There is a sick practice in marketing in telecoms that is much worse than the misleading speeds issue Ofcom and the ASA have recently been looking at. Let’s face it, anyone who knows what a Megabit actually means is likely to realise the quoted “up to” speed means very little in real terms. No, a much bigger issue with the broadband industry is misleading price claims, which have been a pet peeve of mine for some months now. BT are not the only ones guilty of this, but from what I’ve seen they are the worst offenders – employing similar tactics for other products, like their mobile plan.
Without the slightest hint of shame, BT advertise their unlimited option 3 broadband service is advertised on their site, on a page comparing their three plans, as “From only Â£18.99 a month”. Normally you expect a catch when you see the words “from only” preceding a price, and that’s fine if you’re adding extras on top of a basic plan, but here, the advertised price is essentially a headline-grabbing lie. Contrast with Virgin Media, who advertise their headline introductory price first, but immediately followed by their regular price (and applicable conditions) given virtually equal prominence.
You see, when you click on “more about option 3” (the ads for other plans or ‘options’ all contain similar lies) you’re taken to a page explaining that it’s really Â£18.99 for just 6 months of an 18 month contract, then Â£24.99. Basically, I don’t see why BT (and others) should be allowed to get away with advertising a price of Â£18.99 for a service that actually costs Â£22.99 a month over the minimum term and obviously more if, as BT would like, you stay on the plan at the full price once that term has ended. Worse yet, the “order now” link takes you directly to the Option 3 sign-up page without the slightest hint that you’ll be paying over 20% more than you they told you. I wonder would they actually let you complete the registration without informing you?! (I got as far as them asking me for my MAC number).
To my shame, I’ve seen this sort of thing from companies, especially BT, before but it must have slipped my mind for I thought to myself “Â£18.99 for unlimited broadband? That’s not that bad a deal for BT.” There are cheaper to be had, obviously, but usually BT’s plans are verging on twice the price of the best deals around (I currently pay Tiscali Â£14.99 a month for unlimited broadband). They then try to justify the high price tag by adding superfluous services that I would guess a minority of customers actually use, and which are certainly useless to me: features like “Digital vault”, access to WiFi hotspots, weekend & evening calls (I get weekend calls included and UK calls 24/7 for only 3p/call anyway), anti-virus and firewall products (perfectly suitable alternatives to which are available for free for home use).
But BT’s excessive bundling and high prices aren’t my problem, that’s their offering and it’s fair enough for them to compete on that basis. What isn’t fair though is that companies get away with advertising an introductory offer as a “From only” price. Its wrong, its immoral and its misleading. Worst of all its treating us (consumers) like idiots. Now I’ve worked in a BT call centre and, believe me, that’s certainly the pot calling the kettle black.