File picture: Ihsaan Haffejee

Pretoria - No mention was made in the radio advertisement about the new e-toll dispensation that the proposals were still in the making and not effective yet.

This is according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which having considered all documentation submitted, declared the advert misleading.

ASA was adjudicating on a complaint by Dr Yahya Atiya.

The directorate ruled that the advert contravened a section of the code requiring that advertising should not contain any statement likely to mislead consumers.

The question was whether the commercial gave an impression that road users could already benefit from the discounted rates of the so-called new dispensation.

The radio commercial stated that the “government has listened to you and responded by giving you a new e-toll dispensation. Among other things, we’ve reduced the rate to 30c per kilometre for light motor vehicles and slashed the monthly cap by 50 percent. If you have outstanding e-toll fees dating back to December 2013, you will receive a 60 percent discount and six months to pay…”

The advertising authority found that the language used in the advert suggested the changes had already been implemented, and that drivers would already receive the discounts.

The respondent, the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral), had submitted that the commercial was merely a solidification message that the government had heard the people and responded with the new dispensation.

This was not a call to action, and the commercial did not state who was presenting the content, it argued.

In fact, Sanral said it was implementing the system changes to allow people to benefit from the new dispensation. This could only be implemented and drivers called to action once the Ministry of Transport officially approved the new changes and promulgated them.

However, the ASA dismissed this argument and said the omission of vital information was likely to create a misleading expectation. This could make listeners believe that they were already entitled to the savings, when this was not yet the case.

It instructed Sanral to withdraw the commercial with immediate effect and not to use it again in the current format.

Sanral on Wednesday disagreed with the ruling, with spokesman Vusi Mona emphasising that it had not been the intention to mislead the public. “This advert was flighted from May 28 and during June following Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of the new dispensation. It was aimed at communicating that the government has heard the people,” said Mona.

When the details of the new dispensation were announced, he said, it was made clear that the system would be implemented in phases. “Through advertising, we sought to make the public aware of the new plan that would assist them in clearing their e-toll debt and make e-tolls more cost-effective for road users.

“This issue should not have come before the ASA because the adverts are no longer being flighted, which in effect makes the ruling null and void.”

He labelled the ruling unfair and questioned whether it was influenced by the anti-e-toll brigade.

The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (Outa) said Sanral was a year ago also ordered to withdraw a misleading advert, which implied 83 percent of road users would pay less than R100 a month in e-toll fees. “Once again, Sanral must remove another misleading ad. Sanral is wasting taxpayers’ money to seduce the public into accepting an unjust scheme.”

[email protected]

Pretoria News