The Advertising Standards Authority has instructed Cell C to withdraw a “misleading” and “ambiguous” billboard marketing its 15c/MB data offer after a consumer laid a complaint with the body.
The complainant, an NN Alexander, submitted that he had recently exceeded his data bundle and discovered he was being billed at a rate of 99c/MB. When he queried this, he was told he needed to purchase an additional data bundle on top of the data allowance included in his contract to qualify for the 15c/MB rate. He said this was misleading.
The billboard stated: “If it costs more than 15c/MB, you’re paying too much. Visit www.cellc.co.za or ask in-store. Terms & conditions apply.”
In reply, Cell C, through its advertising agency, said that the complainant didn’t qualify for the 15c/MB rate as he did not have a data bundle loaded on his contract.
“Cell C offers two types of data charges, the first being a flat 99c rate. The second one loads a ‘smartdata bundle’ to secure the 15c/MB rate,” it explained. “The advertisement invites the consumer to query the statement online or in-store. It does not promise the 15c/MB rate to all Cell C customers, nor does it link it to a particular package.”
In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said its concern about the Cell C billboard related “more to what is not being said than what is being said”.
“The initial impression when confronted with this billboard is that Cell C is offering a rate of 15c/MB. There is no qualification or mention of the fact that this is an opt-in and/or extra expense (the respondent’s website appears to suggest that the minimum ‘smartdata bundle’ costs R7,50). It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this is the going rate for all Cell C customers.”
It said there was no mention of having to load an additional bundle, at an additional cost, to secure the rate of 15c/MB. “There is also nothing to alert existing customers to the fact that this unqualified rate is not necessarily applicable to them.”
The ad “implies a blanket price, applicable to all Cell C customers. The reality, however, does not match this expectation. The billboard therefore creates a misleading impression by omitting material pricing information and is ambiguous as one would assume that the price is fixed at 15c/MB to all its subscribers.”
The authority ordered that the ad be withdrawn and not used again in its current format. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media