MTN loses fight with Vodacom over 'best network' claim - TechCentral

MTN loses fight with Vodacom over ‘best network’ claim

A sign at Vodacom’s head office in Johannesburg

MTN has lost a complaint against rival Vodacom at the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) over the latter’s recent claim in newspaper advertisements that it has the best network.

The ads, which appeared on the weekend of 26 to 28 January, stated the Vodacom has had “South Africa’s best network for three years in a row” and used consumer satisfaction research organisation SAcsi as its source for the claim.

MTN objected, telling the ASA that its rival’s previous claims in its advertising that it has the best or fastest network have been based on network performance.

“Without exception, all claims to have ‘South Africa’s best network’ or similar were communicated in the context of actual network performance, including metrics such as speed, coverage, base stations and dropped call rates,” MTN said. Emphasis was often placed on issues such as buffering, download and upload speed, and reports issued by third parties, including the respected Ookla measurement service, it said.

“It would appear that Vodacom has sought to justify its network performance claim by relying on whichever entity was able to provide satisfactory evidence,” MTN added.

“This, in turn, has led to a number of ASA rulings with some measure of variance in terms of which performance metric was used to justify the claim, resulting in lack of certainty and understanding from a consumer perspective. The only discernible constant variable has been a reference to actual network performance.”

It said Vodacom’s January ads “abandoned all objective measurements and criteria in favour of subjective consumer opinion”.

“In doing so, it attempted to deceive consumers by exploiting the general assumption that any ‘best network’ claim is merely a continuation of those that preceded it, and likely pertains to actual, objectively measured network performance. This is not, however, the case.”


But the ASA directorate was having none of it. In its ruling, the authority said it found “some merit in the complaint” in that Vodacom has repeatedly used the claim in question in the context of speed and functionality”.

“However, having dealt with these matters over the course of several years, the directorate has had to take into account that no consumer is likely to have been as invested in the discussion surrounding Vodacom’s claims as the directorate, Vodacom and Vodacom’s competitors have been,” it said.

“The consumer would most likely regard each claim in the context in which it appears, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the directorate must take an objective view of the advertising and the surrounding circumstances when considering what the hypothetical reasonable consumer would understand the claim to mean.”

The ASA dismissed MTN’s complaint.  — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media

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