Customers Misled by Broadband Ads

A study published by Citizens Advice has shown that increasing numbers of customers are being confused by misleading adverts for broadband deals, obscuring real costs and making it harder to compare tariffs and deals. This comes six months after Citizens Advice probed into the broadband market and found that a significant number of households in the UK are overpaying for their service by as much as £20 each month, compared to the price that was advertised when they initially signed up.

The study consisted of a survey that asked customers various questions concerning how well they could tell which deals were the best when faced with a number of different ads.

56% of those surveyed were straightforwardly unable to pick out the best broadband deal when shown a variety of competing offers. With this inability to discern the cheapest deals translated into outright costs, Citizens Advice calculated that confusing ads could mean that customers may find themselves overcharged by almost £200 over the course of their chosen contract.

Problems included the granulating of costs so that things like promotional periods during which the tariff in question was cheaper not being made clear enough in the ads, with line rental costs kept separate, generating further confusion. Too much key information had been contained in the small print; reminding us of the importance of always reading every inch of the publication explaining a deal before signing up to anything.

88% of those polled agreed with Citizens Advice ‘s proposal to make it mandatory for broadband providers to include line rental costs in the headline price of the deal. Citizens Advice now intend to attempt to put this proposal into practise and make it a binding requirement.

A whole three quarters of those asked found that they considered broadband ads to be too confusing in general, and that important information was too spread out or lacked the clarity necessary for them to understand what the ad was trying to get across.

Indeed, with one of the ads used in the survey, only 22% of those asked were actually able to say exactly how much the deal being advertised would cost.

This study follows hot on the heels of the government announcement, made in November, that pledged to investigate the broadband sector to find out whether or not providers were using so-called ëteaser rates ‘ in their adverts; tricking customers into believing that these temporary or introductory rates are actually representative of the tariffs overall cost.

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice ‘s CEO, said: “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.”

She went on: “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 practise to make sure it works well for consumers.”

Cost transparency has been a hot topic of late, and not just in the broadband sector. Bodies like the CMA have been attempting to make in-roads in terms of weeding out any deliberate misleading of customers in the banking and energy sectors as well over the last year.

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