Vodafone Website Advertisement
Meeting 11 May 2010
Complainant: C. Brown
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Ltd
Complaint: The website advertisement at http://www.vodafone.co.nz was headed "On Account Plans". Amongst the plans listed was the Starter 600 Plan. Details about the Starter 600 plan were featured in a dropdown list and specified the plan in regards to: calling minutes, TXT600, Bestmate, Broadband, additional calling charges, additional TXT, PXT Messaging, International calls, voicemail access, Family Add-on, and Your Time. Details for the TXT600 component of the plan said: "Send up to 600 TXTs to any NZ mobile while in NZ every month".
Complainant, C. Brown, said:
"I feel that this advertisement is misleading as NO mention is made on this page that this plan does NOT include texts that are sent from the web2TXT service using the Vodafone website.
When a text is sent from the website, using web2TX, the recipient sees that the message has been sent from an identifiable Vodafone mobile number. ie mine. The recipient has no knowledge that the texts came from the use of a Website and not the actual mobile 'phone so the web2TXT service is intricately linked to the mobile 'phone and therefore its plan."
Further correspondence from the Complainant said:
"The first link you mention does contain reference to the Vodafone Starter 600 plan, but you have to click the button (under the information for Easy 150) that says 'See all 8 plans that cost more' or the link at the side of the page that says starter plans.
The second link that you mention takes you to information about Vodafone Starter 600 immediately.
However, regardless of the link that gets you there, no mention is made for any of the plans that include texts (not just starter 600) that the free text allowance doesn't include Web2txt which is the point of my complaint."
The Chairman ruled that the following provisions were 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, said:
"Thank you for your letter. This complaint concerns information set out on the Vodafone.co.nz website for the Vodafone Starter 600 plan (Website Advertisement).The Website Advertisement was generated by Vodafone New Zealand Limited (Vodafone). No third parties were involved in the creation of the Website Advertisement.
The complainant considers that the Website Advertisement is misleading because it does not mention that the Starter 600 plan does not include text messages sent via the Web2TXT service on the Vodafone website,
The Vodafone Starter 600 plan includes 600 text messages. These are included as part of the $29.95 monthly cost of the plan. These features and charges are clearly set out in the Website Advertisement.
Web2TXT is a separate product offered by Vodafone, enabling customers to send text messages from an internet browser.
The product webpage for Web2TXT quite clearly states:
You only pay 20 cents including GST for each message you send to each mobile so one TXT sent to five people is charged as five 7XTs.
web2TXT TXTs are not included in your pricing plan TXT bundle.
While the customer's number is required in order to charge for the Web2TXT service (either by deducting any charges from Prepay credit, or by charging to an On Account bill), the text messages sent via Web2TXT are in no way tied to any text entitlement under any plan.
The Website Advertisement sets out the features and the charges for the Starter 690 plan. It does not set out other products offered by Vodafone that are neither offered, nor charged for, as part of this plan.
Although a recipient of a text message via the Web2TXT service will be able to identify the mobile number the text message is being charged to, we do not consider that this affects the accuracy of the Website Advertisement.
We consider that the Website Statement was not in any way misleading and we ask that the Board consider this matter Not Upheld."
The Complaints Board carefully read all correspondence in relation to the complaint, and read a copy of the advertisement. It noted that the Complainant was of the view that the advertisement was misleading where it promoted the Starter 600 phone plan, and referred to it including the ability to "Send up to 600 TXTs to any NZ mobile while in NZ every month".
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 by implication, was likely to deceive or mislead the consumer.
Turning back to the advertisement, the Complaints Board noted the detail regarding the text messaging component of the Start 600 plan, which said "Send up to 600 TXTs to any NZ mobile while in NZ every month". It noted that the Complainant was of the view that this was misleading as it did not mention that texts sent via the "web2TXT" service were not included in this 600 text allowance. The Complaints Board turned to the response from the Advertiser and noted where they confirmed that web2TXT's were not included in this 600 text allowance.
The Complaints Board also noted where this response advised that "Web2TXT is a separate product offered by Vodafone, enabling customers to send text messages from an internet browser. The product webpage for Web2TXT quite clearly states: "You only pay 20 cents including GST for each message you send to each mobile so one TXT sent to five people is charged as five TXTs....web2TXT TXTs are not included in your pricing plan TXT bundle."
The Complaints Board noted that the web2TXT service was a service offered by Vodafone whereby people could enter text and send it as a text message to a phone, from their computer. The Complaints Board was of the view that this service, which it noted was referred to as "web2TXT", not as "TXT", was sufficiently different to what most consumers would expect to be included in the text messaging component of their mobile phone plan. It further noted that people who wished to use this service would be alerted to the fact that it wouldn't be included in their calling plan allocated text allowance, through the wording on the website, "web2TXT TXTs are not included in your pricing plan TXT bundle".
The Complaints Board was of the view that people 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.
The Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld