Vodafone Flyer and Website Advertisement
Meeting 27 January 2010
Complainant: H. Kim
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited
Complaint: The Vodafone advertisement said:
"Now you can talk for 2 hours and pay no more that $2 Whether you're on Prepay or On Account, unit 31 January 2010 you can call any Vodafone mobile, or any landline in New Zealand and 30 countries around the world, and pay only $2 for 2 hours. If you are On Account, any minutes included in your plan will be used first.
Wish someone a Merry Christmas today".
The foot of the advertisement said "For more information and full terms and conditions see vodafone.co.nz/2for2". Information on this webpage included:
"Terms and Conditions for the $2 for 2 hour calling offer available to residential Vodafone mobile customers, included:
4. If you make a call that is less than 2 hours long, the cost of the call will either be the total value of the call, or the sum of $2, whichever is the lower amount.
5. Calls longer than 2 hours will be charged at the standard per minute rate for calling destination from the 121st minute, in addition to the capped amount of $2."
Complainant, H. Kim, said:
Where: Promotion handout (scanned and attached) and also text messages.
Product: 2for2 promotion
Vodafone states that it is $2 for 2 hours (on its handouts, website, text messages) but what is doesn't say is that it is for PER PHONE CALL you make. In my opinion, it is highly misleading to consumers who assume they can make as many calls as they like up to 2 hours and just pay $2. All it says in regarding to this matter is 'for more information and full terms and conditions, see vodafone.co.nz/2for2' in small letters at the very end of the promotion - deliberately knowing people will not follow to check.
I have talked to Vodafone representatives several times, in return, hearing 'but that's how promotions work.', 'we never had such a complaint before,' 'It is clear, there is no problem in understanding it is per call (but where does it say that?'. Even one Vodafone representative admitted that it did not state per phone call ANYWHERE in the promotion - but apparently that is how promotion works - how convenient for them!
I strongly believe they should alter their promotion lines and state clearly that it is per call, so if you make 5 calls of ten minutes each, you will get charged $10, not $2 even though it was far less than 2 hours in total."
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, Vodafone New Zealand Ltd, also on behalf of the Agency, Colenso BBDO, said:
"Thank you for your letter.
The complaint concerns promotional material advertising our "2 for 2" offer, which provides two hours of calling for no more than $2, for any call made between mobiles on the Vodafone New Zealand network, or landline calls within New Zealand, and to thirty international destinations (Advertisement).
The Advertisement was generated by Vodafone New Zealand Limited (Vodafone) and Colenso BBDO (Colenso). Colenso has permitted Vodafone to respond to this complaint on its behalf.
We do not believe that the Advertisement is misleading. The natural meaning of the wording is that each eligible call will be capped at $2 for a duration of two hours.
The primary message states, for example: "You can call any Vodafone mobile or [emphasis added] any landline in New Zealand and in 30 countries around the world'. The use of "or" and the use of singular, rather than plural, language ("call any mobile" "any landline') indicates that the offer extends to each discrete call, rather than cumulative calling patterns.
The nature of the offer in applying to single calls is further spelled out at the terms and conditions: "Calls... will be capped at $2 for all calls up to 2 hours long", and at the Frequently Asked Questions:
What time of the day can I take advantage of the $2 for 2 anytime offer?
Anytime means just that - anytime. You make a call to Vodafone NZ mobiles, any NZ landline, and landlines in 30 countries anytime of the day, night, weekend and be charged no more than $2 for a call less than 2 hours.
If the offer was to Operate as the complainant proposes, the advertising messages would require far more detail, including when any two hour calling period would commence and terminate, or how cumulative calling patterns would be calculated.
Please contact me if you require any further clarification on any matters raised in this letter."
The Complaints Board carefully read all correspondence in relation to the complaint, and a copy of the advertisement. It noted that the Complainant was of the view that the offer in the advertisement "Now you can talk for 2 hours and pay no more than $2" was misleading as the Complainant was of the view that the advertisement did not specify that this offer was $2 per each phone call.
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with reference to Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether the advertisement contained anything which either, directly or indirectly, was likely to deceive or mislead consumers.
The Complaints Board turned to the advertisement and noted where it offered "Now you can talk for 2 hours and pay no more than $2". The Complaints Board noted the Advertiser's response where it confirmed that the offer "provid[ed] two hours of calling for no more than $2, for any call made between mobiles on the Vodafone New Zealand network, or landline calls within New Zealand, and to thirty international destinations". The Complaints Board noted that the offer was per phone call, not for unlimited calls within a two hour period, as asserted by the Complainant.
The Complaints Board confirmed that its job was to consider the advertisement from the perspective of a consumer, with a view to ascertaining what their likely take-out of the advertisement would be. The Complaints Board noted where the details of the offer were explained in the advertisement, where it said "...you can call any Vodafone mobile, or any landline in New Zealand and in 30 countries around the world, and only pay $2 for 2 hours". The Complaints Board noted where the Advertiser said in relation to this message, that "The use of "or" and the use of singular, rather than plural, language ("call any mobile" "any landline') indicates that the offer extends to each discrete call, rather than cumulative calling patterns".
The Complaints Board accepted this response, and was of the view that consumers reading the advertisement were likely to understand, from the singular references to "call" in the advertisement, that the offer applied to singular individual calls, and not to unlimited calling within a 2 hour period. It also noted that this offer was confirmed, and information about was provided to consumers, on the webpage listed in the advertisement. The Complaints Board also commented that this type of promotion by telecommunication providers was common one, and one that consumers were likely to be familiar with.
The Complaints Board was of the view that consumers were not likely to be misled or deceived by the advertisement, and accordingly ruled that it was not in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.
Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld