Vodacom / B Matlala / 20510
Ruling of the :
|In the matter between:
Mr B Matlala
Vodacon Service Provider Company (Pty) Ltd
04 Jul 2012
Mr Matlala lodged a consumer complaint against a television commercial for Vodacom’s R10 airtime advance offer.
The commercial features a talk show host of the show “Warra warra what what” and she asks her audience “Now what’s the one thing that we don’t want to hear when you trying to make a call?” The audience reply by saying, inter alia, “You have reached your call limit. Please recharge.”
The show host then says “Which is why my favourite thing of the week is airtime advance from Vodacom. It’s getting airtime now and paying it back the next time you recharge. And you are all getting it. Look under your chairs and you’ll find nothing. Because you must dial *111# to get it.”
The text on screen says, inter alia,
“Get R10 Airtime Advance when you need it most.
Dial *111# to see if you qualify”.
Below this, in a substantially smaller font, it states “T&Cs apply. service fee of R1,00 will be charged.”
In essence, the complainant submitted that the commercial is misleading as it does not mention that one will be charged a R1,00 service fee.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint Clause 4.2.1 of Section II (Misleading claims) of the Code was taken into account.
The advertising agency Draft FCB, on behalf of the respondent, submitted that the complaint is factually incorrect as the commercial actually contained a disclaimer reading “T&Cs apply. Service fee of R1,00 will be charged.”
It further added that the commercial does not actually make an offer of R10,00 airtime, but invites people to dial a specific number to see if they qualify.
Irrespective of the above, it emphasised its intention to clearly communicate with consumers, and explained that the commercial was sent to the ACA Advisory Service for an opinion. The opinion concluded that more prominence and duration should be given to this disclaimer. As a result of this, the commercial has been removed from air and will be reworked and again submitted to the ACA Advisory Service prior to flighting.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.
The Directorate is mindful of the fact that in Vodacom Airtime / P Sibiya / 18227 (2 August 2011), a similar concern was raised about the respondent’s initial commercial for this product offering. Here too, the respondent undertook to amend its commercial to communicate the applicable fee to ensure that consumers are adequately informed.
This is now the second instance where a complaint was raised about the respondent’s commercial on the basis that it did not adequately inform people of this material condition. The respondent is a large and experienced advertiser, well versed in the Code, and will therefore be aware that it is not acceptable to rely on disclaimers to correct a misleading impression created. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the voice-over, visual claims and on-screen text do not conflict or omit material information.
The ASA has a long-standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised, the undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
Despite the fact that this is the second time that the respondent has offered such an undertaking on this product offering, the Directorate acknowledges the fact that the respondent has, effectively, imposed a sanction on itself (similar to that of Clause 14.2 of the Procedural Guide). It confirmed that it would again submit its amended commercial to the ACA Advisory Service for an opinion prior to flighting. This not only ensures that the commercial complained of is not used again in that format, but also that the amended commercial only flights once an informed opinion has been received, presumably taking into consideration the relevant ASA rulings and the requirements of the Code.
As such, the Directorate sees no need to consider the merits of the matter at this time.
The undertaking is therefore accepted on condition that the advertising is amended to such an extent that no hypothetical reasonable person can be in the dark about the mandatory service fee.