Complaints about four adverts for broadband services from BT, Virgin, Sky and Talk Talk have been made to the Advertising Standards Authority by Citizens Advice.
The national charity and consumer body has raised concerns that the adverts are not clearly presenting the actual cost of broadband packages.
In a report sent to the ASA today, Citizens Advice complains that promises of free or cut price broadband deals for a set period of time are misleading consumers into contracts that turn out to be more costly.
The adverts appear to offer deals ranging from free to £5 a month, but the actual average price per month during the contracts ranged from £19 to £29. One contract, advertised only as “Free for 6 months”, would have cost over £500 over 18 months once installation fees and line rental were factored in.
The report also highlights how the adverts can make it difficult for people to compare prices between companies and establish which deal is best for them.
Sixteen potential breaches of advertising codes were reported across the four adverts.
Citizens Advice is calling on the ASA to undertake a wider review of advertising practices in the broadband sector to assess whether tighter guidelines are needed.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Attractive offers can lead to bigger broadband costs. People are being lured into more costly contracts because additional charges are hidden in the small print. Often it is impossible for the deals to be free or offered at the cut price because costs for other elements like line rental are yet to be added.
Consumers need to be presented with the total cost to be able to make meaningful comparisons. The industry needs to improve the way it advertises deals so consumers are clear about what they are paying for.
“We hope the ASA will take swift action on these adverts. The regulator also needs to look into reviewing the advertising practices of the broadband industry to stop similar adverts being published in the future.”