The Advertising Standards Authority has announced plans to change guidelines regarding the way broadband pricing is advertised in efforts to "make sure people aren't misled by pricing claims in broadband ads."

This is in response to the findings of joint research commissioned by the ASA and the communications regulator, Ofcom. The report found that a significant proportion of the public are likely to be misled by current broadband advertising strategies.

The research, published on 21 January 2016, revealed that only 23% of participating consumers were able to correctly calculate the total monthly cost of a broadband package in their first viewing of an ad. What was considered most alarming however was that 22% of participants were still unable to correctly identify the total monthly cost of the advertised offer despite a second viewing of the ad and after the broadband package had been explained.

The current approach typically taken by advertisers is to present various elements of the pricing structure separately. The regulators agree that this creates an unclear message for consumers, who need to know the total overall monthly cost in order to allow them to compare prices and make an informed decision. From the 30 May, ads that separate out costs and don't prominently state a total monthly price are likely to be found misleading by the ASA

The ASA intends to issue definitive recommendations to industry before the 30 May 2016. In the interim they have suggested that the presentation of broadband prices should be simplified and made clearer by;

  • Including an all-inclusive up-front monthly cost which includes the line rental charge
  • Giving greater prominence to the contract length and monthly price after initial discounts
  • Giving greater prominence for up-front costs

These changes will have a big impact on broadband providers with them being required to carry out a complete overhaul of their marketing materials just as their 2016 campaigns are getting underway.