back to article Virgin Media spanked by ad watchdog over 'in your neighbourhood' fibs

Virgin Media is on the naughty step with the UK's advertising watchdog, after wrongly claiming in two separate circulars that its broadband service was available in areas where the ad was posted through people's letterboxes. Two complainants successfully refuted the telco's fibs, after taking their gripes to the Advertising …

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This sounds familiar.

At one point I was trying to get connected to their services for internet access only to find that - according to the engineer - the cable to my house had been broken. They're currently refusing to fix it, and they're definitely aware of it as I have talked to them about trying to get it fixed (this was before abandoning them as an option). Despite knowing that they can't connect me they have still insisted in the past on sending out flyers to my home telling me that I can get their services.

They really do need to pay more attention to detail. Apart from anything else it's a waste of their time as well as mine to send me adverts for services that I can't use.

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Same here - except we live in one of the two houses on the street for which connecting a cable is apparently impossible (it seems neither of the adjacent street cabinets' tendrils reaches quite far enough). Still get junk-mailed on a regular basis though.

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Same in the property we previously lived in. BT line quality was dreadful there, so I checked with Virgin. Their online checker said: good to go. Called them just to find out that it was apparently not possible to have it, however. Some wishy-washy reason was given. Interestingly the neighbours upstairs and at least one neighbour to either the left or right had it (according to wireless SSIDs being broadcast). But we couldn't have it. Still we received flyers saying that it was available to us too. So I called them again a few weeks later, same outcome.

I have to conclude that they could possibly connect us, but it would have caused extra work for them. Given their cheap rates, any manual labour (including in-depth investigation why neighbours upstairs can and we can't have it) is apparently too much to ask.

Sooner or later, people move houses, and they will remember the lousy service before deciding who to get broadband from. In the new place we can have it, but... no thanks.

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FAIL

Its' not just at house or street level that Virgin have a track record of mis-advertising availability to. A year or so again Virgin undertook a big campaign in my small town telling us that Virgin fibre had arrived, including mail flyers, posters and full page adverts in the local paper. Unfortunately, they were actually laying fibre to another town with the same name about 150 miles away

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DJV
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Facepalm

@NightFox

Ah, they'd probably been using Apple's Map app!

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Mushroom

Typical VM Behaviour == Not Surprised

They are doing the same in my street.

As one of the refusenicks, I am glad that I am. I get a whole FTTC fibre to myself. The more suckers who are prepared to pay more than £500/pa for the VM service the better as far as I'm concerned.

Icon -------------> What I'd like to do the the VM building in Hook.

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Re: Typical VM Behaviour == Not Surprised

@Steve Davies 3 - "I get a whole FTTC fibre to myself."

As I'm largely unfamiliar, may I ask how you are able to do that and through which company's serivces?

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Unsuprising

Typical!

I get mailings from them offering me broadband despite already being signed up so this is hardly new.

Virgin seem to have OCD which requires them to spam mail every address they can get hold of, its about time someone slapped them.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unsuprising

Don't think VM are ever targetting indivudals with these spam mails ... it will be more of a case of them using a Royal Mail service which will deliver flyers to every address in a set of postcodes... we also get regular invitations to join - despite having been VM (and before that telewest and even UA) subscribers since cable first arrived outside our door.

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It's not just the lies

It's the constant stream of spam they feed through my letterbox offering me new customer deals.

What's even worse is that I'm already a subscriber!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's not just the lies

BT is just as bad. For years, it seems, they have been spamming me about their bleeding "Infinity", saying I can now get "super fast broadband". This turns out to be FTTC, which I have been enjoying for 2 years through my excellent ISP Dark Group (alias fast.co.uk). I may have to use BT's infrastructure, but this way I get decent service too.

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It's Virgin

This is the company that promises unlimited downloads, and then cripples your stream if you exceed their limit - but still claim that as they don't stop your downloads their limits don't count as limits

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Re: It's Virgin

"then cripples your stream if you exceed their limit"

To balance that, at least from my point of view, even if I do manage to hit their cap, the throttled speed is still way faster than anything I can get via a BT line in this area.

I do get Sky reps knocking on the door every few months claiming I can get super fast speeds from them. They never actually mention Infinity or FTTC, which is just as well as it's not available here and won't be for at least a year or two at a minimum, so the chances of them matching my current 60Mb/s is laughable.

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Moved houses recently and Virgin offered us a bandwidth increase to ensure we continued with them. They kept saying all was well and arranged for a time/date to set it up. One day before, a virgin van came along, checked our premises and then we got a call - no connection possible as they'd have to lay a 15m cable to connect our house. This after we were assured that we would be connected - and I work from home, so this was probably as close to a disaster as it could get. Went for an ADSL with Plusnet (which for some reason Virgin didnt even offer).

Yup, received a flyer yesterday saying - VM is in the neighbourhood!

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Spammers.

Is what they'd be referred to if they sent as much shite via email as they do via the postie.

This now gets labelled "return to sender" and bunged back in the post.

Maybe if more people did this with persistant junk mail they'd get the message.

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Re: Spammers.

You can opt out of unaddressed mail through Royal Mail, however as Virmin address theirs to 'The Occupier' these will be delivered as -

"Royal Mail is still legally obliged to deliver all addressed mail, which includes mail that is addressed “To the Occupier” (or with any other generic recipient information), as well as mail that is personally addressed to you by name."

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Re: Spammers.

Been Registered with the Mailing Preference Service since we moved in almost ten years ago.

But as you say, it doesn't stop the "The Occupier" shite.

Hence the 'return to sender' approach.

Also check out stopjunkmail <http://www.stopjunkmail.org.uk/default.php>

Useful advice and tips...

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Re: Spammers.

A couple of points here:

1) I looked opting out, but you have to re-register every year. I couldn't be bothered.

2) Also regarding the "Occupier" addressed stuff. There is a problem here because some legal papers (such as eviction notices) must be sent addressed to the occupier, in case the house is sub-let.

You wouldn't want the Royal Mail trying to tell the difference!

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Re: Spammers.

Also Re: "The Occupier", the regular Electoral Register mailings are addressed this way, as are Census forms.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Spammers.

About a decade ago I once did a couple of days working with a 'Direct Marketing company'. Essentially putting things like balloons and the like into addressed envelopes that would be sent with the very spammy messages from the company's customers.

I felt so dirty knowing I was building spam for spammers. I wondered if that feeling is a bit like how those working in armies committing warcrimes felt "I was only following orders"

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Re: Spammers. @Bert 1

2) Also regarding the "Occupier" addressed stuff. There is a problem here because some legal papers (such as eviction notices) must be sent addressed to the occupier, in case the house is sub-let.

All very well, but shouldn't the sender still be under some sort of obligation to not do this unless absolutely necessary? I find it difficult to believe that junk mail would fall into this category when they've been told by those living at the address to stop sending them stuff that they'll never want to respond to.

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Re: Spammers. @Bert 1

That might even work...

You'd still have to deliver everything, but could mandate that it must be used for official purposes, or limited numbers of houses.

Official Purposes = From Council / Government / Utility (Grey area though that one, 'cos is Internet a utility yet?), or from anyone to a single (or small number of) house.

Limited area = Say 10 houses.

There could be circumstances where you need to break these rules, but if this is reported and arbitrated before any sanctions, it's all good.

Royal mail could then effectively report any potential breaches for arbitration.

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WTF?

Some people have too much time on their hands.

I haven't had one of these flyers, but if I did would I :-

1) Put it in the bin

2) Contact the Advertising Standards Authority to complain about it.

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Re: Some people have too much time on their hands.

3) Comment about it on a website, slagging those who chose option 2

Since, as you say, you've never even had one of these leaflets, your ratio of time spent to time wasted by Virgin is now infinitely higher than the two people who chose to contact the ASA.

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I, and presumably everyone else in the village, regularly get unaddressed flyers from Virgin Media.

Their nearest fibre connection is over 3 miles away.

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Something to do with R. Branson Esq. involving bare faced lies?

Shurley shum mishtake.

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False Bonhomie

Quite apart from all the other complaints about VM, I'm sick of their false matey bonhomie when you have the temerity to e-mail or tweet them about problems or issues with your service. I don't want to be your fucking friend, just fix the service I pay you good money for and give me a bit more respect.

That is all.

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Re: False Bonhomie

"It looks like you're writing a letter..."

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Anonymous Coward

And what can anyone do (ESPECIALLY ASA), when its only a slap on the wrist and the show goes on?

Except, making it another news item for people to moan their personal experiences.

Next time ,it will be BT and TT and Sky being slapped on the wrist. Its an annual charade , but no substance either way for the offenders and watchdogs.

Its a bit like asking:

Q " Can I screw your wife? "

A: No you absolutey cant.

Q: Tough, I just screwed her !

A; Thank you for informing me, but please dont do it again.

Until next time. taaraa.

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Woah woah woah ....

....... now just hang on a minute. Those huge glossy VM leaflets are fantastic for putting my take-away curry on. Saves me a fortune in paper towels so don't stop them. The occupier envelopes usually get stuffed with other letterbox crap and re-posted as a few others do.

As for the ASA, if they can't fine them why not ban them from advertising on that medium for a month, adding a month for each subsequent breach on that medium.

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Re: Woah woah woah ....

True. Those glossy junk mail stacks make smashing fire lighters. Send them my way.

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"in your area" billboards outside their franchise areas

The way that the cable franchise areas were originally set up led to large chunks not actually being allocated to a cable operator. Big digs and lots of civils work in the early 1990s meant they multitude of little cable companies could never pay back the expenditure, they slowly got merged into what became Virgin Media, who have had no major new network build-outs in their areas for about 16 years now.

If you are outside the old franchise areas, forget it. They're not coming, even if they erect enormous billboard adverts saying they are here.

I used to live in a franchise area, but they refused installation because my flat was more than five metres from the street junction. Now I live a hundred or so metres outside the old franchise area (as the crow flies, but no cable in the street). Again, no chance.

I knew this, but I still found time to waste the 25 minutes time of their salespeople replying to an addressed (to the property) flyer, and suggested they should only send such stuff out in streets that they have actually cabled.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "in your area" billboards outside their franchise areas

"...Virgin Media, who have had no major new network build-outs in their areas for about 16 years now.

If you are outside the old franchise areas, forget it. They're not coming, even if they erect enormous billboard adverts saying they are here."

They are still extending their network. It's nothing like the main builds of the 90's, but the more isolated towns are being scheduled for cabling, and Virgin are slowly, methodically, filling in the gaps. After the towns, they've got some of the larger villages to reach but from what I recall, there is a minimum population denisty to which they're required to provide service. It was all set out in phases, back in the 90's. There is a deadline for each phase - not sure if Virgin have hit or missed any targets, but they have to at least show they're making a reasonable effort to achieve them else they get the license pulled.

And as for the billboards: I'd blame marketting and sales. They tend to rush in to new build areas without bothering to check if the service is ready or the houses they're sending flyers to are able to receive service. This happened to my brother early last year: Flyers, sales calls, the usual annoyance, then an admission that the estate is still private and although they *would* be going past the entrance to the estate, they wouldn't be able to spur off as they don't have permission from the land owners. Of cause, the cable wasn't laid along the main road until late November, months after all the sales and marketting took place...

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Slightly less misleading paper spam nowadays

They used to disguise it completely so you were tempted to go to the trouble of opening it to see what it was. Nowadays I see they are admitting on the envelope what is inside. Whether they were forced to do that or decided their devious methods were counterproductive I don't know.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Slightly less misleading paper spam nowadays

Half the time, it is in tiny print on the back of the envelope though.

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WTF?

This isn't advertising.....

It's shooting yourself in the foot.

Advertising a service to people who can't get it is just going to piss them off?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This isn't advertising.....

On the bright side, at least they're not potential customers...

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I'd rather not get spam from them. Period.

Forget misleading ads. I'd rather not get any mailers in my letterbox from them, period.

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Useless ASA

Yet again the ASA step in way too late and do absolutely nothing to discourage similar acts in future. As a minimum they should be able to force Virgin to distribute a retraction containing the true coverage figures and actual percentage share for each neighbourhood to every household that the original campaign covered (4 times over in my case).

A further step would be to allow anyone who received this advert and signed up with Virgin to terminate their contract with no penalty as they were potentially misled.

Both these measures would serve to undo the advantages gained from the false advertising without recourse to punitive measures such as fines which some companies could just shrug off as cost of advertising. I have seen no improvement in the standard of advertising under the auspices of the ASA, hence regard them as a complete waste of space.

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Cheaper to spam the whole postcode than actually figure out who can get it.

All direct advertising should be banned frankly.

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Of course...

..it's not called 'Advertising' these days, it's "Marketing", dahling.

Or as the cunts on the phone call it, a "marketing SURVEY", which lets them get round the flimsy 'rules' of the Telephone Preference service. (I used to suggest that they might perhaps like to fuck off, then hang up, but now I just lay the phone down and let them dribble on until I can hear the disconnect tone...)

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Devil

Re: Of course...

"..it's not called 'Advertising' these days, it's "Marketing", dahling."

Ah, yes, "marketing".

The art of getting idiots who cannot think for themselves to buy stuff they neither want , need or can afford.

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Returning to their old tricks

When you refer to Virgin Media and poor standards, I take it you mean "the company formally known as NTL", whose band bacame so toxic it had to be dumped. Seems like their PHBs just took a few years' sabbatical

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Re: Returning to their old tricks

"Seems like their PHBs just took a few years' sabbatical"

Don't forget, it's owned by Liberty Media now. As in most takeovers, the buyers want as quick an ROI as possible.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sysconfig

Having worked in the planning department for Cable pre-Virgin days, I might have an idea as to why:

SID is the most common type of duct used to run cables from a cabinet to a house. SID = String In Duct. Each duct can take a pre-determined number of cables. If the duct to your property is full then they can't run a new cable out to you without remedial works (dig up the road, lay a new duct, run the new cable), and *that* requires there is sufficient capacity in the cabinet to connect you up (which there usually is). This is expensive, especially for one property, and it requires permission from the council to carry out the works (it's not classed as emergency work else they could just go in and dig).

Now the reason why the duct could be full is a) broken string - reduces the number of cables that can be pulled through that duct as the installers don't bother to run a replacement string through the duct along with the cable or there wasn't another string available and they had to abandon the install, b) flats were incorrectly identified as houses during planning and so there wasn't sufficient provision made, or (more commonly) c) houses have been converted to flats, each with their own address after the ducting was laid. C tends to lead to one flat getting service and blocking another flat from getting service.

This will all be noted on the system so sales will know they can't provide service to that address. However, marketting either can't or don't check or filter out such addresses and so when fliers are sent, they'll go to buildings that can't recieve service.

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I send their crap back into the system

Whenever I get an anonymous letter with the stamp "Delivered By Royal Mail" I drop it in the nearest post box. Maybe if the whole nation were at it we'd waste enough of the sender's money that they stop that approach.

Similar tactics are used with estate agents who keep asking if I want to sell my house.

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Not really bothered....

To be honest years ago I'd have put up with all the crap service in the world for anything over 512Kb but as has been noted, VM didn't bother carling my town (pop 80,000). Much as we might moan about BT and the way the governments broadband spend has been/is being spent, wherever you are in the country it seems you're far more likely to see the arrival of VDSL FTTC via OpenReach or 4G fixed data terminals than ever seeing a new VM connection .

Virgin had a window during which they could have made big inroads but financials and a biblical level of mismanagement (Barclay Knapp anyone?) mean that time has now long passed.

VDSL (and 4G) give improved upload performance and feel like technologies in the ascendency. Add to that a mix of mainstream and niche resellers with USPs that provide service level/cost option and it leaves Virgin's cable network looking dilapidated, under invested, littered with broken ducts and cabs and overloaded.

I don't see VM growing to any great extent, just using the existing deteriorating network as a cash cow to milk punters in the shrinking non-VDSL/4G areas.

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Anonymous Coward

VM can kiss my royal behind

Seems like every week my letterbox rattles with a VM junk letter telling me I can get this & that from them, when I can only get a DSL service via them (if I wanted it!). As one of 4 houses in the street that are not VM cabled, the area still gets hit with this junk (most are already with them anyway leaving the NEWLY fibred exchange & connected FTTC all to myself - just like someone else has posted!). I collared an OpenReach engineer working on the cabinet & asked him how many fibre connections there were. His response? Just the one (mine!). SKY are giving me unlimited fibre for the same as I was paying for DSL so I don't mind one little bit :)

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Yep - they do it to me too

I (and the whole of my estate) keep getting the flyers about how wonderful and fast Virgin Media is. Except that they didn't cable my estate. Even though their cable runs a mere 15metres or so from my house, I am not served. Yet every month they mailshot me to remind me.... grrr.

Should be getting OpenReach's FTTC in the autumn though.

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