Broadband providers told to be more upfront about costs header image

Published: 22nd Jan 2016

Major broadband providers like BT, Virgin Media and Sky could soon face tougher rules on how they present the cost of their services, taking into account things like line rental.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the way broadband prices are currently advertised is "likely to confuse and mislead consumers" and needs to change.

Joint research commissioned by the ASA and communications watchdog Ofcom assessed customers' likely understanding of pricing offers in current broadband ads, most commonly those showing the price of the service itself alongside the monthly line rental.

The study found that less than a quarter (23 per cent) of participants were able to correctly identify the total monthly cost after viewing an ad once and being asked to recall as much information as they could about the offer.

Just over a third (34 per cent) of people could remember pricing information but provided partial or incorrect details on the cost of the broadband or line rental.

More than one in five respondents (22 per cent) were unable to correctly identify the total monthly cost of a broadband offer after viewing an advert a second time.

In light of these findings, the ASA said it would be raising the issue with broadband providers and aiming to bring about change in how prices are advertised.

Due to take effect by May 30th 2016, the new rules are likely to demand all-inclusive upfront and monthly costs, with line rental no longer stated separately, and greater prominence for initial expenses.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "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."

The government last month announced that homes and businesses unable to access affordable broadband services of at least two megabytes per second would be offered subsidised satellite broadband connections.