Complaint: 11/631

Vodafone Apple iPhone Website Advertisement

Details

Complainants
B. Stewart
advertisers
Vodafone
Year
2011
Media
Digital Marketing
Product
Telecommunications
Clauses
Decision
Not Upheld
ASA Links
Website Listing
Decision Document

Document


DECISION

Meeting 7 December 2011


Complaint 11/631



Complainant: B. Stewart
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited

Complaint: The advertisement for the iPhone 4 8GB appeared on Vodafone's website (http://www.vodafone.co.nz). The advertisement contained a photograph of the phone and the accompanying text stated, in part:

"Buy the new iPhone 4 8GB

Now just $499 on a 24 month,

Smart $85 for iPhone plan"

Complainant, B. Stewart, said:

DEAR ASA,

It is well known that the NEW iPhone 4S has just been released in the US, UK, Germany, France, and Australia. Media have clearly documented the release of this NEW phone because it has broken records of being the fastest selling phone in history and it carries extraordinary features that the iPhone 4 doesn't. Plus it has gained even more media attention because of the recent passing of Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs.

The iPhone 4S will arrive in NZ in just a couple of months AND it will be carried by Vodafone NZ. Vodafone in Australia are already selling it, so Vodafone NZ would be more than aware that the NEW phone exists.

However, they have recently posted up an ad on their website advertising the sale of the older iPhone - the iPhone 4 8GB. The problem is - they have called it the NEW iPhone 4 8GB.

I believe that this is false advertising because people will get confused thinking that this is the NEW phone currently hitting record sales across the world. Vodafone are playing on the fact that the only difference in the name is a letter'S', but the differences in the phone is immense. This is misleading and deceptive.

I believe Vodafone NZ are trying to get rid of their final stock before the actual NEW iPhone 4S arrives in New Zealand.

I believe they are intentionally misleading the public by stating that the iPhone 4 8GB is NEW. The ad exploits the public's lack of experience or knowledge. In this case not realising that the only difference between the new and the old phone by name is iPhone 4 & iPhone 4S

When people read "Buy the new iPhone 4 8GB" they are very likely to confuse it with the actual new iPhone 4S which is advertised on Apple NZ's website and frequently reported in the media. This is taking advantage of people who do not realise that this iPhone that Vodafone is calling new, is NOT THE NEW MODEL. The real new one will arrive in only a couple of months and will hugely depreciate the value of the ones Vodafone NZ are trying to offload.

We are talking about a very expensive phone (over $1000 without a plan) and I believe that this complaint should be taken very seriously. I have attached a screen shot to this complaint.


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 your letter dated 3 November 2011, seeking Vodafone's response to B. Stewart's complaint relating to advertising on our website in relation to the new iphone.

  1. On 20 July 2010 the iPhone 4 was released in New Zealand, it was available as a 16G8 or a 32 GB option,

  1. On 4 October 2011, Apple announced the release of the new iPhone 4S. Media reports in New Zealand (and from Apple in the US) noted that the iPhone 4S was not on the list for a New Zealand release at the time of the announcement and no date was identified for a New Zealand release, (see attached media reports)

  1. On 14 October 2011, Apple chose to release a further version of the iPhone 4 in New Zealand, This phone was the smaller capacity 8GB phone, which had not previously been available in New Zealand. This new phone was released on 14 October 2011, and met the need for smaller, and cheaper version of the iPhone 4.

  1. At this stage, it was still unclear when Vodafone New Zealand would have the iPhone 4S available for sale. In order to promote the new 8GB iPhone 4, Vodafone included a banner on its website, which correctly stated this as the new iPhone, to differentiate between the previously available iPhone 4s (16GB and 32GB), and this smaller capacity phone.

  1. It was not until 4 November 2011 that Vodafone was able to provide information to the public (due to restrictions by Apple) that the phone was to be available on Vodafone from 11 November 2011. At this time, Vodafone put up a further banner on the website, which clearly showed that the iPhone 4Swas coming soon. (see attached)

  1. Until the time that the iPhone 4 8G8 banner appeared on the website, the iPhone 4 8GB was the new iPhone released in New Zealand, Vodafone accept that there could be room for someone to be confused as to whether it was the iPhone that had been announced on 4 October 2011.

  1. This was certainly not done to mislead customers, or to move old stock as suggested by the complainant. The advertising was done as it was to draw attention to the fact that there was a new iPhone 4 released in New Zealand, and available with Vodafone. We accept that our advertising could have been clearer to make sure consumers were aware that this was not the iPhone announced in early October, buta different "new" iPhone.

  1. It is submitted that it is likely that those people who would be Interested in a newly released iPhone 4S at this stage, would be people who would be technically sawy, and be familiar with the iPhone 4S and understand that this was different to the iPhone 4 8GB.

  1. To date we have received no complaints from customers who have been misled by this banner.

  1. Vodafone believe that the advertising was created with a due sense of social responsibility, and that the representation on this banner was truthful.


Conclusion

  1. In light of the comments above, we ask that the complaint be NOT UPHELD.

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





Deliberation

The Complaints Board carefully read all correspondence in relation to the complaint and listened to a copy of the radio advertisement. It noted that the Complainant specifically believed that the advertisement was likely to confuse consumers as by referred to the iPhone 4 as new when the actual new iPhone 4S is frequently reported in the media. The Complainant believed that this was taking advantage of people who do not realise that the iPhone advertised was not in fact the new iPhone 4S.

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

The Complaints Board noted the response of the Advertiser, more particularly where it stated

"On 20 July 2010 the iPhone 4 was released in New Zealand, it was available as a 16G8 or a 32 GB option,

On 4 October 2011, Apple announced the release of the new iPhone 4S. Media reports in New Zealand (and from Apple in the US) noted that the iPhone 4S was not on the list for a New Zealand release at the time of the announcement and no date was identified for a New Zealand release, (see attached media reports)

On 14 October 2011, Apple chose to release a further version of the iPhone 4 in New Zealand, This phone was the smaller capacity 8GB phone, which had not previously been available in New Zealand. This new phone was released on 14 October 2011, and met the need for smaller, and cheaper version of the iPhone 4.

At this stage, it was still unclear when Vodafone New Zealand would have the iPhone 4S available for sale. In order to promote the new 8GB iPhone 4, Vodafone included a banner on its website, which correctly stated this as the new iPhone, to differentiate between the previously available iPhone 4s (16GB and 32GB), and this smaller capacity phone.

It was not until 4 November 2011 that Vodafone was able to provide information to the public (due to restrictions by Apple) that the phone was to be available on Vodafone from 11 November 2011. At this time, Vodafone put up a further banner on the website, which clearly showed that the iPhone 4S was coming soon."

The Complaints Board said that the response of the Advertiser gave a clear explanation detailing that the iPhone 4 8GB was a new model released in New Zealand and at that time the iPhone 4S was not yet available, thus transpiring that the iPhone 4 8GB was the newest model available on sale in New Zealand. The Complaints Board further noted that the advertisement stated "Buy the new iPhone 4 8GB" and in its view it was clear that the phone being advertised was the iPhone 4 not iPhone 4S. Accordingly the Complaints Board said, the advertisement did not contain anything that was likely to deceive or mislead the consumer as per Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics, and it had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers as required by Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.


Decision: Complaint Not Upheld