Free broadband offers: do the adverts add up?

In my latest in an occasional series on whether the savings promised in adverts add up, I’ve taken a look at promises of free broadband.

If you take a look at most broadband adverts, you’ll see “Free broadband!” proudly splashed across them in the biggest font. Fantastic! Why pay when you can get access to everything (pretty much) for nothing?

But, in truth, these ads are often misleading. The small print and confusing way it’s all priced up means you could very easily end up paying far more than you expect – and certainly not nothing, as “free” would suggest.

Here’s why most broadband adverts are bad ads.

They’re a nightmare to understand

First, the free broadband is usually just for a fixed period and you’ll be charged a higher, often not clearly advertised, rate once the promotion ends. It’s the same for half-price and other similar offers.

If you’re lucky you can get the discount for a year on a 12-month contract. But that’s not always the case. Offer lengths and contract lengths usually vary, and they don’t always coincide.

It can be a headache working out what you’ll actually be paying and when, and therefore much harder to compare the price you’re paying for your broadband.

You’ll usually need to pay for a landline

There are very few broadband services available on their own so most require you to sign up to the same company’s landline. Really the broadband is only free if you’re paying £18 a month for a phoneline. A phoneline you never use.

It’s often for basic no-thrills internet access

Don’t get me wrong. Free broadband can be a good deal, even with the landline cost. But there will often be speed restrictions or download limits – and you’ll need to pay more to get these better services.

You might also need to pay for TV and other services such as call packages, film channels, a mobile phone … the list goes on of extras which you could easily add on to your “free broadband”.

Plus you’ll have set-up fees

Even if you don’t opt for any of these bigger packages, delivery of the router is often extra; plus you might face installation, connection or set-up charges, especially if you’re upgrading to cable or fibre. More costs that are often hidden in the small print.

>> My guide to getting the best deal on your broadband

Verdict: Bad Ad

Clearly, the advert savings aren’t quite as they first appear. Surely it’s clearer, and better, to just say it’s £18 for broadband and phone line? And be clear about the little extras that bump up what you pay?

I’m not the only one who gets annoyed by broadband adverts. Citizens Advice and Which? have both outlined just how confusing the pricing is – and as a result the companies have to make it much clearer from October 2016.

I expect that means we’ll see a change in the types of deals offered, with more of them displaying “all-in” costs. This should help us all compare the different prices, which can only be a good thing.

Even then, if you find the right deal and manage to combine it with cashback and little extras, I expect it’ll be possible to get close to free broadband, phone AND tv- as I did a few years back!

Like this? Here are some more explorations behind the adverts:

>> Trainline
>> Barclays Blue Rewards


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