Broadband providers hit by ASA crackdown

Broadband providers will be forced to show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs, as the ASA cracks down on broadband price claim in ads.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will be delivering a tougher approach to broadband price claims in ads. Due to come into force on 31 October it will force providers to offer more details “up front” on how much a contract costs.

The move comes amid rising complaints to the ad regulator about broadband ads. BT is the latest to fall foul of current standards with an ad (see above) for BT Infinity banned. It had claimed that “BT Infinity fibre optic broadband offers more responsive gaming than Virgin Media”, but a complainant reported no difference between user experience, having used both Virgin Media and BT Infinity.

Sky UK also challenged whether BT had sufficient information to claim that “BT Infinity offers faster download speeds than Sky”. The ASA told BT that the ads must not appear in that form again.

Commenting on the ASA’s new approach a BT spokesperson says: “We support the aim of the ASA to make things clear for customers and will adopt the new rules they have outlined. We follow the current rules on advertising and always try to ensure our customers know exactly what they’re getting for their money before they buy from us. Our broadband pricing is clear and we give our customers personalised speed estimates before they buy.”

The ASA began its research into the issue at the start of the year, after finding that only 23% of participants could correctly identify the total cost per month after the first viewing of the ad and that 22% of participants were not able to identify correctly the total cost per month even after a second viewing of the ad. The tougher approach outlined today aims to rectify these issues.

The ASA is now recommending that future broadband ads that 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.

The ASA’s CEO, Guy Parker, says he is confident that the new “tougher approach” will be a positive step for 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”, explains Parker. “We’ll support the broadband industry as they move towards changing their approach in time for the 31 October deadline.”