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Monday, September 27, 2021

Vodafone Qatar challenges watchdog’s ruling that promo was ‘misleading’

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

A recent advertising campaign by Vodafone Qatar was found “inaccurate and misleading” and should be stopped immediately or reworded, the country’s telecoms watchdog has ruled.

The Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA) has said that Vodafone’s “3 months free” promotion for postpaid packages, which was rolled out earlier this month, was in breach of the recently-introduced Advertising, Marketing and Branding Code because it led customers to believe they would have three months’ subscription at no cost.

According to the fine print, customers would actually only receive a 30 percent discount on subscription fees over 10 months, it added.

However, Vodafone is challenging the ruling, saying the campaign was not misleading. The company also criticized the process and said it is “surprised” by the regulator’s decision, a spokeswoman told Doha News.

Screenshot of "3 months free" promotion
Screenshot of “3 months free” promotion

This week, the CRA ordered Vodafone to remove all promotional materials related to the campaign, or to change the wording on its advertisements, it said in a statement.

In the order, the regulator states that if Vodafone wishes to continue its promotion, it must immediately:

  • Rectify the existing advertisements to clearly state that all new postpaid customers would get a discount equal to three month’s subscription free over 10 months on their postpaid plan’s monthly rental (‘discount’);”
  • Amend the advertisements to clearly state that this offer is subject to the terms and conditions that apply to the offer; and
  • Ensure that customers who have paid for the “3 months Free postpaid” from Jan. 14, 2015 onwards receive three months free subscriptions and are not penalized for exiting the promotion prior to 10 months.

In response, Vodafone Qatar has denied any wrongdoing and said it plans to take the CRA’s decision to the Appeals Committee.

It said that CRA took the action following a complaint by its competitor Ooredoo.

Attacking the investigation process, Vodafone said in a statement:

“Vodafone has had no input into the complaint review process to date despite its request for involvement. Vodafone is surprised at the approach taken to this matter as it is not in accordance with the normal approach taken by the CRA.

To date, feedback received on this promotion has been overwhelmingly positive. Vodafone Qatar takes the issue of customer protection seriously and does not consider this promotion or associated media to be confusing or misleading. We intend to pursue the matter further with the CRA through appropriate channels.”

First action

This is the first public “show of teeth” by the CRA, which was set up last April under Emiri Decree as an independent regulatory arm of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar).

The new body is responsible for telecoms, access to digital media and the postal service.

For illustrative purposes only.
For illustrative purposes only.

It is also believed to be the first time the regulator has enforced the Advertising Code, which was introduced last September last year to help improve transparency in telecom marketing campaigns.

The 24-page code complements and beefs up a Consumer Protection Policy that was also rolled out last year after ictQatar fielded hundreds of complaints about the nation’s two official telecom companies, Ooredoo and Vodafone.

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

It includes a number of provisions. 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.”

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

The latest Vodafone ruling echoes a similar stand taken by ictQatar last year against Ooredoo, when it 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.

Thoughts?

29 COMMENTS

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Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

As far as I know, there was a similar ruling to Ooredoo few months ago about the “free 4G for life” ad, so it is not the first time as you are mentioning in the article @Dohanews

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

I was thinking the same thing, but that action was by ICTQatar not the CRA.

Qazi Kashoo
Qazi Kashoo
6 years ago

What about OoredoO advert of Shahray Pack? They do Say FREE UNLIMITED LOCAL CALLS and if u add on the Int Key at cost of 100 Qr then turn your local minuts to INT minutes 1500***… but the reallity is, if u use the 1st 1500 minutes in local u will not have one minute for INT Call..
They do write INDIRECRTLY but if someone mostly the Pplz who dont know English or dpnt know good will not understand easily… I did try to get one but good i asked on Call and they said No, u will not get 1500 minutes n unlimited local calls.. after the 1st 1500 minutes the rest local calls will be free of cost…

R.D.H
R.D.H
6 years ago
Reply to  Qazi Kashoo

I’m amazed that you can use 1500 minutes on the phone!

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

I wonder if there’s any way the CRA could investigate Qatar Airways’ advertising? Their advertising incorrectly states that they are “(The) World’s Five-Star Airline” when they certainly aren’t. Maybe three star on a really good day. Furthermore, they claim their website “couldn’t be simpler” when it clearly could.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

I find their business class pretty good. Puts American airlines to shame but then a again QA is not run on a traditional business model….

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Agreed. Their business class is top of the line, and they generally do a good job in economy too once you’re in the air. But everything leading up to that (excluding Al Mourjan lounge) is a disaster. From employees that are definitely not all on the same page to business practices that are from the dark ages to quite discriminatory customer service, it’s tough to get that taste out of your mouth no matter how good the cabin crew is. And being Platinum means nothing to them. Just another riyal despite the open checkbook from the government. Privatization (if it ever happens) is going to be a tough wakeup call for them.

sicti
sicti
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

+1 here for great quality of services. Never been disappointed, unlike Turkish Airlines, for example, that has a tradition in delaying 90% of their flights, using old planes (yesterday we stayed 2 hrs on the runway because of engine failure) and let’s not forget that ultra-over-crowded Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. Best airline in Europe my a**.

MarkDoha
MarkDoha
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

QA’s 5 star claim is based on their ranking by indepedent airline rating agency, Skytrax – http://www.airlinequality.com/StarRanking/5star.htm

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MarkDoha

You’re absolutely correct, but I strongly disagree with it based on my personal experience as a Platinum member and the experiences of others that I hear from. QR is pretty good in the air, and if you look at the Skytrax methodology they put quite a heavier weight there. The rest of QR is rubbish, especially their customer service. (Makes you wonder if Blatter is on the Skytrax 5-star selection board? 🙂 )

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MarkDoha

And there are other ratings agencies that don’t even have QR in their top ten, so there are differing opinions among raters as well.

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/01/travel/airlineratings-com-best-airlines/index.html

MarkDoha
MarkDoha
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Of course opinions vary and everyone is entitled to their own. I was merely pointing out that their ‘5 star’ claim is not fabricated, but rather underpinned by Skytrax ranking and therefore they haven’t broken any rules on misrepresentation in their advertising. It was an objective point, rather than a subjective opinion.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  MarkDoha

Point taken. Fair enough. They checked enough correct boxes for Skytrax, so you’re right about the validity of their claim. Wish those correct boxes translated well to all their customers too!

Andrew
Andrew
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Similarly there are airlines, such as Etihad, who have left the Skytrax rankings and do not participate with the site.

Also keep in mind that the airline star rankings aren’t in any way based on the reviews of everyday passengers. They are instead based on the reviews provided by Skytrax reviewers. Airlines are often aware of who the reviewer is, which flight he will be on, even which seat he will be sitting in.

Ibrahim Ali
Ibrahim Ali
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Dude, how can you be so ignorant. OMG, FGS!

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Ibrahim Ali

Not sure what FGS stands for. I’m a little old for all the new urban slang IMHO….. I’ll assume it means “fashionable, gorgeous, and sexy,” so thanks for the kind compliment!

I fly for business more than most, and for leisure as much as I can, so when it comes to Qatar Airways, the one thing I am not is ignorant. (Perhaps the wrong heritage to receive the true “five-star” service, but that’s a different discussion…..)

Althani
Althani
6 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Fashionable,gorgeous sexy LMAO,
Think it means for god sake though

Bo
Bo
6 years ago

Oh come on Vodafone Qatar! Don’t act like a petulant child refusing to accept when you’re wrong! Act like the multinational business your name claims to be.
3 months free and 30% off are not the same.
Personally i think 30% off sounds like a good offer (if that’s the plan you are after), but it is not the same thing and the advert should be changed accordingly. Yes it might be considered equivalent but the advert is wrong – you must either use qualify the statement with a word like ‘*equivalent* to 3 months free’ or change it to ‘30% off’.

SomeoneSomething
SomeoneSomething
6 years ago
Reply to  Bo

> 3 months free and 30% off are not the same.

Technically, they are – because you have to sign up for an annual contract and will end up paying the same amount either way.

The difference is that some consumers might think that they would not have to pay anything in the first three months – and end up surprised when they get a bill in the first month.

This kind of advert would not be out of place on a billboard in London, although I do note the lack of “T&Cs Apply”.

However, despite the fact that Vodafone is technically correct, I am completely against getting away with rephrasing crucial information and think the CRA is right to pursue this action. I have always hated those nasty surprises that accompany special offers. I would hate to walk into a store to sign up and get “well you still have to pay a bill every month – including the free months”.

I’m privy to these things because of their ubiquity in the UK – I have to automatically be distrustful or assume there is a catch. The CRA is saying it doesn’t want any “catch” – what you see is what you get, and I’m all for it.

Bo
Bo
6 years ago

No, ‘technically’ the adverts are not advertising the same.

3 months free = 3 months without cost or payment

30% off = 30% off a figure.

The value of the offer might be ‘technically the same’… but what they are offering is different.

That said – if i wanted to take up this offer, i understand that the value of the offer is the equivalent to 3 months off and wouldn’t be too fussed by the incorrect wording of the advert.

sayo
sayo
6 years ago

“…in the first three months…”

Where in the ad did it say anything about the FIRST three months? Sounds like your assumption.

MIMH
MIMH
6 years ago
Reply to  Bo

It’s not a multinational business, Vodafone is the minority shareholder. Most is owned government related entities or companies

Bo
Bo
6 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

Hence the “your name claims to be” bit.
It was a dig at how i don’t believe Vodafone would allow a spokes person to lambast a regulator and their processes

Bornrich
Bornrich
6 years ago

It’s quite obvious that the promotion means you save 3 months of fees and not the plan term, even with the omission of the word ‘worth’ …. “and save 3 months (worth) of fees.”

Still seeing a lot of promotions saying “WIN 7 BMWs” or “WIN 100 Trolleys”. Most people only have the one fridge and where would you park all those cars?!

justice
justice
6 years ago
Reply to  Bornrich

would sell all but one car.

Chipper fluffypants
Chipper fluffypants
6 years ago

This ad is so misleading it’s ridiculous. How can they even attempt to defend this?

Ali
Ali
6 years ago

Reminds me of “Qtel’s” 4G ad. “4G 4Free 4Ever” That was a complete deception, but then I still don’t understand who comes up with stuff like “ooredoo” or QMA’s new logo or “They are watching us” campaign or Handball 2015 “The game of FAST” (It’s not even Ramadan yet -_-). Compared to all that stuff this says 3 months for free, a person is tempted to go and discover whats the deal behind it. Usually in any other countries they would put a star (*) Terms and conditions applied. Who reviews anything here anyways lol.

soy-sauce
soy-sauce
6 years ago

QUESTION- is it still considered false advertising if vodafone does something that is more beneficial to the customer? Vodafone promised 3 months free but instead gave 30% off over 10 months. If they had stuck to 3 months free, they could have made the LAST 3 months free. That would have been true to the advertising language. Then the customer would have paid the first 7 months in full. Instead vodafone spread the payment over 10 months. That’s more beneficial to the customer. So what’s the problem???

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  soy-sauce

Clarity. That’s what the regulators want for the customer.

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