Virgin Media has been placed on the naughty step by the UK's advertising watchdog following two separate complaints from rival telcos BSkyB and BT.
The cable company was berated by BSkyB for misleadingly implying that Sky Sports had been included in Virgin Media's advertised price for its "Big Kahuna Bundle".
Broadcasting giant BT also successfully challenged VM's claim about savings in a TV commercial featuring ex-Doctor Who star David Tennant and a press ad promoting the same deal.
Virgin Media, which is owned by Liberty Global, had failed to properly notify new customers of an unavoidable installation fee, it was claimed.
Finally, a member of the public argued that the press ad had misleadingly implied that the line rental was included in the price.
The Advertising Standards Authority upheld all three complaints brought against Virgin Media. The ad regulator said:
The ASA noted the ad depicted David Tennant sitting in a large campervan with a wall-mounted television screen on either side of him, one of which showed a football match on Sky Sports. David Tennant stated, "... it also has the amazing TiVo putting you in control of the boxsets and matches you love." He gestured in the direction of the TiVo box and the TV that showed a free kick in slow-motion.
We considered the presentation of the visuals and audio implied that Sky Sports was included in the advertised package. Whilst we acknowledged that on-screen text made clear that a Sky Sports subscription was required, we considered that information was not given sufficient prominence, particularly given the prominent display of a football match on a Sky Sports channel.
Towards the conclusion of the ad David Tennant stated, "Get it all for just £30 a month for the first six months." We considered consumers would understand that claim to mean that the elements shown in the ad, including Sky Sports, were included in the advertised offer. However, we understand that was not the case.
We concluded that the ad misleadingly implied that Sky Sports was included in the advertised price.
The ASA added that Virgin Media had specifically targeted BSkyB subscribers with its press ad, which meant that a new install fee would automatically be applied to their freshly opened accounts.
"We understood that, at the time the ad appeared, there was an ongoing offer on the Virgin Media website for free installation. However, that offer was not made clear in [the press] ad, which invited customers to switch to Virgin Media's service," the watchdog said.
"We therefore considered consumers viewing the ad would not be aware of the free installation offer and may not take advantage of that offer."
Virgin Media was told that the ads must not appear again in their current form and was gently reminded not to mislead customers in the future. The company was also told to make sure that material information was more prominently displayed in its adverts.
£00.00? Don't be silly, Virgin Media
Separately, BT successfully challenged Virgin Media's "special offer for you" claim in a direct mailing promotional offer.
"[T]he repeated claims that elements of the offer cost '£00.00' misleadingly implied that those elements had been subject to a price reduction and were now offered for free, whereas [BT] understood that a charge was levied for each and reflected in the package price," the telco had argued, according to the ASA.
The regulator told Virgin Media that the ad mustn't appear again and added that the company shouldn't hoodwink customers into thinking that elements of its bundled packages were being offered for free or at a discounted rate, where that wasn't the case. ®