New research from Citizens Advice finds that price promises made by broadband providers are misleading customers and costing them up to six times more than advertisements imply.Many broadband advertisements draw customers in with attractive discounted "teaser deals" which last for a limited period and mask the real long-term costs.
Because of hidden charges such as line rental, starter fees and delivery costs, on average monthly costs are over three times the initial price advertised.
Citizens Advice analysed advertisements from the six main broadband providers. Over the promotional period, broadband was advertised as costing from zero up to £20 per month, but the full cost after the promotional period ended ranged from £20 to £45 per month.
Line rental can add as much as £16.99 to the advertised monthly fee, making it the most expensive additional cost.
One offer for broadband at £9.95 for 6 months worked out as £35.79 per month, once installation fees and line rental were factored in. Over the duration of the contract the customer will have paid £465 more than the advertisement suggests.
Misleading broadband advertisements can make it harder for consumers to shop around to get the best deal. Citizens Advice is calling on broadband providers to be forthcoming about the price that consumers will actually pay, and is asking the Advertising Standards Authority to introduce new rules ensuring that broadband deals are transparent.
Before taking out a new contract, customers are advised to ask their supplier for the average monthly cost over the full contract period, not just the promotional period.
Locally, a project called "Better Broadband for Oxfordshire" aims to bring fibre broadband to over 90% of homes and businesses in the county by the end of 2015. The project, a collaboration between Oxfordshire County Council, BT and BDUK, will bring significant social and economic benefits to rural areas where broadband access may currently be slow.
For further help on any problems stemming from misleading broadband deals, call Adviceline on 03 444 111 444 or drop in to your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau. For opening hours, see www.caox.org.uk