Vodafone MotorMouth Television and Text Advertisements
Meeting 1 December 2004
Complainant: K Cooke
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited
Complaint: In the television advertisement (Key No: VFX 30 521) the voiceover stated that on a MotorMouth plan, calls to any Vodafone mobile or land line in New Zealand are at off-peak rates all day, every day.
Also, a graphic said: "49c per minute rate applies. Excludes calls to special numbers.
Roaming charges apply when overseas.
Check out Vodafone.co.nz for more info".
The Complainant said:
What: Vodafone MotorMouth
Where: Vodafone sent me a text advising me to read their website and encouraging me to switch to MotorMouth plan
When: 2 Sep 2004 approx 8pm
Description: Numerous TV ads as part of a national advertising campaign.
The advertising states "Motormouth is off-peak 24/7 for all calls to NZ Vodafone mobiles or NZ landlines. And, international has gone local (call your friends in Australia, Canada, Ireland, UK & USA for the same price as calling a Vodafone mobile in NZ). Motormouth Prepay or On Account has it all."
But it was only when I received a LARGE bill from vodafone that I discovered that motormouth OFF-PEAK 24/7 only means to other vodafone mobiles. All calls to landlines are charged out 24/7 at 49 cents per minute and the 200 FREE MINUTES aren't even used. So instead of my usual $60+ vodafone bill, I received one for $199.00
I believe that vodafone has neglected to take every step to ensure that there is no misleading claims in the opening paragraph of the advertising in accordance with the FTA First Impressions, but rather, has done everything in their power to encourage me (and others like me), to switch to the motormouth plan, duping people into believing that they have 200 FREE Minutes that they can use 24/7, to call any vodafone mobile or NZ landline, when in fact they DON'T. I believe this is purely a means encouraging people to increase their phone usage and thereby increase vodafone's revenue."
The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant:
Code of Ethics
Rule 2: Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).
The Advertiser, also on behalf of the Agency, Lowe Worldwide, said:
"We refer to your letter of 8th November enclosing the emailed complaint from Mr Cooke.
Our comments regarding the terms of the complaint are as follows:
- Motormouth is a new plan offered by Vodafone that was introduced earlier this year. The marketing related to the plan was based around the proposition of "off-peak 24/7" for calls which are "Vodafone to Vodafone and Landlines in NZ" (and both statements featured prominently in all adverts). That is, under this plan, all calls to other Vodafone mobiles or landlines in New Zealand are charged at the off peak rate of 49 cents per minute, at any time. This rate was displayed in our television adverts... Under existing plans there is a higher charge for calls made between 7am and 7pm whereas with Motormouth, the lower 7pm-7am rate is charged 24 hours a day but only in relation to the calls referred to above. Vodafone's advertising campaign promoted the new plan with emphasis on this off-peak 24/7 proposition.
- Mr Cooke states that only when he received his bill did he discover that "off peak 24/7 only means to other Vodafone mobiles". Mr Cooke obviously did not see the very prominent additional words "Vodafone to Vodafone and Landlines in NZ". Mr Cooke in fact has the benefit of this low rate not only for calls to other Vodafone mobiles in New Zealand, but also for calls to New Zealand land lines. Mr Cooke would previously have been charged much more for these calls if made during 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
- In essence, Mr Cooke is complaining about the scope of the 200 free minutes entitlement. In support of his complaint, Mr Cooke refers to "TV ads" and "Text adverts". However, no television advertisement or text promotion from Vodafone in relation to the new plan even mentioned or referred to the existence of a minute entitlement, and so Vodafone fails to see how Mr Cooke could have been mislead or deceived in any way about the minute entitlement. On the contrary, before customers were invited to change to Motormouth all on-account customers were sent brochures clearly setting out the terms of the plan and all customers were directed to the Vodafone website for details via TXT messages. This more detailed promotional material makes it clear that the "200 included minutes" applies, and that it applies to Vodafone to Vodafone calls only. As a result, we believe Vodafone did in fact take all necessary steps to ensure that customers were aware of the details of the plan before they agreed to change to the plan.
- Also, Mr Cooke's complaint does not state whether his mobile call usage generally increased for other reasons, leading to the $199 bill as opposed to his alleged normal bill of "$60+" (eg buying a house that month etc).
You have requested that we supply copies of the text messages forwarded to customers, the web site advertisement and Motormouth plan terms and conditions. Copies of each of these are enclosed (in their unaltered state from the beginning of the promotion). Also enclosed is a copy of the brochure sent to all on account customers, an in store brochure given to customers in Vodafone retail stores and copies of billboard and printed advertisements.
In summary, we reiterate that Mr Cooke has complained about the scope of the minute entitlement when in fact no minute entitlement was ever included in the adverts to which he refers. Furthermore, Vodafone did in fact undertake the costly exercise of sending out brochures and updating its website with the minute entitlement, and the correct details and application of it.
We take complaints made about Vodafone's advertising seriously and we note Mr Cooke's concerns. However, in this case we believe every effort was made by Vodafone to correctly describe the Motormouth calling plan.
Please note that this response is also on behalf of Lowe Worldwide.
We look forward to hearing from you."
Television Commercial Approvals Bureau (TVCAB) said on behalf of the media:
TVCAB has been asked to respond to this complaint under the Code of Ethics - Rule 2 - - truthful presentation.
The complainant received a text from Vodafone advising him to read their website and encouraging him to switch to a Motormouth plan. He had also viewed several of the Vodafone MotorMouth commercials. Upon changing to a new plan and phoning contacts on various numbers (including mobiles other than the Vodafone brand) he was dismayed to receive a larger bill than he was accustomed to receiving.
The voiceover in the commercial quite clearly states that on a MotorMouth plan calls to any Vodafone mobile or land line in New Zealand are at off-peak rates all day, every day. There is also a graphic on screen
"49c per minute rate applies. Excludes calls to special numbers.
Roaming charges apply when overseas.
Check out Vodafone.co.nz for more info"
If you check out the Vodafone website under the Motormouth plans there is quite specific information about the two alternatives. Both have the same 49 cent charge anytime to other Vodafone mobiles and a $1.39 charge anytime to all other mobiles. Motormouth on Account has 200 Vodafone to Vodafone free minutes and 200 Vodafone to Vodafone TXT. However, the Motormouth Prepay plan has no such benefits.
Unfortunately for the complainant he obviously misinterpreted the advertisement and did not read the back up information contained on the company's website.
We believe the advertisement is quite clear in both the voiceover and the direction of viewers to a website which details more specific information that the 49 cent deal applies to Vodafone to Vodafone mobiles. For this reason we submit that this complaint be not upheld."
The Complaints Board perused the relevant correspondence and viewed the television and text message advertisements. It noted the Complainant's view that the advertisements were misleading as he only discovered the condition, "Vodafone to Vodafone" on receipt of his bill, which was larger than expected.
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the matter with reference to the Code of Ethics, Rule 2.
The Complaints Board took note from the Advertiser's submission that the Vodafone Motormouth television and text advertisements promoted the new Motormouth plan which offered "off-peak 24/7" for calls which were "Vodafone to Vodafone and Landlines in NZ". Turning to the television advertisement, the Complaints Board had no doubt that the condition, Vodafone to Vodafone, was clearly specified and it was also included in the text messages sent to customers. Furthermore, the Complaints Board noted that neither the television nor text advertisements contained any reference to there being "200 free minutes".
Accordingly, the Complaints Board was of the view that the conditions related to the plan were quite clear, and the advertisements were not misleading. As such they were not in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.
The Complaints Board ruled to Not Uphold the Complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld