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26 May 2023

Phumi Ramalepe, News 24 (South Africa)

S. Africa: Advertising Regulatory Board rules against telecommunications giant and orders removal of misleading advert

‘MTN ordered to remove '10GB for R99' ad after it was found to be misleading’ 23 May 2023

Telecommunications giant MTN is in hot water with South Africa's Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) after it was found to mislead customers with its 10GB for R99 advert. One unhappy South African, Grey Holmes, complained to the ARB that an advert at the Greenstone shopping centre was misleading the public. In the ad, MTN says customers can buy 10GB for R99, but does not stipulate that the data is divided into 5GB Anytime Data and 5GB Night Express Data. This leads customers to believe that they are buying 10GB Anytime Data.

In its defence, MTN argued that the terms and conditions of the ad stipulate that the BozzaGigs LTE bundles offer both Anytime Data and Night Express Data. It further argued that the BozzaGigs Webpage elaborates on the various BozzaGigs bundles as well as how the inclusive data in each bundle would be allotted between Anytime Data and Night Express Data. MTN also explained to the ARB that its BozzaGigs data bundles could be purchased in-store, where customers would be advised about the terms and conditions that apply either verbally or through a copy of the terms and conditions.

The ad regulator noted that the amount customers needed to pay for the bundles in question were clear, but what wasn't clear was how the bundles were allocated. The ARB also conceded that spacing in adverts might be limited, so additional crucial information may be included in the terms and conditions. Even so, "advertisers cannot use the terms and conditions to fix a misleading impression which has already been created in an advertisement. "Advertisers may only elaborate and give further information in the terms and conditions or include information that does not materially change anything about the offer made in the advertisement," said the ARB. According to the ARB, MTN could have included an asterisk next to the "10GB" or stated that the bundles were "split between day and night data. T&Cs apply". Given that nothing in the advert alerted the consumer to this, the communication is ambiguous. Therefore, the ARB ruled MTN's advert to be misleading to the public and ordered the telecommunications company to remove the advert, everywhere, within a specific deadline.