Vodafone has been given a formal warning by the Australian Communications and Media Authority for failing to more prominently disclose fine print mandated by the new telecommunications code.
The warning is just one of several the communications regulator has handed out to the telco industry, which has been notoriously poor at adhering by advertising standards.
In this latest incident, the seventh industry warning since the code was introduced last September, Vodafone failed to display its “standard charge” for a mobile phone product offer, which placed it in breach of the code.
While Vodafone had actually included advertising for these standard charges, they weren’t displayed prominently as the code mandates.
The new code rules that providers which create text advertisements with an “included value” summary, (such as “this package includes $200 worth of value”), need to also include a “standard charge” for the cost of a call, SMS or 1MB of data.
Alan Chalmers, manager of the ACMA Consumer Interests division, told SmartCompany most of the industry has been “very good” in responding to the code, and most offenders have been slow, not malicious.
“In the past, the ACMA has been a patient regulator working with the industry to rectify problems,” he says. “But one of the outcomes of our public inquiry was that people believe we’d been too patient.”
“We’ve identified problems we expect the industry to work quickly to solve and the overwhelming majority have done that. But there have been a few instances where industry has taken too long.”
In these cases, ACMA issues a formal warning. The warning carries no fine or penalty, but indicates ACMA may take harsher action should the company involved make another misstep.
Since the introduction of the code, Chalmers says the main problem has been cracking down on inadequate information contained in “critical information summaries”, which are short summaries provided to customers containing information about a particular product.
“These warnings have been issued because companies were slow to get them right – not refusing to get them right.”
“We’re continuing to look at the industry’s advertisements and we expect those high standards of compliance to be maintained.”
Vodafone said in a statement the “human error” was due to a “last-minute change in creative that slipped through the internal systems we have in place”.
“We’re taking this warning seriously as we do all of our obligations under the TCP code.”
The telecommunications industry has been rife with advertising troubles, particularly over the use of the word “unlimited”. The new code is designed to change that, along with clarifying terms such as “cap” and introducing new ways for users to have a better idea of their current usage rates.