Anyone who sees price claims in an ad for a fixed broadband service should no longer feel they need a degree in maths to work out what it’s going to cost and how it might compare with other services.

Following our recent consumer research, which revealed the extent to which consumers were being confused about price claims, we set out a clear new approach to pricing. That approach comes into effect today.

Broadband is fundamental to our everyday lives. We take it for granted. But no-one likes to be confused about what they’ll pay. Confusion affects us in the pocket by dissuading us from shopping around to get the best deal. And getting a bigger bill than expected causes us anger and frustration. It’s not fair. And if you’re a broadband provider, eroding consumer trust doesn’t make business sense either.

It’s a live issue. The Minister of State for Digital and Culture addressed a Broadband World Forum recently on making sure Britain is a leader in digital infrastructure. He talked about the need to ensure the market is as competitive as possible, calling for “clarity in advertising” with “fair rules that reflect reality on speeds and prices”.

We’ve acted to bring greater transparency to broadband price claims in significant part because our own research told us 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. That’s too high a figure. And we know from our complaints inbox, concerns amongst consumer groups as well as from government that this is an issue that people want addressed.

So what does our announcement mean for consumers? What will be different about the ads we see and hear from now on?

In summary, broadband ads that include price claims should now:

  • Show an all-inclusive monthly cost; no more separating out line rental
  • Give greater prominence to the contract length and any post-discount pricing, and
  • Combine all compulsory up-front costs (such as delivery fees, activation fees and installation fees) in one total and give that greater prominence too.

This is a significant change that’ll provide much greater clarity. When we look at price claims in broadband ads from now on, we’ll be able to have confidence that the figure quoted is what we’ll pay. Comparing providers will be easier. Unexpectedly high bills will be less common. And we know this is already having an effect. Ahead of our 31 October deadline, some of the big players in the market dropped the old approach and are no longer separating out line rental in their ads.

Our work around broadband pricing is a part of a wider intervention we’re making in the sector. In line with our strategy of being proactive and tackling issues that affect and matter most to consumers, we’re now looking at the advertising of broadband speeds. We’ve again conducted consumer research, this time to test their understanding of advertised speed claims and their expectations from those claims of the speeds they’re likely to get. If our findings suggest consumers are being misled, we’ll act. We’ll be announcing next steps later this autumn.

Advertising in highly competitive markets like broadband plays a crucial part in driving competition and choice. But whether you’re a consumer or a business, we all stand to benefit from it being more responsible advertising.

By Guy Parker, Chief Executive

Guy joined the ASA in 1992 and has held a wide range of positions in the organisation. He became Chief Executive in June 2009, having previously been Deputy Director General, Director of Complaints and Investigations and Secretary of the CAP... Read more

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    Guy Parker

    Chief Executive

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Guy became Chief Executive of the ASA, the UK regulator of ads in all media, in 2009.  Responsible for executing the ASA’s strategy to make UK ads responsible, he oversees all functions of the ASA system. Read more