The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has published the findings of a new complaint against Telkom.
The complaint dealt with an advertisement of Telkom’s promoting its ‘Evening and Weekend Plan’ for R217.89 month to month – including unlimited evening and weekend calls (between Telkom fixed-to-fixed lines).
Upon reading the advertisement, the complainant purchased the product and began to use it to make calls.
However, upon using the service he was surprised by the bill at the end of the month, with a charge of R49.99 excl. VAT for the portion of phone calls that lasted longer than one hour.
He lodged a dispute with Telkom and he was refunded the next month – but was similarly overcharged on subsequent bills.
As a result, he believed that the advertisement was misleading and took his complaint to the ASA.
In responding to the complaint, Telkom said that the issue does not relate to the time at which calls are being made but rather the duration of the calls made by the customer.
It further confirmed that this was a true reflection of its current billing methodology, and that it has subsequently updated its website to explicitly state that calls are allowed up to an hour per call, before the billing rates kicks in.
The ASA noted that advertising should not contain any statement or visual presentation, which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer.
“The Respondent (Telkom) submitted that it is true that it starts charging for the call after an hour. It has updated the website to explicitly state that calls are limiteed to an hour per call before the billing rates kicks in,” it said.
The ASA has a long standing principle which holds that where an advertiser provides an unequivocal undertaking to withdraw or amend its advertising in a manner that addresses the concerns raised – the undertaking is accepted without considering the merits of the matter.
As such no judgement was handed down, but Telkom’s latest ‘Evening and Weekend Plan’ advertisements should show include the caveat that calls may not last longer than hour.