South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), the company tasked with administering the much-berated etolls, has been ordered by South Africa’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to withdraw its “misleading” radio advertising.
The authority ruled that Sanral’s claim that “people and organisations that have taken up 1.2 million tags for the Gauteng e-roads” is false as they couldn’t provide evidence of the number of e-tags sold. Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) social media consultant Rob Hutchinson and an anonymous consumer laid the first complaint about this particular phrase.
A second consumer took umbrage to the phrase “recognised the benefits of the improved roads… keeping the lights on and the cameras watching over you”. The ASA ruled in this instance that the camera weren’t in fact watching over motorists in a safety sense, and was therefore creating a “misleading impression, and exaggerates the functionality and the purpose of the cameras as they serve no safety purpose and are merely used for billing purposes”.
OUTA welcomed the ruling on Monday. “We and many others did not believe Sanral’s claims in their advertising campaign when they were made months ago. These ASA rulings are significant because they once again portray Sanral as an organisation that lacks transparency and cannot be trusted with their misleading advertising and PR campaigns,” said OUTA spokesperson John Clarke.
“We regard this as a serious matter for a State Owned Institution. Sanral is not simply purveying propaganda, but using taxpayers money to desperate measures to broadcast factually incorrect information.”
The third complaint laid for the same advertising campaign was made by Stephen Haywood, who appealed to ASA that Sanral makes “flawed and ambiguous, if not disingenuous” monthly user road cost claims.
In the aired advertisement, the roads agency makes the claim that 80% of those who use the tolled roads would pay less than R100 a month. Haywood provided ASA with figures that show that actually only 8% would pay less than R100, while 10% would pay more than R400.
The ASA ruled that the advertisement should be withdrawn immediately, and “must not be used again in its current format unless new substantiation has been submitted, evaluated and accepted by means of a new Directorate ruling”.
This is the second time Sanral that been ordered to withdraw their advertising for being misleading this year – the last ruling on a similar matter was made in January.