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back to article Virgin Media spanked for 'we've already cabled up your house' mailshot

Virgin Media has once again been sent to the headmaster's office for a caning after producing a misleading ad. This time the Advertising Standards Authority lambasted the telco's attempts to convince some of its customers that they could receive Virgin Media's "state-of-the-art fibre optic cable" product even though it was clear …

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Good ol' VM

Never letting facts get in the way of advertising.

Again.

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Joke

Re: Good ol' VM

They rarely let making a profit get in the way of running a business either :)

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Flame

A triumph of style over substance

Ever since ntl:Telewest got weirdy beardy’s Virgin branding, the claims have been getting more grandiose, while the broadband service has stagnated.

I’m sick of the throttling, and I’m sick of the shitty upload speed (one twentieth of the download). There was a recent article on Ars Technica suggesting that business cable broadband could be a better alternative to residential cable broadband. So, I thought I’d see if any of it applied here in the UK.

The first bullet point on the Features page for Virgin Media Business broadband reads, “no usage restrictions or caps…” This is promising, I thought. However, click through, and buried in over one thousand words of “legal stuff” is a link to the same traffic management page that applies to residential services.

I know the ASA definition of ‘unlimited’ means ‘limited.’ It must also be that the ASA definition of ‘no’ means ‘some.’ Virgin Media’s small business broadband is exactly the same as residential, only it’s more expensive and has a funky, stylish name – “The Biz.” Did I say something about style over substance?

In a few years, cable broadband in this country has gone from being the technically superior product, to one that is still theoretically technically superior, but due to underinvestment, languishes behind FTTC.

In the past, I wouldn’t have hesitated in recommending cable, despite the flakey customer service, and a small risk you’d end up on an oversubscribed UBR. Today, I’d suggest looking at FTTC first.

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We had a phonecall from orange a while ago, saying they could upgrade us from our 5mb line to 17mb, by their estimates on our postcode. It'd cost us X amount less per month,and it'd be up within Y days.

So we agreed, it was a good deal. Only it was all bullshit.

After the time to connect to the service passed and no change, we called them. They hadn't even passed the information on to the engineers yet. That's a lie on Y.

After we were connected, with only got 8mb speeds. That was less than half of their promise on X.

And cost. It actually cost us £10 a month MORE than before. At this point we called up, and after arguing with several of their monkeys finally got to somebody who knew what they were talking about.

Basically, we aren't in an "orange area" they left our town a few years back. As such we couldn't get the superfast adsl2+, only 8mb max with them. Also because we're outside of their area, it costs us an addiitonal amount on line rental / braodband costs, hence the increase in price.

The contract lasts for a year, and honestly our house probably wouldn't last without the internet for more than a few weeks. We've been given 6 months free phone / internet, and then 6 months at the normal rate after which we're switching over to sky.

My step father (the one who agreed to the deal) was happy with this deal... I was not, reported them to ofcom for miss selling (like they'll do anything about it anyway)

I don't know if these companies are actually lying toads, or if their staff are just incompetent. (probably a bit of both)

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Re: Orange

When I signed up for Orange, I was told that my exchange was currently full for LLU 21mbps, but I could get the basic BT Wholesale 8mbps, and I would be upgraded automatically 2 months later when capacity was available. Needless to say, 10 months later and this upgrade has never happened. I would've switched if I had any other worthwhile options (BE turned me down due to lack of capacity, and the only others are Tiscali/TalkTalk/BT (no FTTC)).

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The magic words are "Can I have that in writing?"

Because until they are willing to do that for you, it means nothing and is an empty promise.

And if they do that for you, you have instantaneous cause to cancel the whole contract + get compensation for their failure to live up to their contract.

See how many "speed claims" go out of the window when you ask for it in writing and take that as a warning - they have NO idea what they will give you, but the lackey the other end who gets minimum wage topped up by the number of people he manages to sell to will tell you ANYTHING.

The school I work for are currently revelling in this. We wanted a leased-line installed. We had loads of quotes, negotiated on them all and selected the best. Which happened to be a Virgin Media leased line reseller. Who'd undercut Virgin Media's own price by 30%.

We literally *heard* the shouting on the other end of the phone a few days later but, by then, we had it in writing, in front of us. Backing out would have cost them more than supplying a loss-making line by that time because of their own contract clauses.

You *can* get recompense if you recorded those phone calls too, by the way. They would form an oral part of the contract. But, for some strange reason, nobody bothers to buy the £10 device or use the free setting on their mobile to do that when someone is selling them something.

If it's not on paper, it doesn't exist. If the company knows they can deliver it, they will put it on paper. Then, even if they can't, you don't lose out.

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Oh, and never agree to anything on the phone. Ever. Same goes for the doorstep.

Watch what happens if you ask them to call you back about their "wonderful offer". They won't want to hang up or call you back because then someone else will get the commission. Their commission = greater than your custom.

Watch what happens when you ask for a month to think about it. You will either a) get bombarded with pressure-selling calls, or b) never hear from them again. Both great indicators of how much they value your custom and your ability to make your own choice.

Watch what happens when you say "It's great, send me the paperwork and I'll review it". Same thing.

All they care about is you saying Yes, so they'll tell you any lie to get you to say Yes on the phone and hand over details ASAP. That's *not* how you do business with companies. Reminds of a Dragon's Den episode where Peter the Plonker said "My offer expires in 30 seconds, so you better decide who you want to go with" and then started counting down - my response would have been "Okay, I'll go with the person who lets me think carefully about a huge business decision, not the idiot that tries to panic me into selecting them".

Had a guy talk to me for 20 minutes at the door about a charity. Seemed good, was a cause close to my heart, I was willing to part with money. So I said I'll go onto the website and sign up. No, he wanted me to do it there and then on *his* bit of paper, with credit card / bank details and sign up there. 1) Not going to happen, I have no idea who you *actually* are. 2) He stormed off when I refused to do it that way. Nice way to care about the charity you're working for, there. And I don't donate to charities who pressure-sell like that, and don't donate to charities who waste money on idiots like that and I don't donate to charities that aren't *auditing* their salesmen (that's what they are) for things like that.

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I agree 100% with you on that. The problem is i'm not the one who decides this stuff, my step father is. He's also of the generation "I'm older so I know best."

As for the call recording thing 2 questions

!: what is this mobile option you speak of? An app?

2: Do you have to state "This call is being recorded" like most companies you call do? Or not, as your the customer not the seller.

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"2: Do you have to state "This call is being recorded" like most companies you call do? Or not, as your the customer not the seller."

No. On the bottom of their blurb they state "Calls may be recorded."

I interpret that as permission.

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RE: The magic words are "Can I have that in writing?"

A fine example of CYAWP*.

Excellent tactic to use on a dumb PHB who lies about being the one responsible for a clusterfuck.

Their idea, in writing, amounts to a "death warrant" when (not IF) it all hits the fan.

* CYAWP = Cover Your ASS With Paper.

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Happy

recording calls

If I get the message that they are recording my call, I start the conversation by telling them that so am I. It is quite informative who immediately puts the phone down on me.

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Re: recording calls

I believe you do not have to state that you're recording a call so long as you are a party to it. Thus, by definition really, you don't have to tell them if you're recording a call that you're making or receiving. Companies do because the rules are slightly different and most of it is in fact optional backside-protection. So no, you don't have to tell them you're recording a phone call that you are part of.

And most mobile phones nowadays have options to record the call. My Nokia did ten years ago, you literally had a record button on the screen when you were in a call and it recorded an MP3 of both sides. I did it and caught out a hosting firm - I was making websites for local businesses and one of them wanted to use their own hosting outfit that they already had. No problem, I just knocked up some HTML and back-end programs so they could update the data and I FTP'd it to them.

Two years later, I get a call that the website's "been deleted". Turns out it was right - the FTP was empty. Only I and my client (a good friend who didn't know ANYTHING about computers) had the password and she swore that she'd not touched anything because she was running her business off it successfully for all that time. She'd called the hosting company, who told her that someone had logged in and deleted it. It sounded VERY fishy as the password had only been given to myself and my client, was manually chosen (no email records) and was quite secure.

Obviously, I had an irate customer who was blaming me for it because the hosting company were effectively blaming me. So I phoned up, and recorded the call. Where they told me they *had* suffered disk failures lately. Where they told me they kept no FTP logs whatsoever. Where they told me they have no backup systems. Where they told me they'd DEFINITELY change the password on the account right away on my insistence (just in case someone had got hold of it).

It was ten years ago now, and I still don't think they've changed the password on that account. Fortunately, I had a copy of the data that was quite recent and just re-uploaded it, but to this day I still have the MP3 recording from my phone of them basically saying it was probably their fault and they had no way to tell if I'd even logged in, let alone anyone else. The customer was happy (with me at least), but the hosting firm was changed soon after. But I don't think I'd have got them to admit those things if they knew I was recording.

Most phones have the option or, at worst, there's an app that will do it for you. After all, it's just a matter of storing data that it's already having to process and send anyway. The nice apps are literally just a "record" button when you're in a call but it varies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: recording calls

Cool story, bro.

It's important to understand the difference between your situation, where you wished to prove informally to your client things that the hosting company had said, and what is acceptable in court.

Under UK law BOTH parties must consent to the recording before it takes place, in order for it to be accepted in court. If you want to use the recording for anything relating to contractual issues then you MUST conform to this requirement whether you are an individual or a business.

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FAIL

Nooooo.........

Wowfood - DON'T go to Sky. whatever they quote you to start, it will very soon be increased significantly and if you DON'T take TV services, they will subsequently charge you for NOT using them.

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Re: recording calls

You are wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_recording_laws#United_Kingdom

Specifically things like "Businesses may record with the knowledge of their employees but without notifying the other party to provide evidence of a business transaction"

Always has been the case that only A SINGLE PARTY needs to give consent (so you can't just record a stranger's calls that you've intercepted). Otherwise 90% of the law enforcement out there would be impossible to provide in court, because it WASN'T obtained without both parties consent (and I'm talking specifically like evidence recorded by ordinary people subject to phone harrassment etc. and not police operations which presumably have separate warrants).

Not being able to admit evidence to court because you have to tell the criminal you're recording is the most stupid thing ever, hence why nothing approaching that is in law in the UK.

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Paris Hilton

Toothless watchdogs

Is there any point to the ASA? Time and again VM (and world+dog) run ads that are found to be misleading to what result? They're told not to run the same advert again. So they run a new misleading one in its place.

If you genuinely wanted to discourage the practise you'd bite them until it hurt.

Paris 'cos she knows when to use teeth and when not to.

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Re: Toothless watchdogs

Given that almost everyone who received the original fliers won't have seen this judgment by the ASA, they ought to be able to force Virgin (& other offenders) to send out new fliers to everyone who got the first lot saying something like:

"We lied to you. We can't do those things we said - this is the <insert large number here> time we've been caught telling lies in an attempt to sell products services, so you really shouldn't have believed us in the first place. Next time we promise we'll try harder (not to be caught)"

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FAIL

Re: Toothless watchdogs

God no.....Not MORE VM flyers...I get several every week,,,Despite asking them numerous times to stop it...

Now we just get a generic "householder" titled pice of tat from them that i almost immediately burn whilst cursing them under my breath.....Nothing the MPS can do about them and the customer services at VM are farcial, and thats being unfair to a farce.....

Not too long ago, i almost succumbed and got all the way through to the last confirmation page, only then did it state an 18 month contract....The cancel button was the last thing i clicked......

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Anonymous Coward

Bit off topic, but anyway...

I really wish Virgin would cable my street. They cabled large parts of Swindon in the past but haven't invested in any of the new areas being developed for many years now. The Priory Vale area, for example, covers 6,000 new houses over 650 acres yet none of the streets have got access to Virgin Media... although the older Taw Hill and Abbey Meads developments, which are on the other side of the North Swindon Orbital Road, do have access.

Instead those of us living in Priory Vale have to rely on BT's flaky network to connect to an over-subscribed exchange many miles away in Blunsdon.

If you're reading this, Mr Branson, please make the investment to cable our streets... you'll make an absolute killing if you do.

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Re: > Wish Virgin would cable my street

I'm happy to be corrected, but I'm not sure they've cabled any streets - or at least not very many. As I recall in the first flush of enthusiasm for the new wonder cable age large tranches of towns were cabled up by new companies who put the serious investment in, then discovered they couldn't sell the services and were making bugger all money and went bust. The likes of Virgin just bought up the infrastructure from the receivers, paying a fraction of the installation costs, which is how they can make a profit - damn all investment to recoup.

So investment in cabling has historically been a recipe for ruin, which is why companies - other than BT who don't have a choice - are very reluctant to do it, and its also why BT resent reselling their service to boxshifters who don't have to put in the serious investment.

Maybe I'm out of date though, and there is serious investment in street cabling going on now by companies other than BT. Can anyone confirm or deny?

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Re: > Wish Virgin would cable my street

Yes. Smallworld cable added fibre to the old "wight cable" network when the gas mains were dug up. If they hadnt have done that I wouldnt have been on their 100mb trial.

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Re: Bit off topic, but anyway...

I believe part of the deal with Priory Vale was that BT got an exclusive with the developers - VM didn't get a look in. (Ex-Redhouse here) - that's what the rumours were when I was chatting with the Site Managers during the early stages of the build.

Also, I seem to recall that the cable operators had pretty much stopped laying cable by then. Something about a lack of cash, even though it would be quite cheap to add bucketloads of cable to such new developments.

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Can they be put on the nawty step...

...for the "SuperHub" that isn't "Super" and barely a "Hub"?

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Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

Last house, neighbour cabled up, we couldn't get cable because "computer said no"

Months of phone calls, human comes to have a look, we get cable. 10 months of revenue lost.

New house, chosen because it has cable, told we can have TV service by computer, told we can not have TV service by phone drone. After several attempts to get TV service we give up.

14 months (and counting) revenue lost.

Still get circulars from VM. Sometimes twice a week telling us about their wunnerful service, HD TV included, offering us deep discounts if we sign up as new customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

Are you for real, you seriously decide where you are going to live based on the path of a piece of fibre cable ??

There is more to life that VM

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Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

I also make sure that when I move to a house it has provision for decent internet. I also check the mobile signal too. If im spending 300k on a property then it needs to be more than just pretty with sound construction.

I also wont go for a property with oil fired heating or lack of mains sewerage (septic tanks are a no-no for me).

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Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

@AC - I selected my current place because of fibre and proximity to the exchange. Perhaps the other poster is like me - a telecommuter and the need for reliable broadband is a high priority.

Luckily VM has reliable broadband (when the SuperHub isn't shitting its pants). In the 18 months or so I've had about 2 days of down time; which is more reliable than my corporate ISP! The only flaw in the VM service is that fookin' SuperFlub.

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Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

> you seriously decide where you are going to live based on the path of a piece of fibre cable

Internet connection speed is certainly a factor for me, I can't work from home without a decent connection. Having suffered less than 2Mb/sec ADSL at my last place before it finally got FTTC, I looked up what the likely ADSL speed was before I even looked at the new place. It would have been a non-starter if the connection was crap.

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Windows

Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

"Are you for real"

Very much so. I shift a lot of data upstream on a regular basis at all times of the day and night.

Internet access is *vital* to my work but I don;t want to pay through the nose for SDSL or SLAs

Tried DSL whilst VM were unable make up their mind if they could give us cable or not. It's crap compared.

Still, got a nice house with a huge garden in a very nice area with great neighbours *and* we got cable.

Made from the finest win wouldn't you say?

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Re: Virgin Media Let Down By Tardy Staff

Yup, me too. I'm currently looking for a new place - I'm interested in keeping cable broadband and off street parking, she wants a garden, the kids are after more bedroom space.

Best way to tell is to look for the little 2.5" circular access points in the pavement outside the house.

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Unhappy

see the NTL marketing team have migrated successfully. they used to do this kind of Bullvertising in our area all the time.

As already said, get it in writing.

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You have to wonder....

With all these ASA rulings - seems to be at least one a week - why we haven't heard an announcement saying that the VM head of marketing has resigned....

...unless this is all part of the strategy. The ad is effective enough in the period before the ASA steps in to make it worthwhile.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You have to wonder....

Perhaps they were using Apple maps?

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Paris Hilton

So, who's the least effective?

Tough choice, but if you had to, which would you say was worst:

* ASA

* ICO

* PCC

* OfCom

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Re: So, who's the least effective?

Don't forget Ofgem (the energy 'regulator').

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Re: So, who's the least effective?

The PCC are extremely effective. Best damn regulator that money could buy. Sadly, the money buying it is from its owners, the press... *ahem*

The ASA are OK, I suppose. This particular one isn't really all that bad from Virgin Media. If people are naughty enough, regularly enough, then they have to pre-approve their adverts with the ASA. Which is what happened to French Connection (the company that can't spell fuck).

The ICO are pretty useless, but then they don't have the powers or the resources (their own investigators) to do their job.

So I'd give my vote to Ofcom. They have lots of lovely powers, but seem to prefer to roll over and have their tummy tickled instead of using them.

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Since when do VM let facts get in the way of marketing?

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Lies, all lies.....(and they're not even square)

My daughter recently applied for VM 9 month student broadband at her student residence. Her application was based on 1. Flyers given out in the University, 2. Advertising pamphlets pushed through her letterbox. 3. VM's own website saying that her address was eligible. She spoke to "sales" who gave her an order number and even an installation date. Then nothing.......she then got an email saying that they couldn't install at the address, but did not give any reason. She again spoke to VM sales who told her that her order was good, and the proposed installation was going ahead. I eventually spoke to a "friend of a friend" who works in VM's network management department. He looked into the order and came back with the response that due to this being a "Student Hot-spot" they were already over-subscribed in that area, which was causing problems for their regular non-student customers. Due to this over-subscription they were not taking on any new customers in that area, despite the bombardment of the university and surrounding areas by the sales teams. My daughter then rang up the sales team - they initially denied that the over-subscription was a problem - but could not give another reason for them not going ahead with the installation. It took some persistent questioning from my daughter to eventually get the sales person to admit that VM had no intention of allowing further installations in her area. Ironically, four weeks later, another pamphlet was pushed through her letter box, saying that VM was now doing installations in her area, and to ring the sales bloke on a mobile number!! Sadly she has already signed a contract with O2 so tough luck VM.

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Re: Lies, all lies.....(and they're not even square)

Some things never change - it sounds exactly like the early days of BBand.

Grab the customers money but never spend on actually upgrading the exchange kit.

Then blame it all on B.T.

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Re: Lies, all lies.....(and they're not even square)

It doesn't suprise me, Brighton and Hove where i live for isntance is notorious for slow VM speeds. From what i hear despite promises its still not resolved for all and primarily it is because all the students sign up for these 9/10 month contracts as I always did when i was at uni. It just seems they haven't kept pace in all areas with the ammount people use the service. I know people who had unusable internet at peak times for a period of months as a result of the student effect, its not the students fault, VM need to sort their terms and conditions or their network or both!

On the other hand regarding availability i have found atleast Virgin Media they generally can tell you can get the service in the end, its taken me 3 months to get BT infinity, despite the fact that my neighbours and the flat above us (victorian house conversion) can get it. Its like talking to a brick wall, one rep even offered to add me to a list for when it is available in my area! in the end i sent an email copying in all senior management to get it resolved!

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adverts aside

I kind of feel obliged to put the other side of the coin. was on plusnet but cooper cable was never going to give more than 4meg so actually went into VM store locally. young girl sorted the package out, did a good deal (beat their online offer), then let me listen as she bollocked the engineers who reckoned street wasn't cabled, I particularly remember "if his 2 neighbours are already on it what makes you think he can't you f**kwit". install was done on the day they said and apart from 2 outages of a hour or so in the first 3 months been good for last year since.

last speed test was 48.5 on a 50meg connection.

i know that's not everyone's experience, and used to be happy with plusnet. just wanted more speed...(who doesn't?)

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Re: adverts aside

personally i would rather have reliability over speed. If you can get both then great.

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Re: adverts aside

I thought the same thing until I stayed at a Ramada last night.

Rock solid internet connection that runs at around 10-50k (yes, k).

Took about 4 hours to bring up GMail. Reliability isn't everything.

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FAIL

They're consistent liars

They continually leaflet our house and the 20 others in the close, saying it can be installed in X days. Except their cables don't come down our street. We requested phone and TV from Cambridge Cable 15 years ago when we moved in and they lied and lied and lied and eventually gave up. Cambridge Unable => NTL => Virgin by acquisition and they're still consistently lying; they certainly haven't been round to dig up the street.

If I had the energy I would invite them in for phone and broadband and telly again, adding "time is of the essence" and have fun suing...

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Re: They're consistent liars

They continually leaflet our house and the 20 others in the close, saying it can be installed in X days. Except their cables don't come down our street.

Similar problem. Most of the street has it, but I'm at the end of a 12m private drive, and they could never quite bring themselves to get way-leave to reach my house, even though I did sign up with Cabletel (they owe my £7) and NTL (who sent me a Cable-modem - sent to the dump a few months ago - then had someone show up to ask why we had cancelled, and they couldn't handle the fact that we hadn't, but now presumed that they had, which they had).

I still get all the promotional stuff from Virgin. I e-mailed them several months ago pointing out that they don't have a cable running to my property. No comment from them - I still get the promotional blurb.

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People beleived leaflets put through their door?

I had one, from a company offering to build me a conservatory, put through the door of my second floor flat.

I was tempted to reply just to see where they planned to put it.

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Re: People beleived leaflets put through their door?

Or the double glazing leaflets on brand new houses that come, by default, with double glazing. Most of those leaflets are contracted out to folks stuffing letterboxes in a given area/postcode. They don't give a monkeys as to "appropriate" distribution.

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Re: People beleived leaflets put through their door?

I'm sure I've seen a first or second floor conservatory on the flat roof of the extension underneath... Goodness only knows how they complied with regs on floor strength...

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Re: People beleived leaflets put through their door?

I get junk mail from Virgin Media about once a week. My record for getting it from the letter box to the recycling bin is about 9s. If I see the postie coming it doesn't even touch the mat.

Actually my predecessors here had Cable Corp (later Telewest and then VM) and I could have taken it on but they wanted 7 days to update the account so I reverted to BT.

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this is not new, they've been commiting this offence for years and have never changed despite complaints and rulings such as this. they'll do nothing different as all they do is pay some muppets to mail-shot for them.

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