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Broadband advertising rule change comes into effect

Monday, October 31st 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

New advertising rules mean that from today, the cost of line rental has to be included in the price of broadband packages.

The change is one of a number being introduced by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) in a bid to make broadband ads easier to understand.

Adverts that include price claims will also have to include all up-front and monthly costs.

They should also give greater prominence to contract length, one-off fees and the monthly price once any discounted periods have ended.

All this means providers are having to change the way they do business. It has become the norm to see broadband deals advertised for as little as £5 – or even free for a year – without mention of the £18 or £19 line rental that will also need to be paid.

From now on, the ASA says promoting products in this way is likely to breach advertising rules.

The change isn’t likely to bring about cheaper broadband, but it should make it easier to spot the best deal.

Most broadband providers have changed the way their packages are priced in the past few days to ensure they comply with the new rules.

A Sky spokesperson said: “We want to ensure our customers enjoy great value and have the right information to make informed choices.

“In line with the ASA’s guidelines, Sky broadband and NOW TV Combo advertising will now show a total monthly cost that combines broadband and line rental prices.”

A BT spokesperson said: “We have supported efforts across our industry and from the ASA to introduce this new way of advertising the price of broadband with line rental.

'A bad habit'

“The changes will affect new customers, who will be able to make their decision to buy or not based on the all-inclusive price for broadband, with no separate charge for line rental.

“Existing customers will continue to pay the same prices, and their bill will continue to add up what they pay with prices clearly set out in the same way as before.”

TalkTalk announced earlier this year that it would start offering customers a combined monthly price and made that change in early September.

Speaking in May, the provider’s consumer managing director Tristia Harrison said it was time for providers to be honest about the issue of separate pricing.

“It’s a bad habit we have all been guilty of, it doesn’t serve customers well and it’s time it stopped.”

The ASA agreed, saying its own research showed that broadband ads are likely to confuse and mislead consumers.

Its study, a joint commission with Ofcom, was carried out in June 2015 and asked 300 consumers to calculate the total cost of a contract after being shown a broadband ad.

It found that 81% of people shown a broadband ad were unable to work out the total monthly cost.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Broadband is a service we all take for granted. 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.

“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.”

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