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Ofcom cracks down on misleading fibre advertising and mid-contract price hikes

2023-12-15 11:20:57

 Ofcom cracks down on misleading fibre advertising and mid-contract price hikes 


Ofcom has announced stricter rules on how broadband ISPs can advertise their fibre packages, as well as proposing banning mid-contract price rises 

The UK regulator is set to bring in new guidelines to tackle consumer confusion around broadband technology, allowing customers to make more informed purchases.  

Previous research from Ofcom has shown that only 46% of customers who reported being on full-fibre broadband were living in areas where it is actually available, and 27% of customers don’t fully understand the vernacular used by broadband providers. 

Part of the issue here is the term ‘fibre’, which has been used in marketing to describe both partial fibre (such as fibre-to-the-cabinet) and full fibre (fibre-to-the-premise) networks. Following Ofcom’s new regulation, ISPs will no longer be allowed to use the term ‘fibre’ so ambiguously.  

In short, the new guidelines list changes that must be made in three main areas: 

  1. Definitions and descriptions of technologies should be outlined by ISPs at the point of sale and BEFORE final purchase.
  2. The term ‘fibre’ should not be used on its own to describe the underlying broadband technology, as it often sparks confusion.
  3. The ISP must give a more thorough explanation of the underlying broadband technology.

“Today’s guidance is designed to address customer confusion surrounding the different network technologies underpinning broadband services,” said Selina Chadha, Ofcom’s Director of Connectivity in the company announcement. 

“By requiring clear, straightforward information on network technologies, consumers will have a better understanding of the characteristics of their broadband service, so that they can compare services more easily and choose the best one to meet their needs,” she continued. 

Clarity for consumers has clearly been a hot topic for Ofcom this week, with the regulator also proposing banning mid-contract price rises on phone, broadband, and pay TV contracts, arguing that customers are often clear on what they can expect to pay throughout their contracts. Many consumers are not fully informed of the price rises at the point of sale, which Ofcom say undermine the consumer’s understanding of what they will pay. 

After undertaking extensive research, Ofcom found that four-in-ten broadband customers and over half of mobile customers (36 million) were on contracts subject to inflation-linked price rises. The new rules will enforce that any price written into a customer’s contract must be clearly set out in pounds and pence at the point of sale.  

A consultation on the new rules are underway, with the results set to be published in springtime next year. 

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