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Cable.co.uk comments on ASA banning separate line rental costs in broadband advertising

  • Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) tells broadband providers no more separating out line rental costs when advertising packages
  • From 31 October providers should show inclusive up-front and monthly costs and give greater prominence to contract length and post-discount pricing
  • TalkTalk will be first major broadband provider to advertise a combined line rental and broadband price
  • Cable.co.uk says ASA is not going far enough, calls for outright ban of compound pricing

Wednesday 4 May 2016: The UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has defined a new approach to the way broadband prices are advertised to avoid customers being mislead, including putting an end to separate line rental charges.

This follows research conducted by the ASA and Ofcom in January, which found that the current approach to presenting pricing in broadband adverts is likely to confuse and mislead consumers about the cost of broadband services.

The ASA recommends that from 31 October 2016 broadband ads which include price claims should:

  • Show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental
  • Give greater prominence for the contract length and any post-discount pricing
  • Give greater prominence for up-front costs

TalkTalk announced yesterday that it will be the first major broadband provider to advertise a combined line rental and broadband price.

Commenting on Ofcom's findings, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert at broadband comparison site Cable.co.uk, said:

“While I welcome the joining of package and line rental pricing, the ASA needs to go a lot further if we’re to prevent unscrupulous broadband providers using deliberately complex pricing as a means to distract, confuse and misdirect consumers.

“Even including line rental in the headline price, providers can and will continue to offer broadband deals that are, say, £22.50 per month for the first six months, then £34.50 for the next twelve, have internet security that's free for a month, then £3 per month for 17 months, have unlimited anytime calls that are free for three months then £5 per month for 15 months, a £35 one-off installation fee, a £15 line connection fee, a £1.89 fee for using your debit or credit card, and £6.99 for the postage of your router.

"This kind of pricing would tax a maths professor, let alone a consumer who just wants to find the right broadband deal for their household.

"The practice – known as compound pricing – was outlawed in the air travel industry by the EU’s top court in January of 2015. It is recognised as a misleading and disingenuous way to sell a product – luring customers in with cheap headline prices they simply won’t be paying at the till.

"It’s about time the banning of compound pricing practices was extended to providers of broadband, TV and phone packages."

Notes to editors

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What is Cable.co.uk?

Cable.co.uk is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades. Having spent 12 years at the coalface of consumer telecoms research, initiating and running projects both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now Director of Communications and in-house consumer telecoms expert for Cable.co.uk.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer who frequently appears on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers and their websites, Dan leads a team of journalists and communications folk who spend their days researching and reporting on problems faced by UK broadband, TV and mobile customers both on an individual and macro level.

Dan campaigns on many issues currently facing consumers of broadband, TV and mobile products in the UK. These include, but are not limited to: Rural broadband provision; mobile coverage; broadband, TV and mobile customer contract issues; broadband and mobile broadband speeds; switching and money-saving; infrastructural challenges; pricing, changes and structures; shifts in technology and the marketplace; telecoms regulation, policy and law; fines, adjudications and policy changes; mergers and closures of UK providers; annual financials and more.

Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality. He also administers and adjudicates the yearly Broadband Service Quality Awards and sits on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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