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Medium: Internet (Company Website), Television
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10
The Broadband page on the advertisers’ website advertised an offer:
“Transform your home with Vodafone Gigabit Broadband
Offer Extended! €25 a month for first six months
Online exclusive 12 months contract*
18 months apply if you don’t buy online or by Live Chat
(*) you can only get the 12 months contract offer if you purchase online or by Live Chat. Minimum 18 months contract with other channels.”
Several advertisements advertised the Gigabit Broadband plan, however, only one advertisement sourced included price details.
One television advertisement featured a Father and Daughter sitting at a table doing her homework.
Girl: “Dad, how many moons does Jupiter have?”
Dad: “Well, Jupiter is one of the moonier of the planets. Eh let's see, there's proton, crouton, oregano, anagram.”
The girl looks puzzled at the Dad meanwhile a man hands the Dad a tablet with information on Jupiter open on screen. The Dad takes the tablet and reading from it says "79".
Man: "You can't know everything, but with Vodafone Gigabit broadband you'll be up to speed with whatever the future throws at you.”
The three are then shown looking at Jupiter on the tablet.
FVO: “Transform your home today for €30 for the first 6 months. Search Vodafone Gigabit Broadband.”
Onscreen text: €30 a month for first 6 months, from €55 thereafter. 12-month contract. Installation fee may apply. Limited offer ends 31/05/2019. Subject to availability and selected areas. Average speeds. See vodafone.ie
Three complaints were received regarding the various advertisements in the campaign.
The complainants all considered that the advertising was misleading, as it was promoting a 1Gb broadband plan for €25 a month for the first 6 months, then from €55 a month thereafter, because they said the €55 a month price related to a 150mb product and not a 1Gb product.
The complainants considered that the omission of the cost to continue to receive the 1Gb broadband plan after the initial contract had ended was misleading. Two complainants were advised on enquiry, that the current cost of the 1Gb plan after contract was €90, a cost that they considered was significantly higher than that included in the advertising and therefore, it should have been stated in the advertising.
One complainant considered that the advertising led them to believe that the speed being offered was 1Gb, whereas they had checked the advertisers’ address checker facility and were advised that they could avail of three different speeds, 150Mb, 300Mb and 1Gb. They did not consider that the advertising had made it clear that there were three price plans on offer.
The advertisers stated that they had four fibre to the home tariffs available to eligible customers. They had a Gigabit 1000Mbps product offered under two different Plans and, whether consumers could avail of Plan 3 or Plan 4 would depend on their geographical location, and the Plan available would determine the price they paid. The Plans were:
• Plan 1: 150Mb priced at €25 for the first six months and €55 for the following six months.
• Plan 2: 300Mb priced at €25 for the first six months and €65 for the following six months.
• Plan 3: 1000Mb (called Gigabit Broadband 1000) priced at €25 for the first six months and €90 for the following six months.
• Plan 4: 1000Mb (called Gigabit Broadband Experience) priced at €25 for the first six months and €55 for the following six months.
They advised that it was on plan 4 that customers would default back to a speed of 150Mb after their 12-month contract while continuing to pay €55 per month.
They said that due to the complex nature of the category they aimed to simplify this by communicating the Gigabit 1000Mbps product only as over 500,000 households were eligible to receive it and it offered the best broadband experience on the market.
They believed that the complaints were all in relation to their Gigabit Broadband Experience product and that the welcome letter and the terms and conditions for this product stated that a customer would default to 150Mb when they reached their out of contract and that they would be charged the corresponding 150Mb price point. They advised that if a customer wished to hold their 1Gb service on the Gigabit Experience plan, their out of contract price would be €90.
The advertisers noted that complainants were advised that the out of contract price for the service was €90, however, they said that this information was not listed in their terms and conditions, welcome letter or email. They said that the price of their product was €25 for the first six months and €55 for the following six months and they considered that their terms and conditions and welcome documentation were transparent around the cost.
They provided the ASAI Executive with a copy of their Welcome Letter to customers signing up to their Gigabit Broadband Experience product and an extract from their terms and conditions for the Gigabit Broadband Experience product, which is the product that they considered was the subject of the complaints. Included in the terms and conditions was the statement that “Subject to 18-month contract. Customers will receive up to 1GB speeds for 18 months. Gigabit Broadband Experience 1000 price based on promotional price and thereafter price of the Gigabit 150 product at time of sign up.” Further terms stated “Once out of contract the customer will be defaulted to 150mbps product and its corresponding price at the time.”
The advertisers stated that they made every effort to ensure their customers were presented with clear options for optimum high-speed broadband relevant to their geographical location. They said that customer experience with their broadband was of utmost importance to them as a company. They said that Gigabit Broadband Experience 1000 customers who were approaching the end of their contract would be contacted in respect of their out of contract price, speed and renewal of their contract. Any customer that reached out of contract would continue to pay the price that they paid for months 7 to 12. However, they have noted that customers may want to know their out of contract price and would therefore, take steps to reflect this in communications with customers signing up to the Gigabit product.
In response to the complainant who used their address checker facility they said that in view of the results, they were not eligible for the Gigabit Broadband Experience 1000 product due to their geographical location, however, they were eligible for the three fibre to the home products. They said that when a customer enters an address into the address checker, it retrieves the products based on the technology that is available at that address. They said that their terms and conditions clearly stated that Gigabit Experience 1000 product was “subject to availability at your geographical location as identified by Vodafone”.
Complaints Upheld In Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 - Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that while there was a range of products at varying speeds and prices available to consumers depending on their geographical location (including a 150Mb product priced at €55 for months 7-12), the advertising related only to Gigabit Broadband.
The advertising stated that the pricing increased to “From €55” a month for the second six months of the contract and the Committee noted that one of the plans was €55 per month and the other €90 per month. The Committee considered that for those consumers who could not avail of the advertised product at the €55 price point, because of their geographic location, the advertised “from €55” was likely to mislead and in breach of Section 4.1 of the Code.
Issue 2 – Not Upheld:
The Committee noted the complainants’ concerns and the actions taken by the advertisers towards the end of a consumer’s contract. The Committee noted the advertisers’ assurances that they would take steps to reflect the fact that customers may want to know in advance what their out of contract price may be in their communications with customers signing up to their Gigabit product.
The Committee, however, noted that there was no requirement in the Code that advertising indicated what out of contract costs would be. In the circumstances they did not consider that the omission of such pricing from the advertising was in breach of the Code.
Issue 3 – Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that while there was a range of products at varying speeds and prices available to consumers depending on their geographical location, the advertising related only to Gigabit Broadband.
They noted that when the customer enquired about the availability of the product to them, they were presented with the Gigabit plan available at their geographic location, together with the two Fibre to the home broadband plans with speeds of 150Mb and 300Mb.
They did not consider that the existence of additional products not referenced in the advertising nor the fact that they were offered to consumers after using the address checker service constituted a breach of the Code.
Action Required: The ‘from’ pricing information in the advertising must not reappear in its current form in circumstances where there are different ‘from’ prices dependent on customer location.