Monday, 26 April 2010

Don't forget to read the small print

In a recent ruling, the ASA upheld a complaint against cellular telephone service provider Mobile Telephone Networks (Pty) Ltd (“MTN”) for contravening Clause 30 of Section III of the Code of Advertising Practice.

The advertisement in question promotes a new contract deal with copy that reads: “Subscription fee R39 PM x 24” and “including R50 airtime per month incl. VAT 25 x SMS”. The consumer complainant submitted that this advertisement is misleading as she discovered, upon signing the contract, that the quoted R39 monthly subscription fee excludes other mandatory costs which, when included, would add up to a total cost of R80 per month.

While both Clauses 4.2.1 (regarding misleading claims) and 19 (regarding pricing policy) of Section III of the Code are applicable in this complaint, the Directorate chose to rely solely on Clause 30 of Section III of the Code, which states that contracts for post-paid cellular telephone services are to state prominently the minimum total monthly cost at which that contract may be entered into. As this advertisement did not prominently state this minimum cost, it fell foul of the Code and the advertiser was ordered to withdraw the advertisement and not use it again in its current format.

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