Virgin Media whines about Sky's customer service claims, ad watchdog agrees

There's best, and then there's 'best'

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It's been a quiet year for ISPs being placed on the naughty step by the UK's advertising watchdog. But today, Sky has been admonished for making misleading and unsubstantiated claims about its customer service.

Rival Virgin Media successfully challenged the methodology used by Sky, in which it had boasted that it offered "superior customer service" over its competitors.

Sky's claims came in a press ad from May this year, which stated: "Best customer service Sky Broadband and Talk Best for combined overall customer service, compared with BT, Virgin and TalkTalk Ofcom Report, Dec 2014".

The ISP also claimed on its website that it had the "best over all customer service", citing the same Ofcom figures.

However, Virgin Media whinged to the Advertising Standards Authority that Sky had stitched together two separate customer service metrics.

It argued that the claims relating to superior customer service were spurious and could not be verified because Sky had failed to "make clear the basis of the comparison". VM added that the methodology used by Sky was "flawed".

The ASA agreed with Virgin Media and upheld part its complaint against Sky. The regulator said:

We understood from the Ofcom report that, where customers had contacted their provider about an issue relating to both landline and broadband, this had been included in both the separate landline and broadband metrics.

As such, if the metrics were combined, rather than a new figure produced from the raw data, some responses would have been duplicated and the figures distorted.

Because we understood the methodology used to combine the metrics, in both ads, was insufficiently robust and because we did not consider that the claims made sufficiently clear the basis of the comparison, especially in ad (a) [the press ad], we concluded that the ads were misleading.

Sky was told that the ads must not appear again in their current form and was warned not to use wonky methodology in future advertising campaigns.

Virgin Media had also griped to the ASA about the alleged implication from the ads that "Sky had higher customer service scores for broadband." However, the watchdog rejected that complaint. ®

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