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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Qatar cracks down on ‘misleading and unfair’ telecom adverts

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In response to customer complaints, Qatar is rolling out a new advertising code that makes it harder for telecommunications providers here to use “misleading and unfair” marketing methods.

The Advertising Code has been issued by the recently-established Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA).

The CRA is an independent regulatory arm of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) dedicated to telecoms, access to digital media and the postal service.

The new 24-page code complements and beefs up a Consumer Protection Policy that was rolled out earlier this year to help consumers navigate internet and mobile services here, and hold providers more accountable for their offerings.

Complaints

Over the past two years, ictQatar has fielded hundreds of complaints about Qatar’s two official telecom companies – Ooredoo and Vodafone.

Previously, the ministry was involved in monitoring promotions and prices set by the companies, but the CRA took over the role of watchdog when it was established in April under Emiri Decree No. 42 of 2014.

According to regulations, Ooredoo, as the incumbent, must seek approval before launching a new campaign, while Vodafone is subject to regulation after offering its promotions.

The new code aims to ensure that all advertising and marketing undertaken by telecoms providers is “fair, accurate and truthful” and is not confusing to customers.

The new regulations follow an incident earlier this year when Ooredoo was censured by ictQatar, which demanded the provider immediately stop all advertising for its “4G For Free Forever” campaign.

At the time, the government body said “the advertisement is in fact misleading and it creates the perception that the 4G service and data are for free.”

Ooredoo responded that there had been no customer complaints over the campaign and publicly questioned ictQatar’s methods and role as regulator.

However, the CRA’s mandate will involve service packages and plans, and not problems regarding phone hardware.

For example, there have been several customers complaints about the new iPhone 6, which both telecom companies began selling over the weekend.

Some residents have said that despite promises made by Vodafone, they still have not received the phones they ordered.

This issue should be directed to the Ministry of Economy and Commerce’s Consumer Protection Department, CRA told Doha News.

Key provisions

The code, which has already been through two drafts and a consultation process with telecoms providers, states that companies must not market or advertise their services and products in a way which, directly or indirectly, gives false or misleading information to their customers.

It warns that marketing to customers – including calls, texts and emails – must not be intrusive, must have limited daily contact and should take place at a time suitable to the customer. Customers should be able to opt-out of such contact if they wish.

Privacy of customer should be protected at all times, and vulnerable customers, especially children and those with special needs, are also given additional protection.

For example, the code states that any advertising of ring tone downloads to children must include a comment reminding children they should seek prior permission from an adult.

Advertisers must also:

  • Be honest and truthful in their dealings with Consumers, and be factually correct and culturally sensitive;
  • Clearly disclose to the consumers all terms and conditions and appropriate information before the point of sale; and
  • Not take advantage of a consumer’s lack of experience or knowledge.

The code also covers pricing, one of the most common sources of customer complaints.

It requires providers to clearly and honestly give a breakdown of all pricing and to respond to requests for additional information on a product or service within 10 working days.

It bans providers from engaging in negative “ad wars” with rivals, saying all advertisers should respect their competitors. Differences in product or service can be highlighted, but this should not discredit or unfairly criticize another company.

And for special offers, it states:

“An advertiser must not claim, in any advertisements, that an applicable product or service is on special offer, available free of charge, or available on any other preferential terms and conditions, unless it is true and based on facts which can be substantiated. “

It goes on to detail the use of words such as “free” and “unlimited” and rules on how companies can honestly advertise the speed of their services.

Thoughts?

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Nandos123
Nandos123
6 years ago

I pre-ordered from Vodafone and I got my iPhone 6 on the launch event! It was an awesome experience, don’t know what happened with these customers :l

Moey Shawash
6 years ago

I ordered from both telecoms, received my Ooredoo device on the same exact launch day, at 1am on 27th and Vodafone was sending me emails to pick mine from city center on the same day at 1pm, and was able to get it even before that at 11am. Some people don’t know the difference between registering to be the first to know, and pre-ordering, everyone who pre-ordered from both telecoms like myself, received emails and receipt/order numbers that they can track.

truth.e.ness
truth.e.ness
6 years ago

I have lived abroad for 10+ years in a variety of countries. I have never experienced such pathetic telecommunications service, prices, options and performance as I do from Qtel.

Ali
Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  truth.e.ness

Can’t agree more. By the way does anybody know when Eid holidays will start?

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago
Reply to  Ali

Yeah I think it’s Sunday, because Eid is on the 4th of October.

brorick
brorick
6 years ago
Reply to  truth.e.ness

really? My father lives in UAE and it seems much more expensive to own a mobile phone over there

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

“Fine print”, something we are all used to in other countries, is strangely absent in Qatar. Either people offering deals are more transparent, or are simply dishonest.

MasterDevil³
MasterDevil³
6 years ago

I was deceived by the “4G forever” advertising i checked its details when it came out, there was nothing that states that the data is not included,until i checked it again yesterday, yesterday i got a new laptop to do my studies, i decided to use it to get applications for that, 2 hours later my account was suspended for reaching my bill limit no notice was issued because of its policies that i checked after that.

Is there any help the CRA can help with ?

ani
ani
6 years ago
Reply to  MasterDevil³

Could you please contact our Consumer & Government Affairs Department through:
1. Telcom Consumer Hotline – 103 (24-hours)
2. consumervoice@cra.gov.qa
Alternatively you could write to asharma@cra.gov.qa and we will forward your email to the relevant team.

Best regards,

Ani

brorick
brorick
6 years ago
Reply to  MasterDevil³

I dont get what happened? 4G forever simply means that you get a free upgrade from 3G…you still have a data limit (unless you get the unlimited data pack)

Observant One
Observant One
6 years ago

Can a law be enacted to stop misleading information and false advertisement by employment firms , recruitment agents etc?

Mohammed Albanai
Mohammed Albanai
6 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

i think that already exists, but seeing as they mostly recruit from outside qatar im not sure we have jurisdiction but then again i aint no big city lawyer

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

Does the new code cover Oooooredooooo’s ability to live up to their advertised services without consequences? I pay over double what I paid in the USA per month. But my advertised speed is half what I got in the USA, and I rarely actually get Oooooredooooo’s advertised speed either. They know we’re a (sometimes literally) captive market so they don’t care. What a racket.

njulio6
njulio6
6 years ago

Ooredoo is better. Vodafone is the worst. Network instability and very very poor service. In my home we have 3G only but it’s better than this Vodafone.

BillyBob
BillyBob
6 years ago

SHUT DOWN QTEL! I HATE IT. OVERPRICED. WORSE SERVICE. And thieves if i must say. Somehow my bill is always 9230723 when I barely use my phone.

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