Tougher broadband advertising rules come into force

Ryan Reynolds: starred in banned BT ad this year promoting internet service speed
Ryan Reynolds: starred in banned BT ad this year promoting internet service speed

Tougher advertising rules come into force for broadband internet providers today in a bid by the Advertising Standards Authority to prevent consumers being misled.

From now on, internet service advertisers must show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs and must no longer separate out line rental from their advertised charges. 

Companies such as BT, Sky and Virgin Media must also give greater prominence to the contract length and any post-discount pricing, as well as to up-front costs such as fees for delivery, installation and activation.

Several ads have been banned by the ASA in 2016 for making "misleading claims", such as BT, whose high-profile ad starring actor Ryan Reynolds was censured by the watchdog.

Virgin Media has had two ads starring Usain Bolt banned by the ASA for misleading claims: one from 2015 in which Bolt appeared alongside characters called the Broadbandits, and one from the year before which claimed Virgin Media's service could download "five times faster than Sky and regular broadband".

In April, former culture minister Ed Vaizey described broadband ad rules as a "complete and utter joke".

Vaizey told the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee: "The idea that if you can deliver to 10% of houses the broadband speeds you are advertising on a large billboard and get away with it seems to be a complete and utter joke."

The ASA said it has engaged with the industry and other key stakeholders this year on the issue of broadband advertising. It added that some broadband providers have already made changes and are no longer separating out line rental.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: "Broadband is a service we all take for granted. That’s why some people can get frustrated when they sign up to a package after seeing an ad, only to find their bills are higher than expected.

"Our research found people are likely to be confused and misled by the fixed broadband price claims in ads they see and we’ve responded by tightening our approach.

"From today, we expect to see a change in how broadband providers advertise their prices. The effect should be a real positive difference in how consumers understand and engage with ads for broadband services."

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