The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has ruled that Vodacom is not in breach of the advertising codes in claiming to have South Africa’s best network in its advertising materials, delivering a setback to rival MTN.
The decision follows a complaint by MTN, which said Vodacom was in breach of a decision by the authority, which had found that an advertisement containing the claim “SA’s best network for 3 years in a row” contravened the advertising codes.
MTN took issue with Vodacom’s “continued reliance” on the prominent claim to be “SA’s best network”. It said Vodacom continued to use the non-descript “SAcsi 2017” to substantiate its claim and that this was in contravention of a ruling by the ASA’s Advertising Industry Tribunal in June. SAcsi is short for the South African Consumer Satisfaction Index.
It said, too, that the claim “SA’s best network” still appears on several current and old Vodacom website pages, on social media, including Twitter and YouTube, and elsewhere. As a result, it was in breach of ASA rulings, MTN said. Vodacom’s advertising, it said, blurred the lines between customer opinion and network performance.
In response to the MTN complaint, Vodacom said it was no longer using the three-year claim in its advertising and was making it clear that it based its “best network” claim on the SAcsi consumer satisfaction study.
“The claim that Vodacom has the ‘best mobile network’ is not linked to network performance, but is a wide, general claim supported in terms of SAcsi 2017,” Vodacom told the ASA in response to MTN’s complaint.
Vodacom said, through its advertising agency, Oligvy & Mather, that its “reasonable interpretation” of the tribunal’s ruling was that it was directed to discontinue the use of the three-year claim and not the claim to have the best network.
It said that if it substantiated the “best network” claim by referring to the South African Customer Satisfaction Index (in full) and did not make the claim in reference to network speed and performance, it was not in beach of the tribunal’s June ruling. It said it would immediately remedy any instances where SAcsi was used in abbreviated form, but said it was “evident” that the shortened disclaimer is not in “widespread” use in its materials.
The ASA said in its ruling that it considered only the direct evidence placed before it by MTN. It said the operator was permitted to lodge further breach allegations should it want to and these would be dealt with separately.
“The evidence submitted … at this time appears to show that there is prima facie evidence that the claim is now supported,” the authority said, referring to new resaerch by Ookla and Atio into the network performance of South Africa’s mobile operators in the second quarter of 2018. It said, too, that Vodacom’s claim to have the best network in the context of speed and performance “or absent any clarifying content” was not at face value in breach of the authority’s January ruling.
It dismissed the other breach complaints lodged by MTN under both the January and June rulings by the ASA and the tribunal. — © 2018 NewsCentral Media