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Broadband providers told to improve pricing on advertised deals

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Broadband providers have been told to improve the way they advertise the price of deals following concerns the current approach is likely to confuse and mislead consumers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today come down on providers, ordering them to change the way fixed broadband pricing is presented in adverts by 30 May 2016.

It comes after the ASA and communications regulator Ofcom tested consumers’ likely understanding of the way prices were presented in typical adverts that featured broadband and monthly line rental.

The research also looked at the way introductory deals, discounts, activation, delivery charges and the length of the contract were presented and it revealed that 81% of those surveyed were not able to correctly calculate the total cost of a broadband contract.

Some 74% of the total sample also believed that information about one-off and on-going costs after an introductory period was either fairly or very unclear.

Based on the findings, the ASA considers that where prices for several elements of an offer are presented separately, it is likely to mislead consumers and so from 30 May, this approach will “in all likelihood break the rules”.

The ASA says it “remains open minded” about how pricing should be advertised so it is not misleading but it has suggested the following:

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

The ASA is due to take a final decision on advertised pricing offers before 30 May.

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.”

TalkTalk is one provider that has come out in support of the move. A spokesperson adds: “It’s obvious a single headline price is much clearer and better for customers, and we’re actually already doing it on a pilot project up in York.

“But until the whole market moves to single prices, any company that advertises its products like this will struggle to compete with what look like better deals from other providers. We want Ofcom to be bold and tackle this problem in their strategic review and we would absolutely support them in doing so.”

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