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'Misleading' Usain Bolt Virgin Media Advert Under Attack Again

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This is the third time the Virgin Media campaign has come in for criticism
This is the third time the Virgin Media campaign has come in for criticism

A Virgin Media campaign featuring Usain Bolt has attracted a third round of complaints, this time over misleading claims about doubling "everyone's" broadband speeds.

The online ads showed champion sprinter Bolt impersonating Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson by saying: "Hi, I'm Richard Branson and I'm doubling everyone's broadband speeds", and then: "My customers already have the UK's fastest broadband, but they'd get a lot more enjoyment out of it if I doubled their speeds. So that's what I'm going to do for over four million Virgin Broadband customers. Because I can. See when I'm doubling yours."

Small print stated that the offer applied only to cabled areas and added that "100Mb customers will see price cut instead of speed doubling".

BSkyB and two members of the public complained that the ads were misleading because the exclusions contradicted the headline of the ad.

Virgin Media said all existing 100Mb customers were notified that their speed would not be doubled while the ad also made it clear that the speed doubling programme would take 18 months to complete.

But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form, saying: "We told Virgin not to imply they were affecting the service of all their consumers if this was not the case."

A Virgin Media spokeswoman said: "We're doubling broadband speeds for over four million UK households and boosting all our 100Mb customers to 120Mb.

"We've proactively communicated details of the 100Mb speed boost, and accompanying reduction in the monthly subscription, to all our customers directly and within this online ad, but will make sure that we're even clearer about how we're bringing some of the UK's fastest broadband to Virgin Media customers."

In April the ASA criticised Virgin Media for using fine print that was so small it was impossible to read in a national newspaper campaign featuring Bolt and the strapline "Faster for a fiver".

In May the watchdog ruled an ad from the same campaign was misleading for failing to include compulsory line rental in the quoted headline price of a telecoms package.

This ruling was later pulled pending an independent review.