Tougher rules on broadband ads delayed 'to minimise confusion'
Tighter rules to make broadband ads clearer have been delayed by five months to allow providers more time to prepare and minimise confusion among consumers.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced in January that new rules to stop companies "confusing and misleading" customers about the true cost of deals would take effect from May 30.
But it has extended the deadline to October 31 following discussions with providers to give them enough time to prepare new ad campaigns, change "complex" operational and billing processes and "minimise the risk of consumer confusion".
The typical ad separating out the broadband price from the cost of line rental, instead of giving an up-front total monthly charge, is likely to break the tighter rules, the ASA said in January.
The move follows joint research by the ASA and Ofcom that found ads currently screening for fixed broadband are likely to confuse and mislead customers.
The study found that 81% of viewers were unable to correctly work out the total cost of a broadband contract, while just over a third (34%) recalled information about the price but only partial information or an incorrect figure for the broadband service or line rental costs.
Some 22% were still unable to relay the total monthly cost after the second viewing, suggesting around 4.3 million UK households are potentially unable to work out what they would be paying.
Almost two thirds (64%) of those who could not correctly work out the total monthly cost, despite a second viewing, thought the broadband price was the total charge and line rental costs did not apply.
Furthermore, 74% said information about the price of introductory deals, discounts, activation, delivery charges and the length of the contract was either fairly or very unclear.
The ASA said the findings showed that the current approach typically taken by advertisers "is likely to mislead consumers and therefore will in all likelihood break the rules".
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: "The findings of our research, and other factors we took into account, showed the way prices have been presented in broadband ads is likely to confuse and mislead customers.
"This new tougher approach has been developed to make sure consumers are not misled and get the information they need to make well-informed choices.
"We'll support the broadband industry as they move towards changing their approach in time for the October 31 deadline."