Virgin Media was successfully muzzled by rival BSkyB today – for failing to adequately explain the basis of a savings claim it made in a direct mail, and for omitting material that showed the differences between competing services.
The UK's ad watchdog upheld two of three complaints submitted by BSkyB in which it moaned about a direct mailing shot posted by Virgin Media to individual households.
In it, the cable company - which is owned by US giant Liberty Global - claimed that customers could save £214.95 if it took out the advertised package with Virgin Media rather than its telco enemy BSkyB.
But BSkyB successfully challenged the offer as being misleading by being fuzzy with the figures.
The broadcaster added that the claim "HD channels included" had "misleadingly implied that Sky customers did not get HD channels included in their TV package." However, the ASA dismissed that particular gripe.
The ad regulator did agree that the flyer failed to provide information showing the differences punted by BSkyB and Virgin Media, which meant the person reading the mailshot was unable to correctly make a comparison of the offers.
Virgin Media claimed it hadn't been ambiguous with its savings claim. The ASA noted that the ISP:
[b]elieved that readers would understand that there were always nuances between the services offered by different providers and would not expect to glean every one of those nuances from a table such as the one shown in the letter.
Finally, they stated that Virgin Media was able to make a comparison against some, all or none of the features available from Sky as long as any comparison being made was fair and accurate.
But the ASA concluded that the £214.95 savings claim was as clear as mud.
"Because we did not consider that the ad clearly communicated that the saving related to Virgin Media’s standard prices, or that consumers would need to purchase a specific TV and phone package to achieve the maximum saving of £214.95, we concluded that the ad was misleading," the watchdog said.
Virgin Media was told to make such savings claims clearer in the future and that the ad must not appear again in its current form. ®