Broadband deals – is the fog clearing?

Broadband deals – is the fog clearing?

Spend half an hour shopping for a broadband deal and you may want to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while.

The adverts bamboozle you with special offers that will expire after six months, put the line rental cost in the small print, and promise you “up to” speeds which you suspect will never be delivered.

But is the fog about to clear as regulators get tough on misleading adverts?

The move by Vodafone to “drop” the monthly rental charge – or at least merge it into the overall price – is one hopeful sign. It was a smart PR move by the mobile operator but one that all the other broadband providers will have to follow by the end of October.

That is when new rules from the Advertising Standards Authority come in, obliging the companies to show the total monthly cost of a deal in their ads.

That should mean an end to offers which tell you your broadband will be “FREE!” – with the little detail of a £17.99 monthly line-rental charge, plus a setup fee, made far less clear.

But another aspect of broadband advertising rules may need looking at by the regulator.

This morning, the Local Government Association is complaining that people in rural areas are badly served by companies with adverts promising download speeds of “up to…”.

The LGA says the rules allow companies to promise those speeds if 10% of customers can actually get them – and in rural areas they will almost certainly never get close.

It is calling for a switch to advertising average speeds, which might better reflect what people in the countryside can actually get.

That 10% figure does seem a very low bar for companies to clear, although the ASA tells me that “from” and “up to” pricing has “long been established in advertising policy”.

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