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back to article Virgin Media's 'little(ish)' book of deals contained BIG FIBS, rules ad watchdog

Virgin Media has been walloped by Britain's advertising watchdog for failing to clearly explain that a half-price deal it was flogging did not apply to line rental. A complaint about a direct mailing promotion that came loaded with a "little(ish) book" of offers was upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority, which concluded …

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They are slimy

Just like the offer to upgrade my STB to a V+ HD for £20... plus £49.99 installation, which is only mentioned at checkout time. Of course there is the small print somewhere in one of the web pages but you've got to go looking for it.

And there's other things like the ability to upgrade a package online, but not downgrade, mission info about TV M, only M+ etc. etc.

If the broadband wasn't so good and the "loyalty discount" sufficient, I'd be off.

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Re: They are slimy

Broadband is fast but even with a rock solid fibre optic network they still manage to have network outages lasting several hours at a time, at least as frequently as DSL providers. I'd rather have something slower where I can actually do stuff more of the time.

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@ Arnold...

Be off to whom though? They are all as slimy as each other.

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Re: @ Arnold...

Yup, you're right. Choice is between the devil and the deep blue sea.

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Re: @ Arnold...

Quite right. BT caught me like that a few years ago.

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FAIL

They're all as bad as each other

IMHO no telecoms firm should be able to claim you "can get internet for just £12 a month", for example, if you need to pay £14.99 a month on top of that for the line rental that allows you to take advantage of the offer. In my example the cost to the customer is clearly £24.99 not £12, even if you do get a redundant landline thrown into the deal.

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Headmaster

Re: They're all as bad as each other

I've reported you to the ASA.

Your example of £12/month and £14.99/month line rental comes to £26.99/month.

I didn't notice any small print indicating the difference.

Hopefully the icon covers any questions...

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Re: They're all as bad as each other

Hah! Well, you're probably telling porkies anyway ;-)

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In all fairness

I get internet only for £11.25 plus fees charges and credits(?) bringing it to £13. The service is good but a paper bill costing me £1.75 smacks of the Chinese sending out bills for bullets to the next of kin for executing their only children.

There again, someone has to pay for all the small books they send out as spam.

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Ooh, Virgin Media get told off again.

They must tremble at the mighty power of the ASA...

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Coat

Why no naked broadband in the UK?

Not that it would make these providers any less slimy...

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Re: Why no naked broadband in the UK?

I pay Virgin £25 a month for 30Mb broadband, no TV and phone thrown in (my TV is freesat and my phone is SIP). It works pretty well but it's not immediately obvious from their marketing that it is possible to do, presumably because doing the triple play thing is much more profitable.

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Re: Why no naked broadband in the UK?

As said Virgin Media do offer Broadband only, however those using the phone network can't. Thing is, you'd have to pay some kind of line rental on a BB only line for maintenance etc, it's just you'd end up paying it as part of the overall package cost (see Standing charge vs. no standing charge on electricity supplies)

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Re: Why no naked broadband in the UK?

Id love to know how you managed that as I'm paying £34 for just broadband and phone,I dont own or use a TV and that's after all the "loyalty" discounts they say I'm getting !

I even migrated my virgin mobile to Ovivomobiles freedom plan to keep costs to a minimum.

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Re: Why no naked broadband in the UK?

@uksnapper - If you're talking to me, the £25 deal for just broadband isn't a special offer, it's on their site. Setting up a SIP phone is fiddly but fine if you're even vaguely capable of following an online guide (I got a Linksys VOIP box for my existing phone handset and a new router that did QoS for about £100 all in, and ported my Virgin number to SipGate, but if you just want to try it out most mobile phones can do SIP) and it brought down my phone bill from £15ish a month to £5 every three or four months, with added "premium" features like caller ID and an email-voicemail for nowt. Definitely worth a look.

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ASA - still a waste of space

A slap on the wrist and don't do it again, while the perpetrator has long since moved on to the next scam. How about some proper enforcement like making companies provide what they advertise? In this case, half price line rental. But the ASA is a toothless, industry lapdog that allows broadband to be sold as "unlimited" when the opposite is true, with speeds of "up to" X mb that most punters get half way to achieving.

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Re: ASA - still a waste of space

I think the fines are stupid.

The ASA should be able to compel the offending company to publish at its own cost the ASA's ruling. This must appear in the same locations and for the same time as the original offending advert.

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Re: ASA - still a waste of space

The fines themselves are laughable, that's true.

But ASA gets this mentioned in the press. Which teaches people to be aware of the small print and other little things to be aware of in future advertising. Making it harder for cretins to try and pull similar stunts.

Not perfect, but not completely toothless either.

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Re: ASA - still a waste of space - Scrap it.

The ASA is an useless organisation, but it should be scrapped. If the public can't work out that unlimited is a marketing gimmick and that there is no such thing as a free lunch, the attitude and actions just perpetuate the problem. The ASA should be exterminated and the public allowed to learn from their mistakes that adverts are always lies.

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Anonymous Coward

Virgin Media was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form

which is allright, because the littish book(let) of lies was a one-off ad project, and it has already been delivered to the marks, job done.

p.s. I bet they're now working on an entirely different format, which will come in the form of a "teeny-weeny box of prezzies". And everybody's happy: they run the ad campaign, the ASA can claim they did they own job by telling them to stop, thus proving the reason ASA's own existence (aka budget funding), the other lying (...), i.e. virgin competitors protest (while, in the meantime, churning out own lies in their own campaigns), and yeah, the customer is the happiest of all, to see justice having been served yet again.

Next week in the news: ASA slaps BT for misleading advertising. The week after: ASA tells Sky that their current campaign can not be run in the current format. Who's round is it going to be after that in this merry-go-round?

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Anonymous Coward

"Sorry, your home isn't in a Virgin Media area

We've checked your postcode and unfortunately we can't bring you any Virgin Broadband, TV or home phone services."

London, Zone 3.

I doubt they'll ever bother now, but without expanding their fibre network I don't see how they will compete in the long-run, unless widely available fast wireless or satellite catches on (speed and price).

(AC as location kinda)

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Same here in Preston. The annoying thing is the next street on one side can get it, so can the next but one on the other side, as can the rest of the neighbourhood. When they came round to install the network in the early nineties they saw our road and the next one had under-pavement service ducts fitted when the estate was built and so there was no need to dig them up.

The only problem was there was a restrictive covenant on them and were BT-only for the first ten years or so (the estate itself dates from the early 80s). They explained at the time "We're going to come back in a couple of years to cable up your street when that covenant runs out".

Well, that was twenty years ago. They've still not come back.

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Virgin should offer deals without phone

Virgin have a huge advantage over all the DSL providers in that they can provide broadband without a phone line. They should make more of this with deals for Internet only or Internet+TV+mobile which would suit loads of people far better than having to pay for redundant a land line.

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Re: Virgin should offer deals without phone

I asked them about that; they said 'no'. That was just over a year ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Virgin should offer deals without phone

I think their idea is that if they make the broadband + phone line cheaper than VM broadband + BT/whoever phone line then you'll go for their combo deal and ditch the BT line. Result is that they've then managed to greatly increase the barrier to switch away since if you want to go back to a phone line based ADSL broadband then you'll probably need to pay to get the BT line reconected/restablished

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Re: Virgin should offer deals without phone

Most of the time the Openreach/BT line is simply disabled at the exchange end and you can negotiate your way out of the reconnection fee.

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Not just VM of course

...but VM, being one of the big players, are a bunch of cretins when it comes to making clear what is available and for what cost - it's always about upselling to the next price tier which inevitably gives little or no benefits to the customer.

However the worst I've seen recently is a BT fibre ad which claimed that it was something like £12.99 per month. Except when you read the small print when you find that this is excluding £14.99 line rental and after six months the price will rise to £24 per month and after an arbitrary fourteen months it rises to £28 per month - all with the £14.99/m line rental on top. (the prices and times are from memory and are wrong, but it's the cretinous principle that's the point).

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Ca'n't see ISP/TV provider/Phone provider paradigm lasting

I'm a VM customer under protest. The Broadband is stunning (never had an outage, and speeds are amazing - even on the cheapo package).

But then on the TV offering, they somehow trumpet being able to pay extra to Netflix as a bonus. Presumably that's why there's no Lovefilm app (no problem, my TV *does* have access to Lovefilm. Ironically down my VM broadband). And that's before you start getting to the Sky stuff they can't show.

Life used to be simple. You'd pay your license fee. When cable came along, it was fair to pay your cable company. Not too much hassle.

Now it's pay VM, pay Lovefilm, pay Netflix, pay Sky .... sorry, for me it's *easier* to find the torrent/NZB and get it using the VM broadband.

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Said it before...

....and I'll say it again. Fines are pointless and saying 'stop using the advert' is always too late in the day.

The only way for the ASA to be anything but nominal is that when an advert breaches the code, the company is banned from advertising for the period the offending advert was in use.

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Virgin Media has been walloped by Britain's advertising watchdog!

Awesome! Finally the ASA has taken a firm hand with blatant lies in advertising!

"Virgin Media was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form."

Oh :( That was a bit of a let down.

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Last time I looked...

Which was about June time, Virgin were offering 30Mb BB only (i.e. without the need for line rental) for about £23. Which ironically was pretty much the same as the best deal they were doing with line rental.

I think they should be forced to state "line rental" as what it really is - which is actually a standing charge.

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FAIL

The ASA

Should impose a refund on the customers that all those who signed up for the deal to get the line rental at 7.50 month or the cash from VM

Then tell all ISPs "When you quote a price on your sales blurbs, it must include line rental/other charges that apply, so that a 8 quid a month BB deal with 15 quid line rental must be published as 23 quid a month"

But then I've always been a bit of a dreamer.....

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Re: The ASA

They sort of did that with the bottom-feeder airlines. The ones that splashed "Benidorm for £1!!!" on their front page. Except when you got to the checkout it had risen to fifty or sixty pounds. Still cheap but not what was promised. Now they have to include all taxes, booking fees, credit card fees, fuel charges, luggage fees, pilot surcharge, oxygen mask rental, window use fee, engine surcharge and so on in the splash price.

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Anonymous Coward

I've been with VM from 2010 and generally impressed with their Fiber speeds. Their customer service is not that bad either (Tip: go for the web chat for quick resolution).

But I'll never, ever trust their 'offers' or the sales team. If you're getting a 'special' offer, keep checking the bills for the first couple of months and they'll most definitely get it wrong. The recurring discounts can vanish after the first month.

Anyway, now I'm happy with a really good deal from the Outbound Loyalty team. 120Mbps Fiber, M+ telly with 1TB Tivo HD, M telephone and line rental >> for £25.49/month.

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that is an unreal deal!!

i am on 120Mb, xxxlTV, phone and i get charged £85 pm

how the devil???

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Unreal deal!

He's right - that is a cracking deal.

I've just talked them into 30Meg internet, TV XL with a TiVo box and a second 'normal' HD box for £38 a month, and paid the line rental up-front to get the £60 saving so it's only £120 for the year...

I thought I'd got a good deal but now I'm not so sure!

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All are lies.

In that supposed name of competition out watchdog is usually a poodle.

These companies should not be allowed to the compulsory unbundle line rental from the price.

Seems to me our watchdog is as useless as Ofcom.

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The biggest problem with VM's mailshot advertising is that they persist in sending this shit out to addresses that can't receive their service and which VM have no plans to serve in future. "Wasting people's time" is not an offence the ASA deal with, but they should.

On the subject of which why does VM's much trumpeted fibre network seem to be the slowest growing in the country? If it's growing at all.

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They even send it out to people who already pay for their service, which is a bit annoying (especially when these "amazing" deals aren't applicable to existing customers - "look how little we appreciate your business, sucker!") ;-)

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