‘Misleading’ broadband adverts are leaving consumers confused about costs

23rd December 2015


Misleading adverts are making it too difficult for most people to work out which broadband deal is cheapest, Citizens Advice has found.

New research from the national charity reveals over half the population (56%) would be unable to pick out the cheaper deal when comparing broadband ads.

Consumers can be left between £7 and £197 out of pocket over the length of their contract, if they aren’t able to work out the cheaper option.

In a study Citizens Advice designed with ComRes, people were asked to both compare two deals and to work out the price of a broadband contract, from the adverts and marketing materials used on seven different providers’ websites.

When looking at one particular broadband advert, only 1 in 5 British adults (22%) are able to work out what they would be paying on average per month for an advertised broadband deal. This makes it tougher for consumers to compare offers.

The adverts typically feature a promotional period prominently, which can be free or significantly lower than the overall cost of the contract. The cost of line rental and the length of time that the ‘teaser’ price applies is included separately and often only in small print.

Consumers are left to work out how much they will pay for the whole contract, including the period after the teaser price stops applying.

While most people understood that the headline price wasn’t the overall cost, only 22% were able to work out the correct average price per month.

The research also reveals that three in four people (75%) say they find the information in most adverts for broadband is too complicated to compare deals easily.

Citizens Advice is calling for the cost of line rental to be included in the headline price. Nine in ten British adults (88%) agreed this would be make it easier for them to choose the right broadband option.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says:“Misleading broadband adverts are hiding the true cost of a contract.

“Attractive headline offers that don’t include line rental costs make it impossible for people to work out the best broadband deal on offer without doing complicated sums.  This stands in the way of people being able to make an informed decision about what internet package is best for them.

“A broadband market that works for consumers should be competing on the overall cost of the available deals rather than on how difficult they can make it for people to work this out.

“Broadband providers need to make the costs of a contract clear in their advertising and  the Advertising Standards Authority should also review the code of practice to make sure it  works well for consumers.”

Between August 2014 and September 2015 Citizens Advice helped people with 4,600 internet service provider issues through its Consumer Service. Local Citizens Advice also helped people with over 3,700 internet and broadband problems in the same period.

In July, Citizens Advice found people are paying as much as £20 more a month for their broadband package than advertised in an analysis of adverts from six broadband providers.

The Government pledged in November to investigate whether internet service providers of home broadband are using teaser rates in adverts to hide the overall cost of their services.

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