New advertising rules for broadband suppliers come into force
New rules forcing broadband suppliers to make their price adverts clearer have come into force.
Firms can no longer separate the line rental and monthly cost of an internet connection, under changes brought in by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ASA also wants suppliers to make sure ads give greater prominence to things like the length of contracts, prices after any initial discount has ended and up-front costs like installation or activation fees.
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."
The ASA announced the rule change in January. They were due to come into force in May but the deadline was extended by five months 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 followed 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.
Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: "Customers deserve to know from the very beginning what price they will be paying for broadband, so I welcome this move from the ASA.
"Making broadband providers show all-inclusive, upfront prices in their advertisements means consumers will be much better placed to make an informed choice when deciding on a service. It will help them get a deal that's right for them, and avoid any nasty shocks when the bill arrives."