Vodacom’s advertisement stated: “Now you can call the USA and another 117 worldwide destinations for as little as 89c (US$0.09) per minute on per second billing.”
Clear Copy, on behalf of Cell C, lodged the complaint, saying the advertisement was misleading for giving the impression all calls made to the 118 countries cost ZAR0.89c per minute exactly. However, the call costs to these countries are from ZAR0.89c and may be higher in some cases.
Furthermore, the complainant pointed out that of the 117 countries, only 39 offer the ZAR0.89c promotion. The next price after the ZAR.089c is ZAR1.39 (US$0.14), with 40 of the countries billing ZAR2.89.
This prompted the complainant to argue that this number was not significant enough to warrant the claim, thus rendering it misleading.
Vodacom’s advertising agency, Ireland-Davenport, denied the allegations made by the complainant, saying a reasonable customer would probably visit Vodacom’s website for more details.
Ireland-Davenport argued “Zone A” countries account for at least 64 per cent of the total international calling traffic.
This means the majority of the traffic on an international scale is made through Zone A, which qualifies for the ZAR0.89 call rate.
ASA said it considered all the documentation submitted by both parties and referred to various clauses of the advertising code, which ultimately deemed Vodacom’s advertising campaign misleading to the consumer.
“The directorate agrees with the complainant, that the hypothetical reasonable person reading the advertisement would believe that if he opts for this offer he will be able to call the USA and 117 other countries for ZAR89 per minute always,” said ASA in its ruling statement.
ASA added: “The communication created by the wording and construction of the advertisement is that consumers can call 117 countries for ZAR0.89 per minute, and the fact is that the promotional price is for 39 countries only.
“Even if as claimed by the respondent, the 39 countries which are billed at 89c per minute constitute 64 per cent of international calling traffic, the communication is still misleading, as consumers expect to pay ZAR89c for 117 countries as claimed in the advertisement. In addition, the fact that 39 countries constitutes 64 per cent of the international calling traffic, does not correct the misleading impression.”
ASA ruled in favour of Cell C and ordered the advertisement be withdrawn with immediate effect. It may not be used in its current format again.