ISPs will be forced to advertise the total monthly cost of their services, including line rental, later this year.
The new rules introduced by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) will require the likes of BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and EE to give greater prominence to things like contract length and set-up fees as well as the total monthly price once any introductory discount periods have ended in their ad campaigns.
As of Monday, October 31, ISPs will have to play by the new rules, or risk a rap on the knuckles from the industry-funded regulator.
The ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker, said in a statement: “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. We’ll support the broadband industry as they move towards changing their approach in time for the October 31 deadline.”
Right now, there’s nothing to stop the likes of BT or Virgin prominently advertising services like BT Infinity 1 costing £10/month and Virgin’s Super Fibre 50 costing £8/month – despite both of these deals also requiring you to pay £17.99/month for line rental plus respective activation fees of £49 and £9.99 each.
Additionally, there’s a £7.95 delivery charge if you want BT to send you a Home Hub 5 router. That £8 Virgin Media monthly charge is also an introductory rate, which jumps up to £19 after 12 months.
In this example, these two services would normally cost you £27.99/month and £25.99/month respectively, with the Virgin Media contract jumping up to £36.99/month in the last six months of your contract.
While all of this information is displayed on the sales pages of each ISPs websites the fonts for the line rental, activation charges and introductory rates are considerably smaller than those used for the headline prices. Mention of the £7.95 you’d pay for the Home Hub 5 delivery charge is only displayed if you click on the pink ‘More Info’ tab. It’s this kind of advertising that the ASA wants to reform.
Parker added that research undertaken by the ASA showed that customers find the current pricing arrangement confusing, with over 81 per cent of customers polled unable to correctly total the full monthly price of a broadband package.
It’s currently unclear what ISPs are supposed to do when they want to increase the cost of line rental. BT’s standard rate of line rental is due to go up to £18.99/month from July 3 onwards, making our above example somewhat redundant.
With the exception of a handful of ‘broadband only’ services, most consumer Internet services in the UK are sold with a line rental fee attached – this is to cover the cost of the physical line itself which is used to deliver basic broadband and phone services and in some cases TV channels.
When writing about new broadband deals, Recombu has always fully broken down prices, mentioning money-saving line rental saver deals where applicable, endeavouring to give readers the complete picture.
While in theory the ASA has the power to dish out unlimited fines to advertisers who break the rules, in practice the regulator is more concerned with making sure companies stick to the same rulebook. In the past, ASA rulings have seen Virgin Media reword its traffic management policy – something which may have been a factor in the cable company revising its policy altogether.