Complaint: 11/588

Vodafone Newspaper Advertisement

Details

Complainants
N. Jones
advertisers
Vodafone
Year
2011
Media
Print
Product
Telecommunications
Clauses
Decision
Upheld / Settled
ASA Links
Website Listing
Decision Document

Document


DECISION

Meeting 8 November 2011


Complaint 11/588



Complainant: N. Jones
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand

Complaint: The newspaper advertisement for Vodafone New Zealand featured the wording "Knock the Sea Eagles off their perch. (Good luck in the NRL Grand Final, boys.)". The bottom right corner of the advertisement featured a red box containing the Vodafone logo and the following wording:

"FreeTXT 'Join' to 499 for the latest Vodafone Warriors news and live game updates"
Small print underneath the advertisement stated "TXTs to 499 from Vodafone mobiles are free. Standard charges apply to all other networks".

Complainant, N.Jones, said: "I take objection to the wording of "FreeTXT 'Join' to 499 for the latest Vodafone Warriors news and live game updates" in the main portion of the advertisement. There is no clarification (via an * or other symbol) that "Free" may not mean "Free" in this context and the small print is located outside of the main portion of the ad". The Complainant added that "Vodafone are named sponsors of the NZ Warriors, and it would only be expected that the Vodafone Logo/Slogans would appear some place on the advertisement".

The Chairman ruled that the following provisions were relevant:

Code of Ethics

Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

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, said:

  1. Thank you for the letter dated 14 October 2011, seeking Vodafone's response to N. Jones' complaint,

  1. This complaint relates to advertising that appeared in a number of different newspapers over the space of three days - Friday 30 September to Sunday 2 October 2011,These advertisements were as follows:

  • NZ Herald, Fri 30 Sept (size 16x10cms)
  • Dominion Post Fri 30 Sept (size 16x10cms)
  • Christchurch Press, Fri 30 Sept (size 16x10cms)
  • Waikato Times, Fri 30 Sept (size 16x10cms)
  • NZ Herald, Sat 1 Oct (size 16x10cms)
  • Sunday Star Times, Sun 2 Oct {size 14x1 10cms)

  1. We attach a clearer version of the advertisement for your ease of reference (attachment A).

  1. The advertisement also appeared in a slightly different form in the Herald on Sunday on 2 October as a full page advertisement (Attachment 8)

  1. This advertisement was in response to the Vodafone Warriors entrance into the NRL Grand Final on Sunday 2 October, and was promoting a Vodafone service.

  1. This service allows people to register by texting a specified number (free for Vodafone customers) and then receiving free updates and information about the Vodafone Warriors. This is available for Vodafone customers, but can acceseed by non- Vodafine mobile customer as well. As Vodafone has no control over the charging carried out by other telecommunications providers. It Is not provide the free text service to Non-Vodafone customers, it can control cost of the information it sends out, which is as noted above free of charge.

  1. The advertisement was clearly a Vodafone advertisement, ft was in the usual Vodafone advertising template, and was branded as Vodafone with the usual logo, it was not a Vodafone Warriors advertisement, which fs clear from the fact that the advertisement is a message to the team.

  1. The advertisement asked customers to FreeTXT in order to receive updates and news from the Warriors. There was clear Vodafone branding, arid it noted at the bottom that charges apply to all other networks. Anyone who was not on the Vodafone network would look in the advertisement to see whether they could in fact register at all, and see that there are costs.

  1. As this advertisement was in a static publication there was ample opportunity for the reader to see and read the fine print which referred to the charges that non-Vodafone customers could expect.

  1. Our initial review of complaint logs show that we have not received any complaints from members of the public who feel that they have been misled by this advertisement. in addition, N. Jones himself appears to have been able to find the information about the charges that will be incurred by non-Vodafone customers.

  1. We do accept that it would be dearer in future to include an asterisk next to "FreeTXT", and will consider doing so in future advertisements for this service to draw any non-Vodafone customers' attention to this.

  1. The relevant section in the Advertising Codes of Practice has been identified as Basic principle 4, rule 2. We refer to each of these below:


All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society (Basic Principle 4)

  1. Vodafone submits that the advertisement was created with due social responsibility to consumers and society, as the advertisement included reference to the circumstances in which someone would be charged to the text.


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).

  1. Vodafone further submits that while an asterisk could have used to draw the reader's attention to the condidtion more quickly, it was an advertisement which contained all the relevant information. Vodafone do not believe that the advertisement as it was produced would deceive or mislead, or abuses the trust of the consumer.

  1. We also note that the complainant has referred to the recent Commerce Act proceedings Vodafone has been involved in. With respect these are separate issues which deal with entirely different issues, and should not be taken into account


Conclusion

  1. In tight of the comments above, we ask that the complaint be NOT UPHELD with regard to both complaints.

  1. Please do not hesitate to contact the writer if you have any queries on the above, or require any clarification



The Media, The New Zealand Herald, said:

The advertisement was booked and delivered as camera-ready for publication.

We did not consult the advertising code in relation to this advertisement because the content did not raise any warning bells at any point during the booking process that the advert could be misleading to consumers.

Essentially the advertisement in question was accepted in good faith from SparkPHD.


Deliberation

The Complaints Board carefully read all correspondence in relation to the complaint, and viewed a copy of the newspaper advertisement. It not that the Complainant believed the advertisement was misleading as it did not clearly specify that "FreeTXT" only related to Vodafone customers and that those on other networks would be charged at standard rates.

As a preliminary matter the Complaints Board considered whether the advertisement was indeed a Vodafone advertisement. They were of the view that it was a Vodafone advertisement but noted that it included a lot of references external to the products and services of Vodafone, more particularly the leading message in the advertisement was about the Warriors and their match again the Sea Eagles, the Warriors logo featured in the bottom left corner and the actual service being offered by Vodafone was Warriors focused. Accordingly the Complaints Board noted that while it was a Vodafone advertisement it needed to bear in mind when considering the advertisement in light of the Advertising Codes that not all Vodafone customers are Warriors fans and more importantly not all Warriors fans are Vodafone customers.

The Acting Chairman then directed the Complaints Board to consider the advertisement with reference to Basic Principle 4 and Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society and whether or not the advertisement contained anything which, either directly or by implication, was likely to deceive or mislead the consumer.

Turning to the advertisement, a majority of the Complaints Board said that the advertisement assumed a lot of the consumer to draw the conclusion that the service was only free to Vodafone customers. The majority were particularly concerned that this was an advertisement which related to the Warriors and that aspect of it would also have an appeal to children. The majority noted the response of the Advertiser that "it would be clearer in future to include an asterisk next to "FreeTXT", and will consider doing so in future advertisements for this service to draw any non-Vodafone customers' attention to this". However it said that in the context of the current advertisement before it, not enough care had been taken to draw the attention to the associated charges for non-Vodafone customers. Accordingly a majority of the Complaints Board said the advertisement was misleading and had not been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility, thus breaching Basic Principle 4 and Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

A minority disagreed and said it was clearly a Vodafone advertisement. It noted the Advertiser's response that the advertisement "was in the usual Vodafone advertising template, and was branded as Vodafone with the usual logo". The minority said that it would have been helpful if the disclaimer which outlined that those not on the Vodafone network would be charged at standard rates was better placed within the advertisement and included an asterisk to draw attention to it. However they noted that the advertisement did contain a disclaimer and this was only one line so easily assessable to the consumer. The minority further noted the Advertiser's response that as the "advertisement was in a static publication there was ample opportunity for the reader to see and read the fine print which referred to the charges that non-Vodafone customers could expect". Accordingly, a minority of the Complaints Board considered the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility and was not likely to mislead or deceive the consumer.

However, in accordance with the majority view, the Complaints Board ruled to uphold the complaint.


Decision: Complaint Upheld