Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SA Watchdog Accuses MTN OF Misleading Users

In a hard-hitting ruling against MTN last week, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) essentially accused the network of deliberately misleading its subscribers into spending vast sums on expensive SMSes in a bid to win big prizes.
Six people lodged complaints with the ASA, claiming the adverts stated it cost R7.50 to enter the MTN 15 competition via SMS, but it took many more SMSes to be in the running for one of the big prizes.
MTN claimed innocence. It said everything was revealed in the competition's terms and conditions, and in light of the complaints, it had halted the competition in July, a month earlier than planned.
The network asked that an adverse ruling should not be made. The directorate was having none of it, saying MTN was no stranger to the ASA and it ought to have known its advertising had to comply with the ASA code.
"This was no more to celebrate 15 years of MTN's existence than to generate a huge income by luring subscribers and other people into entering a lottery-type competition," the ruling stated.
The directorate found "they omitted to state that the costs would accumulate, as multiple SMSes were required before an entrant stands in line to win something. "At best they were ambiguous about the cost of entering the competition."
So what happens now?
Not a lot. The competition and the misleading adverts are history, and MTN gets to keep the millions it made from its misled subscribers.

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