Broadband adverts now have to be a lot clearer

Broadband is so cheap! Just checking my postcode, I can get broadband for just £3.49 per month. Oh wait. That comes with a £15.99 phone line I never use.

Broadband adverts now have to be a lot clearer

From today, that annual rollercoaster of intrigue followed by disappointment will no longer be an issue. At midnight, new rules from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) came into force insisting that broadband companies be clear about the overall cost of the contract from the get-go.

It’s slightly delayed – the changes were originally supposed to come into force in May, but companies asked for extra time to comply with the new regulations. Research from the ASA and Ofcom discovered that 81% of participants were “unable to calculate correctly the total cost of a broadband contract when asked to do so after viewing an ad”.

In order to fix this, new guidelines say that broadband price claims must:

  1. Show all-inclusive upfront and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental.
  2. Give greater prominence to the contract length and any post-discount pricing.
  3. Give greater prominence to upfront costs (such as delivery fee, activation fee, installation fee).

“Broadband is a service we all take for granted,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker. “That’s why some people can get frustrated when they sign up to a package after seeing an ad, only to find their bills are higher than expected.”asa_rules_broadband

“Our research found people are likely to be confused and misled by the fixed broadband price claims in ads they see, and we’ve responded by tightening our approach. From today, we expect to see a change in how broadband providers advertise their prices. The effect should be a real positive difference in how consumers understand and engage with ads for broadband services.”

Of course, the changes don’t do away with the dreaded landline charge – they just make it painfully apparent that you’re stuck with it. If you want to do away with the landline altogether, your options are either “limited” or “extremely limited” depending on your postcode.

If Virgin Media operates in your area, it offers a cable package that does away with the phone line – but barely any cheaper than one that does. Relish promises a similar option using unlimited 4G, but is currently only available in central London and Swindon. If neither of those are an option, you’re looking at capped 4G connections or satellite broadband, which isn’t ideal.

Still, today’s rule changes are a good thing, and should help consumers tell the difference between a genuinely good deal, and what only appears like a good deal at a quick glance. And with landline fees so prominent, perhaps there will be greater pressure on providers to consider the future of the landline once and for all.

Images: Graham Richardson and Sean MacEntee used under Creative Commons

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