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Broadband ads mask the real cost of contracts, says consumer charity

Friday, July 24th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Providers are masking the real cost of broadband contracts by advertising discounted ‘teaser deals’, according to a national consumer charity.

Research by Citizens Advice found that average monthly prices are on average three-and-a-half times the initial price advertised.

The charity accused provider of “cashing in on false promises”.

It analysed ads from six UK broadband providers with promotional prices ranging from zero to £20 per month.

But charges such as line rental, starter fees for new contracts and delivery costs mean customers can end up paying six-and-a-half times more than the ads imply.

The full cost of the analysed contracts ranged from £20 to £45, with line rental adding as much as £16.99 to the advertised monthly fee.

One offer for broadband at £9.95 for six months worked out as £35.79 per month, once installation fees and line rental were factored in – over £25 more than advertised.

Over the duration of the contract the customer will have paid £465 more than the advert suggested.

Citizens Advice says it is highlighting how “misleading” adverts can make it harder for consumers to shop around to get the best deal.

It is calling on broadband providers to be upfront about the price consumers will actually pay, and is asking the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to introduce new rules ensuring broadband deals are transparent.

'False promises'

The charity’s CEO, Gillian Guy, said: “Broadband providers are cashing in on false promises.

“With some people paying up to six and a half times more a month for broadband than advertised, customers are being sold one thing and charged another.

“Confusing teaser rates and hidden costs make it difficult to work out whether you’re getting a good deal.

“Internet providers need to be upfront about broadband costs, ensuring adverts are transparent and people know what they’re signing up to.

“Some broadband firms are starting to accept that prices need to be clearer. Now the whole industry needs to up its game – and the ASA should help by setting new, clear rules.”

Citizens Advice found that some providers are making an effort to improve advertising, with 4G broadband provider Relish offering customers an ‘all-in’ price with no line rental costs.

TalkTalk has recently started offering customers in York fibre broadband for a single ‘all-in’ price, while Virgin Media is also offering an ‘all-in’ price in some areas.

A spokesperson for the ASA said: “We’re sensitive to the concerns that Citizens Advice has raised which is why we’re currently conducting public research on broadband pricing.

"Making sure consumers aren’t misled by ads is our top priority and our research will help shape any action we take on this important issue.”

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