Broadband ads ‘confuse and mislead’ consumers about ‘true cost’

20 January 2016

Broadband adverts have been slammed as “likely to confuse and mislead consumers about the true cost of broadband deals”.

Joint research commissioned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and communications regulator, Ofcom, reveals that the approach typically taken by advertisers – where prices for several elements of the offer such as broadband, introductory offers, and line rental, are presented separately – is likely to mislead consumers about the true cost.

The regulators found that on viewing an advert, 64% of participants surveyed couldn’t calculate the total broadband cost per month and thought the headline price for the broadband element of a package constituted the total cost per month and that line rental costs did not apply.

Meanwhile 81% of the sample were unable to correctly work out the total cost of the broadband contract, while 74% believed the information about one-off and on-going costs after an introductory period was either fairly or very unclear.

As a result, the ASA says it will engage with broadband providers to bring about change in how they advertise by 30 May 2016.

It’s unclear yet whether these will simply be guidelines or enforceable rules, but the ASA says it will suggest broadband providers advertise:

  • All-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out of line rental.
  • Greater prominence on the contract length and any post-discount pricing.
  • Greater prominence on up-front costs.

‘It’s essential we make sure people aren’t misled’

ASA chief executive Guy Parker says: “It’s essential we make sure people aren’t misled by pricing claims in broadband ads.

“That obviously wouldn’t be good for them, but nor would it benefit broadband providers, because advertising works better when it’s trusted. 

“We’ll now be moving quickly, working alongside broadband providers, to clarify the presentation of price information.”


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