A campaign for eir’s WiFi Calling service appeared on television, radio and digital.
The television advertisement opened with the image of a large black circle. The circle then gets covered with lots of paint in various bright colours. As the paint is shown falling on the circle, the onscreen small print is shown. The circle is eventually shown covered in the brightly coloured paint. The circle disappears and the words “no more black spots” is shown, followed by details of the eir Mobile offer.
MVO: “No one likes black spots. That's why eir is the first and only mobile network to introduce WiFi calling. So now you can make or receive calls and texts on your mobile over any available WiFi connection, wherever you are in the world.
While some other networks may suffer coverage blackspots, they disappear with WiFi calling - exclusive to eir Mobile.
Switch today and you'll also get a free iPhone 6 and so much more. eir let's make possible.”
On screen text during the advertisement stated:
“No more black spots.
Free iPhone 6
eir sport / Unlimited data / €40 eir customers / All for €55
eir let's make possible...
1800 500 300 - in-store - eir.ie”
The onscreen small print of the television advertising stated:
“Service subject to Wifi connection. Phone subject to availability and signup to our €55 plan, 24 month contract.
€40 pricing for existing eir broadband landline customers. For full details, fair usage & terms see eir.ie”
Sponsorship stings on Newstalk featured the following sting:
“Newstalk breakfast in association with eir - do anything anywhere with high-speed 4G mobile data coverage across 96% of the population.”
The WiFi Calling webpage on the eir website provided details on the eir WiFi Calling service, including the following:
“eir WiFi Calling
Mobile signal in more places thanks to the strength of the eir network
What is eir WiFi Calling?
While other networks may suffer blackspots in your home and office, here's some great news from eir, thanks to our exclusive new WiFi Calling. Wifi Calling lets you use your smartphone to call and text over any WiFi connection so you can now get even better mobile coverage anywhere in Ireland. Better still you don't need any additional app for this exclusive new service.”
Under the “Benefits of WiFi Calling” it stated:
Breakthrough mobile coverage using WiFi Calling through any WiFi connection.”
Vodafone objected to the advertising on the following grounds:
They considered that the television advertisement headline “no more black spots” meant that eir were claiming to provide 100% mobile coverage across the country, regardless of location. Vodafone said that in order to make this claim, eir would have to prove that they had mobile coverage or that there was a publicly available WiFi connection with in excess of 1Mb broadband speed available, in any location, anywhere in the country, however, Vodafone considered that this was untrue. They also considered that the statement in the small print of the advert “service requires a WiFi connection” was insufficient to overcome the hyperbolic claim of “no more black sports” and therefore, the statement was misleading.
Vodafone referred to the claim on the eir WiFi Calling site which said that the service provided better mobile coverage and mobile signal. They said that WiFi Calling could not be claimed to give better mobile coverage as it was dependent on a WiFi network, primarily delivered across a fixed connection. They believed that eir were exploiting the lack of knowledge of consumers to make the claim. They also referred to a further reference on the eir site to WiFi Calling that claimed that the service could be used to make calls “even when there’s no mobile coverage”. They said that it could be argued that eir were not giving “better mobile coverage”, as their site advised that WiFi Calling was used when there was no mobile coverage. They believed therefore that the claims were misleading and designed to confuse.
Vodafone also referred to a sponsorship sting on Newstalk radio which they believed was exploiting consumers’ lack of knowledge. They queried whether eir were using population coverage or geographic coverage and whether it was possible for eir to have 96% 4G mobile coverage, based on population, and then claim 100% mobile coverage using the WiFi Calling service based on geography.
Finally, Vodafone considered that the campaign could cause a customer to make a transactional decision that they would not ordinarily make and constituted a breach of the Code. They also considered that the small print did not adequately justify the claims made by eir.
eir stated that their television advertising made it very clear in the voice over that the claim of “no more black spots” related directly to the availability and impact of their new WiFi calling feature. They said that the new feature enabled eir mobile customers to make and receive ‘mobile’ calls through any WiFi connection, which could be a WiFi connection of any WiFi provider/hot spot provider, including those provided by other mobile service operators. They said that at no stage in the television advert was there any claim of 100% mobile coverage or anything that could be inferred as such. They also said that the terms and caveating of the WiFi service were very clear. They said that the purpose of the television advert was to advertise their new and exclusive feature which enabled their mobile customers to make ‘mobile’ calls using WiFi networks in any area where mobile coverage may be poor or non-existent, thereby effectively eliminating black spots.
In regards to this aspect of the complaint, eir said that they did not understand the complaint issue. They said that the service was aimed at their mobile customers who may have poor mobile coverage and who have access to a WiFi connection. They said that the service enabled mobile customers who had signed up to an eir mobile service contract, to have a better mobile service which effectively eliminated black spots for such customers.
They said that they were very clear in their terms and conditions that in order to receive and use the service, customers must have a WiFi connection, hence the reason it was called the eir WiFi calling service. They considered that from a customer’s perspective, it was irrelevant whether the improvement to their mobile signal was achieved via a mobile or a fixed network. They considered that all customers would care about was the improvement to their mobile coverage which the eir WiFi calling service could achieve. They did not consider that it was misleading to consumers to state that the eir WiFi calling service provided better coverage for making mobile calls, as this was simply a matter of fact.
They also said that they did not accept the claim that customer confusion existed in the marketplace regarding the provision of the eir WiFi calling service and given that they were the only mobile operator offering the service they considered that they were in a position to know.
eir said that they provide 96% 4G coverage and were able to stand over and verify this claim. They said that the statistics in calculating the 4G coverage were generated on a monthly basis from an industry standard planning tool which was preloaded with CSO Census data. They also said that at no stage in their advertising of the WiFi calling service had they made reference to 100% availability.
They said that the Newstalk sting referred to by Vodafone clearly referred to population coverage and caveated the statement “anything anywhere” by clearly referring to 96% population where eir’s 4G mobile data service was available.
Complaint Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that during the television advertisement, the headline “no more black spots” was on screen for approximately two seconds, 22 seconds into the advertisement. The Committee also noted that the voiceover had clearly stated, in advance of the text appearing, that the WiFi Calling service was through an available WiFi network. They considered therefore, that the customers would know in advance that the service was dependent on a WiFi network being available and did not consider that the claim was that the mobile network itself was providing 100% coverage. In the circumstances the Committee did not consider that this aspect of the campaign was in breach of the Code.
The Committee noted that the complainants considered that the claim to provide better mobile coverage and signal was misleading as the better service was dependent on a WiFi network being available and not due to an improvement in the signal provided by eir themselves. The Committee considered that users of the service would be doing so on their mobile handset and would therefore, only be concerned with the fact that they could use their mobile and would not be overly concerned with how the service was being delivered. While the Committee did consider that the use of the terms ‘mobile signal in more places’ and ‘better mobile coverage anywhere in Ireland’ implied that the network itself was being improved rather than the network was facilitating calls over a WiFi network, they felt overall that the webpages had clearly identified that the service involved using an available WiFi network. In the circumstances the Committee considered that the advertising was not in breach of the Code.
The Committee reviewed the sponsorship sting and noted that while it stated “do anything anywhere” which implied 100% geographic coverage, the fact that it had also stated that coverage of their 4G mobile data was across 96% of the population, clarified the claim. As the clarification had appeared within the same sting, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code.
No further action required.