3 in 4 over 65s find language of broadband providers confusing


Almost three-quarters of over-65s (73%) believe that the language broadband providers use to describe deals is confusing, according to research by comparison site Broadband Genie

Compared to other age groups, half of Gen-Z customers (50%) aged 16-24 also believe that broadband lingo could be clearer, while 56% of Millennials agreed, and called for more clarity.

Well over half (57%) of elderly broadband users believe that providers use confusing terms to dupe them into signing up to deals that may be more premium than they need.

For example, half of older broadband users admit they have no idea what the different broadband speed categories such as ‘superfast’ and ‘ultrafast’ actually mean.

New guidance from Ofcom released this week advises providers to clarify what the underlying technology is behind each product, with terms such as ‘fibre’ broadband now labelled as ambiguous to consumers. Under the new guidance, telecoms providers using terms such as ‘full-fibre’ or ‘part-fibre’ will need to actively describe the cable infrastructure used to make the broadband connection.

This information should be given to consumers before they purchase a package so that they are well-informed of what they are signing up to. Ofcom is instructing providers to make those changes by 16th September 2024.

The way different packages are advertised on companies’ websites is also the responsibility of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which is meant to ensure this is not confusing to consumers. 

The research from Broadband Genie highlighted a potential area of confusion among over 65s about contract lengths. Just one in 10 (10%) elderly customers said they believe they are out of contract on their broadband deal – the lowest of any age group. But they are also the most likely to say they have had the same deal for over two years, which is usually the maximum length of a broadband contract. This confusion could indicate that thousands of elderly customers may be out of contract without even realising.

Compared to the other big broadband providers, Vodafone customers have the least trouble understanding broadband terminology, with 55% of them asking for clearer explanations. However, Plusnet customers are the most confused, with a whopping 74% of them wanting more clarity.

A third of broadband consumers (31%) even admit they have been put off from switching broadband providers or signing up for a new deal because of the confusing language.

Alex Tofts, broadband expert at Broadband Genie, comments:

 “It is disappointing to see that some of the most vulnerable broadband customers are finding it difficult to understand the language used by providers in their deals.

“Every user, regardless of age, deserves a seamless and understandable experience with their broadband services.

“Ofcom has taken steps recently to issue guidance on the language being used by broadband providers, the deadline to make the changes is not until September 2024. It remains to be seen whether any of the big telecoms companies choose to follow the advice and how quickly they will make those changes. 

“With the cost of broadband set to increase for millions of households in the coming months, customer satisfaction will be under even greater scrutiny. Providers must be giving clear communication to help people sign up to the right package suited to their needs.

“Confusion among pensioners over the language used by providers could also be trickling down to understanding their broadband contracts.

“Broadband deals are usually 18 to 24 months, so if people have been on the same deal for longer than two years, it is very likely that they have fallen out of contract and are currently overpaying.

“Out-of-contract customers could save an average of £227 a year by moving to a cheaper deal, so any changes brought in by Ofcom can’t come soon enough.

“Elderly broadband users that receive Pension Credit should also be aware that they may be eligible to access cheaper broadband social tariffs offered by their provider, which could save them hundreds per year.”

Chris Price
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