Nicole Kobie-Posted on 30 Oct 2013 - PCpro .co.uk
Virgin Media has again been told off by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over data caps on its "unlimited" broadband - and has again updated its traffic management policy to pacify the watchdog.
BT and Sky both complained to the ASA about marketing material promoting Virgin Media's "unlimited" services, which promises the ability to "download and browse as much as you like with no caps".
The advertisements were for Virgin's cable broadband, which is subject to a traffic management policy (TMP) that limits downloads during peak usage time. Virgin altered that policy in April after complaints from the ASA. Under the changes, any customer who exceeded the cap would see speeds cut by 30% for the first hour; if they keep exceeding the download allowance, their speed would be cut by a further 10% for another hour.
Who are the real conmen? The ISPs or the ASA?
The ASA allows broadband companies to use the word "unlimited" to describe connections with caps and controls, so long as they are deemed "moderate" - but it hasn't explained what exactly that means.
Virgin argued that data from uSwitch and Ofcom showed most broadband users - regardless of ISP - see a slowdown of 35% at peak times regardless of traffic management, making its policy "moderate" and therefore meaning the "unlimited" claims in its ads weren't misleading.
The ASA disagreed, saying that looking at Ofcom's data across all connection types suggested a maximum slowdown between 6% and 16% - and "therefore considered that a TMP which saw speed reduced by 30%... was not moderate". It banned Virgin from running the ads again.
In reaction, Virgin last week rejigged its traffic management policy, and now cuts download speeds by 10% for the first hour when a user surpasses the peak-period data caps and 16% for the second hour.
Upload speed cuts have been reduced from 60% for the first hour and 75% for the second, to 50% and 65% respectively. The actual data caps themselves have remained the same, at 2.7GB for the first hour in peak times.
"The ASA has finally clarified what it believes to be moderate traffic management so we’re updating our policy and millions of UK homes continue to do more with Virgin Media than with any other provider thanks to our unbeatable, superfast broadband," said Joe Lathan, broadband director at Virgin Media. "However, it makes little sense to set the bar at 16% while our competitors routinely deliver speeds 50% slower than they claim."
Virgin has previously said that only 2.3% of its users are affected by traffic management.