Vodacom has secured a victory at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in a complaint against rival MTN over a claim by the latter that is has a superior network for audio and video streaming and that its average dropped call rate is 0.1%.
Vodacom, through its advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, lodged the competitor complaint over a “live-read” ad for MTN that was aired on several radio stations in late August and early September.
The English version of the live-read says in part: “So, what makes MTN South Africa’s Bozza mobile network? Well, they not only have superior quality when it comes to streaming music and HD videos, they also ensure that your calls have a 99.9% chance of not being dropped.”
Vodacom took issue with the claims, arguing it is not aware of any recognised third-party or protocol that measures the quality of streaming music and high-definition videos. However, factors likely to play a role in determining such quality include download speed, upload speed, latency, jitter, packet loss, reliability, coverage and congestion.
It said the latest Ookla report (for the second quarter of 2017) shows that Vodacom is South Africa’s fastest network for both modern devices and 4G/LTE. The latest OpenSignal report, from August 2017, suggested that Vodacom was top in 3G download speed as well as 3G and 4G. In tied for first place in 4G download speed, overall download speed and 4G availability.
In general terms, it said its network is superior to MTN’s in terms of upload and download speed, as well as latency.
It said, too, that a recent report by Atio showed that for the period from June 2016 to August 2017, MTN did not reach the claimed 99.9% uptime performance on calls.
In response, MTN said that in some of the translations from other languages, the claim was incorrectly captured and read as “99.9%”, instead of 99%.
“This discrepancy was a result of human error and no malice was intended,” it said. “Internal measures have been taken to prevent similar mistakes in future.”
It argued, too, that Vodacom misinterpreted the claim of “superior quality when it comes to streaming music and HD videos” to communicate absolute leadership or a “best” claim, which was not its intention.
“There is a subtle, yet distinct difference between being ‘superior’ and being ‘unsurpassed’, much like the difference between claiming to be ‘better’ as opposed to claiming to be ‘best’,” MTN said.
Claiming to be better is not the same as claiming to offer the best quality, it argued
MTN said the campaign had already ended and there was no need to consider the merits of the 99.9% claim, the ASA said in its ruling.
On its use of the words “superior quality”, the authority said this would be interpreted to mean “better quality”, meaning the claim communicates that MTN offers better quality when one is streaming music and HD video. But in a market with few competitors, any superiority claim that is not qualified to refer to a specific competitor, or to “some of the competition”, for example, would likely be interpreted to be a comparison with all of them, it said.
The ASA said MTN’s claim would be interpreted as it offering superior or better quality streaming (of music and HD videos) than Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom. It said the claim is “unsubstantiated” and in breach of the relevant clauses of the code of advertising practice and must be withdrawn. — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media