Vodacom pulls ads in tariffs drama - TechCentral

Vodacom pulls ads in tariffs drama

Vodacom was forced to abandon the branding of its new “Freedom 99” prepaid tariffs on Friday night after the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) sent it a letter of objection in which it warned that it would seek a court interdict if the operator pressed ahead with its plans.

At the last moment, it was also forced to replace full-page advertisements that were due to be published in Sunday newspapers. The advertisements had been booked to promote the Freedom 99 plan.

Icasa told TechCentral last week that Vodacom was in breach of regulations for not filing its new 99c/minute prepaid tariff plan with the regulator before announcing the new rates in a press release on Wednesday.

On Monday, Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka confirmed that the authority had warned Vodacom that it would approach the courts for an inderdict if it didn’t back away from plans to launch the tariffs because the company had breached regulations.

Operators are meant to file new tariffs with the regulator at least seven days before their implementation.

“Vodacom did not follow the process of applying to the authority … as required by regulations when it introduced its tariff changes,” Maleka said last week.

Vodacom’s chief officer for legal and regulatory affairs, Nkateko Nyoka, told TechCentral on the sidelines of the group’s annual results presentation on Monday that it was forced to make the changes after receiving the letter from Icasa. Icasa had threatened to seek a court interdict against the company if it went ahead with the plans as outlined in its press release on Wednesday.

Industry insiders speculate that Vodacom quickly hatched the new tariff plan — which it is now describing as a “promotion” — when it got wind of rival Cell C’s plans to introduce new prepaid voice tariffs. If so, the move backfired on Vodacom as it was forced to pull the plug on its Sunday ad campaign at the eleventh hour and ditch the Freedom 99 branding.

Late on Friday night, Vodacom issued a terse statement saying that in its press release of two days earlier it had “mistakenly” referred to it as a “new tariff” rather than as a “promotion”. As a promotion as part of an existing tariff plan, Vodacom does not have to notify Icasa.

“The correct wording should have referred to this as a promotion based on the All Day Per Minute price plan,” Vodacom said in Friday night’s statement.

Spokesman Richard Boorman confirms that Vodacom no longer plans to use the words “Freedom 99” to describe the promotion.

He says he can’t say when the promotion will end but confirms it has been available since Sunday as planned.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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