Vodacom has taken issue with claims by Cell C in a recent advertising billboard that it offers the widest network coverage of any operator in South Africa.
The company has taken its smaller rival to the Advertising Standards Authority over the claim and secured a decision in its favour.
In its complaint to the authority, Vodacom submitted that Cell C’s claim could not be substantiated and was misleading.
It said that OpenSignal, which monitors the coverage and performance of mobile operators’ networks worldwide, showed that Vodacom had the best coverage in South Africa, whereas Cell C occupied fourth position as of 11 March 2016.
Vodacom insisted that Cell C had to show it had the widest 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE and Wi-Fi coverage individually and combined. It also argued that Wi-Fi calling should not be included for the sake of calculating coverage.
Cell C said, in reply, that traditional ways of looking at coverage had to be reassessed after it launched Wi-Fi calling in October 2015.
It said its “widest network coverage” claim should be interpreted to mean that Cell C has the widest coverage when its 2G, 3G, LTE and Wi-Fi networks are combined with the Vodacom towers relied on for roaming, as well as the thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots available.
The reference should also be seen to include customers that travel, because the service remains available and is billed at South African rates irrespective of where in the world one might be using it, Cell C said.
In its ruling, the Advertising Standards Authority said Cell C was still obligated to show that it had more sites on a national level and that these sites were spread wider across the country than any other competitor.
It also dismissed Cell C’s Wi-Fi calling argument, saying the absence of a Wi-Fi symbol in its advertising or even the word “Wi-Fi”, coupled with a “nearly illegible” disclaimer, “further negated an argument that [the company’s]newly activated Wi-Fi calling capabilities should be included in the equation”.
“Given the images, the unqualified nature of the claim, and the absence of any pertinent reference to Wi-Fi, consumers would likely interpret the claim to be a reference to the respondent’s typical or traditional cellular coverage. It appears to be common cause between the parties, however, that insofar as traditional cellular coverage is concerned, the respondent does not offer the widest network coverage,” the authority said.
“The respondent appears to consolidate the sum of its own coverage, add it to the coverage provided by customers roaming on Vodacom’s towers, and add this to the potential ‘coverage’ it assumes from relying on Wi-Fi networks across the world to make calls and send SMSes. Its argument, however, fails to address the fact that these networks overlap to a large extent, compounding its overall coverage as opposed to extending it further.”
The authority said the advertising, claiming to offer the widest network coverage, was misleading and in breach of the applicable advertising code.
It instructed Cell C to withdraw the billboard and refrain from using it again in its current format. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media