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Tougher approach to broadband adverts

Tougher approach to broadband adverts

Category: Broadband

Updated: 04/05/2016
First Published: 04/05/2016

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Do you understand broadband adverts, or more specifically, how much you'll actually have to pay for the advertised deal? If not, you're not alone – joint research from Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had previously found that such adverts were misleading, and now, tougher rules are set to come into force.

The problem

The research found that the current approach to presenting prices in fixed broadband ads was likely to confuse customers, with claims often being misleading. As a result, few respondents were able to identify the true cost of a broadband deal from the advert shown, with the various different elements shown (such as broadband itself, the introductory offer, line rental, contract length and one-off costs) often proving difficult to calculate.

Indeed, only 23% of participants could correctly identify the total cost per month after the first viewing of the ad, and 22% were still not able to do so even after a second viewing. In fact, overall, 81% of participants were unable to calculate correctly the total cost of a broadband contract when asked to do so, which highlights the difficulty many consumers are facing.

The end of misleading ads?

As a result of the research, the ASA had been engaging with the industry and consumer groups alike to seek feedback on ways to address the issues identified, with the aim being to agree on a new approach to pricing. Well, the organisation has now confirmed that it's strengthening its approach to fixed broadband price claims, which should hopefully prevent customers from being misled in the future.

The new approach will come into force on 31 October 2016, after which time the current style of broadband advertising is likely to break the rules. Going forwards, the ASA recommends that broadband ads that include price claims should abide by the following guidelines:

  • They should show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs, without separating out line rental.
  • Greater prominence should be given to the contract length and any post-discount pricing.
  • Up-front costs should be clearly highlighted.

Chief executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, commented on the announcement:

"We recognise the importance of broadband services to people's lives at work and at home. The findings of our research, and other factors we took into account, showed that the way prices have been presented in broadband ads is likely to confuse and mislead customers.

"This new tougher approach has been developed to make sure consumers are not misled and get the information they need to make well-informed choices. We'll support the broadband industry as they move towards changing their approach in time for the October 31 deadline."

What next?

The rules may not be coming into force just yet, but that doesn't mean you should put up with misleading adverts. If you're in the market for a new deal, make sure to research the options thoroughly – ideally by using our broadband comparison tool – so you'll know exactly what you're getting for your money.

Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.