The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) has upheld a complaint leveled against Vodacom for “misleading and dishonest” advertising.

The matter was brought before the body by Glen Mills who had applied for an internet package advertised by Vodacom only to find that half of the data advertised was reserved for use between midnight and 5AM, also known as Night Owl data.

“In essence, the Complainant submitted that when applying you are told that only half of the data volume quoted is available with the other half being available between 12 midnight and 5 a.m. You are then referred to a minute print at the bottom of the page with an asterisk. Nowhere is there an asterisk against any of the prices or items quoted,” said the authority.

The advertising firm responsible for the advert seen by Mills argued to ASASA that it was part of a booklet and as such each page must be seen as part of a whole that outlined the nuances of the deals including the terms and conditions.

Vodacom responded by saying that the data split between day time and “Night Owl” use was stated upfront and not in “minute print at the bottom of the page”.

“The Respondent submitted that, given the nature of the medium in which the data offers are promoted, a consumer has sufficient time to study information and that the information does not appear in a passing manner. It is accordingly submitted that the hypothetical reasonable consumer, judging the advertisement as a whole, would be aware of the data package allocations, and as a result would not be misled by the fact that ‘… half of the volume [of data] quoted is available with the other half being available between 12 midnight and 5 am …'” Vodacom said, according to the ASASA.

But the ASASA says that Vodacom messed up by mentioning the Night Owl packages once on one page but not another, which might cause confusion.

“The words ‘Night Owl’ do not appear anywhere on any of the packages that follow, drawing attention to the fact that this is a ‘night owl’ offer. There are no asterisks linking the table with any of the offers, drawing the customer’s attention to the fact that this data breakdown applies to all packages,” says the authority.

The directorate at the ASASA ruled that advertisers cannot fall back on a use of the phrase “terms and conditions apply” to clear up confusion in advertising. The body ruled that information which would clear up confusion should be  prominently displayed close to the offers being advertised.

Vodacom is required to withdraw the advertisement with immediate effect and cannot use it again in its current format following the ASASA’s ruling.

[Source – ASASA]