Broadband advertisements are misleading UK consumers: Ofcom broadband technology
Fixed broadband operators’ advertisements about their offerings are confusing the consumers in the U.K., said a study by telecom regulator Ofcom and ASA.

Ofcom will raise these issues with broadband providers in order to bring about change, by 30 May 2016, to the way broadband pricing is advertised so that consumers are not misled.

The joint report from ASA and Ofcom is based on field interviews with fixed broadband users of BT, EE, Plusnet, Post Office, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media.

A TalkTalk spokesperson said:  “TalkTalk absolutely supports the ASA’s findings and we’ve already called on Ofcom to bring in all-in pricing. It’s obvious that a single headline price is much clearer and better for customers, and we’re actually already doing it on a pilot project up in York.”

“But until the whole market moves to single prices, any company that advertises its products like this will struggle to compete with what look like better deals from other providers. We want Ofcom to be bold and tackle this problem in their strategic review and we would absolutely support them in doing so.”

Ofcom suggestions

# All-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental

# Greater prominence for the contract length and any post-discount pricing

# Greater prominence for up-front costs

Ofcom says 23 percent of participants correctly identified the total cost per month after the first viewing of an ad when asked simply to recall as much information as they could about the deal on offer without prompting

34 percent of the total sample recalled pricing information, but only provided partial information or an incorrect figure for the broadband service or line rental costs

22 percent of participants were still not able to identify correctly the total cost per month after the second viewing. This would mean around 4.3 million UK households being unable to figure out what they would be paying.

64 percent of those who couldn’t calculate the total cost per month, thought the headline price for the broadband element of a package constituted the total cost per month and that line rental costs did not apply.

81 percent was not able to calculate correctly the total cost of a broadband contract when asked to do so.

74 percent of the total sample believed that information about one-off and on-going costs after an introductory period was either fairly or very unclear.

Ofcom said the current approach typically taken by advertisers – where prices for several elements of the offer like broadband, introductory offer, line rental, contract length are presented separately – is likely to mislead consumers.


Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Ofcom wants to see clear and accurate broadband prices for consumers. Our research with the ASA shows many people are confused by complicated adverts and offers, so we welcome the ASA’s plans to simplify broadband advertising.”

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