File image: Vodacom. IOL.

CAPE TOWN - Vodacom was ruled against by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA)  due to “misleading and dishonest” advertising.

Vodacom’s print advert promoting its Internet data packages, with packages between 4GB and 40GB, was at the centre of an ASASA complaint.

The matter was brought forward by Glen Mills. 

Mills had applied for an internet package, that was advertised by Vodacom, he later showed that only half of the data volume quoted was available at all times.

The rest of the data was only available between midnight and 05h00 (Night Owl data), which Mills argued to be misleading and dishonest.

The advertising firm responsible for the advert argued that it was part of a booklet and each page must be seen as part of a whole including the terms and conditions, in order to understand the offer. 

Vodacom responded by saying that the data split between daytime 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.

Additionally, ASASA says that Vodacom failed to mention the Night Owl packages on other pages in the booklet.

“The words ‘Night Owl’ does 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,” said the authority.

The directorate at 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 and 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.