In the past - before 2010 - you may have seen ISP's, like Aol, and mobile companies like Vodafone, offering a laptop computer for free when signing up for an ISP account. What was the catch?, well, you needed to signup for a lengthy broadband contract, which can be for either twelve, eighteen or twenty four months.
The rub is the price of the contract: with vodafone for example, customers ended up paying around six hundred pounds more with the 'free laptop' contract than with the stand alone contract. The laptop they gave away was worth three hundred pounds, so it's not exactly a bargain.
Vodafone make three hundred pounds, which is probably four hundred, considering the price they will pay for the laptop.
The sad fact is, to the average consumer, this may not have been apparant, and the ISP's may well be planning that 'X' amount of new customers will not do their sums.
So at a time of tightening household budgets, it's a shame if people think they are saving money, whereas in fact they are handing over in excess of three hundred pounds.
For every mobile or fixed line broadband contract that included a 'free laptop', it always proved to be cheaper to buy the laptop from a retailer and sign up with a standalone broadband contract.
This may not be much of an issue if we were talking a small extra sum, but, in many cases we are talking about hundreds of pounds more.
Therefore if your a savvy consumer, and looking for a mobile broadband deal, my advice would be to buy a two hundred pound laptop on a credit card, pay off fifteen to twenty pounds per month.
The total cost of the laptop and interest would be around two hundred and twenty pounds. Then shop around for a mobile broadband deal for under ten pounds per month, such as the one currently offered by '3'.
You will then have bought the laptop outright in twelve months. So for the initial twelve months the total cost would be thirty pounds, then ten pounds for the next twelve months.
But, if you had signed up for a 'free laptop' contract with vodafone, you would pay thirty pounds per month for twenty four months. So that's twenty pounds per month more for twelve months.