The UK's Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has found the present pricing of fixed broadband ads is likely to confuse and mislead consumers about the cost of broadband services.
"[Our] research tested consumers' likely understanding of the presentation of pricing offers in current broadband ads including line rental," the ASA said.
"Participants found it difficult to calculate the true cost of a contract when presented with these ads where the different elements – broadband, introductory offer, line rental, contract length and one-off costs – were presented separately and some elements given greater prominence than others."
Only 23 per cent of participants were able to correctly work out the total cost per month after the first viewing of the advertisements and 22 per cent of participants failed to correctly identify the total cost per month even after a second viewing of the ad.
Finally, 81 per cent of participants were not able to calculate correctly the total cost of a broadband contract when asked to do so.
To ensure that broadband companies did not resort to their old ways again, the ASA had set out rules that future broadband ads need to include in their price claims.
Broadband providers will need to ensure that:
- Up-front and monthly costs are stated clearly and without separating out line rental.
- Contract length and any post-discount pricing is given greater prominence
- Up-front costs should receive greater prominence
The new advertising rules would take effect from 31 October. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said, ''We recognise the importance of broadband services to people's lives at work and at home.
''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.''