Vodacom has given its rival Telkom Mobile a bloody nose at the Advertising Standards Authority over a tussle over which operator offers better voice quality, with the authority ordering that Telkom must stop flighting a television advertisement in which it makes claims the authority says haven’t been substantiated.
The ad in question pokes fun at an unnamed rival network, with suggestions in the ad that consumers are with the “wrong network” when they are unable to have a clear conversation.
“All I know is that she’s clearly not with Telkom Mobile. I mean, Telkom Mobile has an incredible network, built to carry better voice quality so you can actually hear the full message,” a voice says in the ad. The ad also claims that Telkom Mobile provides “unlimited network coverage”.
Vodacom said that the claim of “better voice quality” was clearly in relation to other mobile networks in South Africa. “Because the commercial does not identify a single network as the comparator, the ‘better voice quality’ claim has to be true in relation to each of the individual competing networks,” it argued.
In addition, it said Telkom Mobile did not offer better voice quality. It based this on its own research performed by a “professional, external company” which has performed more than 80 000 tests per network around the country so far this year.
“It is evident from these tests that Telkom Mobile is not the best voice network in South Africa,” the operator said in its complaint. It said, too, that not a single network in South Africa offers “unlimited network coverage”, including Vodacom. “No network covers 100% of South Africa.”
In response, Telkom Mobile argued that it was not claiming to have the best voice quality but rather that it offered better voice quality than other networks. “No claim is made that it is better than any specific service provider. Furthermore, no reference is made to mobile networks in particular. ‘Network’ means any network [and] … there is therefore no basis for [Vodacom] to assume that the claim regarding ‘better voice quality’ specifically relates to the other mobile networks in South Africa only.”
It said, too, that as the fourth entrant in the mobile market, it was “making use of the latest technology, equipment and architecture”, while its rivals were “possibly still making use of their older legacy networks”.
“By using the latest technology, equipment and architecture, Telkom Mobile is able to provide mobile voice services which have a better voice quality,” it said. In support of this argument, it submitted a confidential report from Atio Corp. According to the Advertising Standards Authority, the report contained the results of several tests carried out on Telkom Mobile’s network and the networks of two other mobile operators.
In addition, Telkom Mobile argued that its “unlimited network coverage” claim did not refer to 100% coverage as interpreted by Vodacom. “Instead, the term refers to the fact that a subscriber’s access to services is not limited to the coverage area of Telkom Mobile’s network. This subscriber may also roam on another large mobile operator’s network in areas where Telkom Mobile does not have coverage… As a result, the term ‘unlimited coverage’ should be interpreted as coverage not limited to the footprint of a single network provider. Also, due to the fact that Telkom Mobile uses the latest technology, equipment and architecture available in the mobile market, it is not limited to using specific technology to provide coverage to its subscribers.”
In its ruling, the authority said Telkom’s claim to have “unlimited network coverage” suggested it covered 100% of South Africa, which was not true. However, it was “not convinced” that consumers would interpret the claim to mean Telkom Mobile covered 100% of South Africa and dismissed this aspect of Vodacom’s complaint.
On the claims about voice quality, the authority found in favour of Vodacom, saying Telkom Mobile failed to provide adequate substantiation. It noted from the Atio report that tests compared only the Vodacom and Telkom Mobile networks, meaning the evidence supplied fell “far short of showing that Telkom Mobile carries better voice quality than all other networks”. Testing was also only carried out in Johannesburg and Durban.
The authority ruled that Telkom Mobile must withdraw its claim with immediate effect. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media