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ASA Forces UK Business ISPs to Include Line Rental Costs into Broadband

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 (8:02 am) - Score 591
advertising standards authority uk 2016

A new ruling against Plusnet by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) means that UK business ISPs will now also need to combine the price of phone line rental and broadband when advertising related packages, which is a rule that has previously only applied to residential services.

Since 31st October 2016 the ASA has required fixed line home broadband providers in the United Kingdom to show all-inclusive up-front and monthly costs (i.e. no more separating out line rental), which has made it easier for consumers to compare the total service cost between ISPs (details). But this same measure was not enforced against business-to-business packages or promotions.

However, during the course of investigating two complaints against online adverts for Plusnet’s Business Broadband service (these promoted a broadband price of £4.50 a month and stuck the line rental charge into smaller print), the ASA has decided to extend their rule to business packages.

ASA Ruling (REF: A17-384339)

We acknowledged Plusnet’s offer to position the line rental fee closer to the headline claims and in a larger font. However, we considered that the prominence afforded to the headline £4.50 price claim in both ads was such that those suggested amendments were likely to be insufficient to counter the overriding impression of the ads to be that the monthly cost of the package was £4.50 a month.

We noted Plusnet’s view that business customers would be more competent and knowledgeable than typical consumers and therefore would not be misled by the ads. However, we considered that individuals acting in the course of business were likely to respond to the content in a materially similar way to the average consumer, who is taken to be reasonably well-informed, observant and circumspect.

Because business customers were likely to interpret the ads to mean that the product was available for £4.50 a month with no up-front costs when in actuality the minimum price was £15.00 a month including line rental for all customers with an additional £4.99 to pay in the first month for most customers, we concluded that the ads were misleading.

The ASA banned Plusnet’s adverts and told the ISP to “ensure they make clear the overall monthly cost of their broadband packages, for instance by merging the monthly cost and line rental into one all-inclusive price.” As this has an industry-wide impact, the ASA has given advertisers in the sector six months or until 15th May 2018 to ensure that their business-to-business advertising makes clear the overall monthly cost of a broadband package and makes clear all up-front costs that are paid by most customers.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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