Cell C accuses Vodacom of misleading customers with data bundle pricing

The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has published a new ruling which dealt with a dispute between Cell C and Vodacom.

In its complaint, Cell C said that Vodacom was misleading customers who attempted to top up through Vodacom’s *111# top up menu.

When dialling this USSD, customers are presented with the following options:

  1. 1GB at R100
  2. 2GB at R149
  3. 4GB at R249 

When you select ‘option 2’ a new screen states that:

  • You have selected a 1GB (with 1 GB FREE Night Owl) once-off bundle at R149 valid for 30 days. Visit vodacom.co.za for T&Cs.

Misleading

Cell C said that while the first screen advertises various data bundles at different price points, it noted that there are are no further terms and conditions attached or referred to on this page.

This gives the impression that customers are receiving 2GB of data but are actually only being given 1GB of normal data usage and 1GB of Night Owl data, it said.

It added that previous advertising cases showed that ‘material conditions to an offer must be communicated upfront’ and that Vodacom ‘cannot correct a misleading impression already created after the fact’.

It also submitted various Facebook and Hello Peter complaints showing customer’s frustration with Vodacom ‘misrepresenting’ its data bundles.

Ruling

In its ruling, the ARB said that it had a level of discomfort with Vodacom’s first screen – stating that the company could be clearer in exactly what was being offered in the 2GB data bundle.

However, it noted that this does not automatically make the claim misleading and that customers are still essentially receiving 2GB – even if the full 2GB is not available at all times.

It added that customers were made aware that 1GB would be Night Owl data before the purchase was made and that this was immediately clarified after the first offer.

Other factors considered by the ARB include:

  • The offer is not made to ‘rope in new customers’ but will instead apply to current Vodacom subscribers. These subscribers are more likely to be familiar with Vodacom’s pricing structures and data bundles;
  • Vodacom’s website states that 1GB is R149. A hypothetical ‘reasonable customer’may then automatically realise that 2GB for R149 may have limitations;
  • The nature of the advertising means that only a limited amount of information can be communicated on a single page.

Because of the above-combined factors, the ARB found that Vodacom’s advert was not misleading.


Read: The new data messages you will get from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom next month

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Cell C accuses Vodacom of misleading customers with data bundle pricing