the fact that they changed my phone number without telling me AND didn't cancel my Sky subscription for me ("oh no, we'll sort that out for you!").

      Useless bastards, bring back Blueyonder.

    2. Eradicate all BB entrants

      Re: not sure what your on

      How is a service that throttles and packet shapes consistent? It lets some data through at full speed but certain packets have to crawl?

      I have anecdotal evidence too, the one person I know who went with Virgin gets 0mb, thats because they screwed up so much he cancelled (including the engineer leaving halfway through install because he had to meet the Mrs for dinner). Could you also provide a link where your sky subscribing friends are paying £55.50pm just for broadband? ( I simply multipied the cheapest 60mb Virgin offer by 3, would you like the link for the page that shows this?)

      Stick to your rebranded NTL connection, I just spotted the UNLIMITED Sky fibre offer and will be making a phone call as soon as :D

      1. pPPPP

        Re: not sure what your on

        >including the engineer leaving halfway through

        It wasn't an engineer. It was an unskilled guy with a drill and a pair of wire cutters.

        Brunel was an engineer. He designed and built the Great West railway.

        But I digress...

    3. J Lewter

      Re: not sure what your on

      Highly oversubscribed areas do indeed suffer that bad.

      Once all users are migrated onto Docsis3 network then the total utilization problems should be known. For reference I was once pushed onto a node that was oversubscribed and my 10 meg connection went down to around 2. They refused to fix it because they said it met the minimum speed requirements. I was lucky because the resegmentation was not done and I was moved back to a previous node and had rock solid connections. The DS1.1 network in my area is undersubscribed and had no real need for STM, the DS3 network in the area is oversubscribed and needs management. Once all the frequencys are put together then hopefully my area will be smooth.

      I too am on the 60 meg network and my download speed TEST hit 62/2.8 constantly. Streaming however is worse than it was on the 1.1 network (it should be better due to the fact that the DS3 modems do speed management instead of the head ends).

      So, No, there may not be anything wrong with his line, yes he should call them.

      VDSL can carry a contention ratio of 1:1, vs VM who doesnt publish theirs now, but it had crawled from 30:1 to 50:1 before moving up again and having the ratio's no longer being published.

      And before you reply, Yes "Contention" is not what "VM" uses, they use "Utilization"... That is their choice, and they dont publish those numbers.

    4. Blubster

      Re: not sure what your on

      No need to lie - during certain hours 8PM - 12AM usually, it slows down big style - I check it from time to time with Broadband Speed checker web-site. Normal surfing isn't affected but downloads and my Usenet connection is. Most other times it's acceptable but never the 10Mb I pay for.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin are seriously taking the mickey

    For months our 30Mb broadband has been running at less than 1Mb. After endless weeks trying to get some sense out of tech support and 4 engineer visits, they have finally told us the area is basically saturated but won't be sorted out until November.

    The customer forums on the Virgin Media website are full of stories like the one above - they common thread is that Virgin's claimed speeds are complete fantasy, their service sucks, and many customers would love the opportunity to ask Beardy Weirdy Branson why his company is so spectacularly incapable of organising itself to provide the services it advertises.

  13. Fuzz

    copper wire

    "These restrictions were not applicable to all providers because some services, like those offered by Virgin [Media], were not delivered over a copper wire."

    Really? What are they making coax out of these days?

    Also their sums seem to be wrong

    The 10Mb M Virgin service used flat out gives you 14.5 hours at full speed and 9.5 hours at 2.5Mb/s over a 24 hour period. I make that 74GB in 24 hours even the 10Mb L service only gets you an extra half an hour at full speed which takes the total to 76GB.

    The Sky service at 7.5Mb/s average as described by Virgin would give you 79GB in 24 hours.

    Also since very few people use their Internet at full whack 24 hours a day preferring instead to use it either in the evenings or afternoons I think that a fully working Sky broadband connection is going to be far better than a fully working Virgin connection.

    1. Fuzz

      Re: copper wire

      actually it turns out I've been generous, since the Virgin traffic shaping is always applied for 5 hours at a time you are guaranteed 10 hours of shaping over a 24 hour period if you are maxing out your connection. This means that it doesn't matter if you are on the M or L service you will still get 14 hours unshaped and 10 hours shaped so the maximum you can download over 24 hours is 72.5GB

    2. minky

      Re: copper wire

      I don't get why the ASA don't get onto VM about 'fibre optic broadband'. I'm sure most people would interpret that as FTTP. Bugs me everytime I hear ads for it.

      1. Tom 35

        Re: copper wire

        Try Bell Canada. They have Fibe internet (not a typo, they lost the r when they got slapped for false advertising ). They call it "Fibre network to your neighbourhood" in the fine print. It's just ADSL.

  14. Skrrp
    Thumb Up

    Fucking whiners ITT

    Don't know if I'm just lucky but I live in a house with a 30Mbs Virgin cable connection. Speedtest constantly gives me a rating of 31.5+Mbs down and 3.1+Mbs up.

    There are 5 of us living here and I've never seen a speed cap. Maybe we don't hit the 70GB/day mark but we stream videos and download games and play online all the time with no problems. My Steam downloads are always at a nice 3.7MBs speed. Netflix never has a problem.

    We don't torrent illegal stuff and we don't hammer the bandwidth all the time but we do get our fair use out of the connection but never have problems. Compared to the clusterfuck that is anything to do with BT twisted pair copper we are more than happy.

  15. TBx

    I have a ADSL connection with Virgin Media which they market as "unlimited"

    Is this not what Virgin's complaint about BT was ?

    On a side note. I have been paying 27.99 per month for the last 8 months, even though I have a Virgin phone line. It appears it should be 15.99 per month.

    But what can you do? Just suck it up :-(

  16. Anonymous IV
    Thumb Down

    <modifier> unlimited

    'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

    'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

  17. skuba*steve

    Well....I'm no fan of the bigger ISP's but in an effort to apease the good lady earlier this year I agreed to drop my BE BB, BT phone line and sky package and opted for the bundled VM cable TV/BB and phone (the argument being that it was slightly cheaper than the previous setup and we got three months "free" and therefore made a saving of circa £180 for the year).

    Can't argue with the wifes logic, and it was an argument I was going to lose if I tried to stick to it.

    And I have to say - 5 months in - not a quibble, compaint, issue or nark. BB service has been flawless (apart from when I somewhat naughtily get caught hammering the newsgroups during peak times, and even then I only get throttled for a couple of hours to 50% speed, which is to say 1.8MB rather than the manly 3.7MB I usually enjoy), tivo is fecking awesome, and I never use the phone.

    I DO hate the router, but not enough to replace it. I've not had to call customer service once, and I even managed to get them to ditch the installation fee to get me on board. 6 months free access to spotify premium thrown in, and they're doubling me BB to 60Mb/s next month, and also giving me a free tivo box for the bedroom after I asked them for an upgrade to their new bundle.

    All in all - job done :)

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