Your guide to avoiding ‘free’ broadband pitfalls

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Free broadband… wait, what? FREE broadband?! Surely not! Have you found yourself drawn in by adverts offering free broadband, only to find in actual fact you have to pay £17.99 a month for a telephone line to be able to use it that you may never use?

The Advertising Standards Authority (otherwise known as the ASA) has said that this advertising strategy can be deceptive and will no longer be allowed as it can confuse customers. The telephone line can account for nearly 90% of the total of the average broadband package, according to the price comparison site uswitch.com.

What’s the problem?

Many people find it difficult to work out the true cost of their telecoms services because of the layers of charges involved. Just over 80% were unable to calculate the total cost of a broadband contract in a recent survey of 300 people, conducted by the ASA and the regulator Ofcom .

The overall cost of a “bundle” includes charges such as the monthly cost of the broadband itself; the monthly charge for the landline; introductory offers, such as cut-price or free broadband for the first 12 months of an 18-month contract and one-off costs such as set-up fees.

Operators give the costs different levels of prominence in their advertising, adding to the confusion, the ASA said.

What does a typical broadband ad say?

Last week TalkTalk, for example, was offering its unlimited broadband package free for 12 months but, in smaller print, its website showed a £17.70 monthly charge for line rental. After 12 months, there will be a £7.50-a-month charge for broadband on top of the line rental.

So what is changing?

From October 31, broadband ads that include prices must show “all-inclusive upfront and monthly costs”, the ASA says. Line rental must not be separated out. For example, rather than promoting broadband at £2.99 when there is also line rental at £17.99 a month to pay, the cost of the service will have to be advertised as £20.98 a month.

Ads will have to give greater prominence to the minimum length of contract and the costs after the introductory period, as well as upfront charges.

Do I need a landline for broadband?

Most providers require customers to have a landline. Virgin Media is the only one of the big operators to offer a broadband-only service. It is not as cheap as you might expect, though, at £30.25 a month for a 50-megabits-per-second service. If you have a landline plus broadband with the same company and the same speed, it costs £17.99 for the landline and £8 for the broadband, a total of £25.99 a month. However, customers must sign up for a minimum of 18 months and the broadband cost jumps to £19 after a year, taking the monthly bill to £36.99.

Broadband-only specialists such as Relish (relish.net) and Hyperoptic (hyperoptic.com) may be available in your area.

Top tip

The average cost of broadband has fallen over the past decade, while speeds and download limits have improved, according to uSwitch. However, broadband providers do not always switch customers to their best deals, so it is up to you to keep an eye on prices.

The best offers tend to be reserved for new customers. If you are out of contract, ask your provider if it is possible to switch to one of its latest offers. Have you found a great deal on your broadband and want to share it with others? Go to the contact page and let me know!

– Bronny

[email protected]

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