Shock, horror – Aussie telcos tell the truth

telephone_cartoonThree top Australian telecommunications companies have promised to be more truthful in their advertising. What a novel idea.

In an effort to stamp out dubious and misleading claims in the telco industry, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus have assured the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that they will improve their advertising practices. This means the consumer will be better informed about the services these companies offer and ACCC is hoping other telcos will make the same public commitment.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel admits the industry “has for some time walked a fine line between compliant and non-compliant advertising”. Wording of ads will now be carefully monitored to ensure certain phrases are not misrepresented or not used without disclosure of all terms, e.g. “free”, “no exceptions”, “unlimited”, “price per minute”. Claims relating to rates, speeds, data allowances and coverage must be clear especially if offers do not apply to all customers.

Meanwhile, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is disappointed in the number of mobile premium services ads across all media that have breached the industry code of conduct since it was introduced in July. The services include sending news and weather reports, sports scores and stock market data.

mobile_phone_cartoonWhat about in NZ? Telecom, TelstraClear and Vodafone have all been guilty of misleading advertising, as complainants to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will attest to. Of the 450 complaints the ASA received this year, around 15 have been against telcos. Not surprisingly, the ads that caused the most uproar were for Telecom’s XT network. You know the ones – Richard Hammond tries to look credible in race-car driving suit while fielding international calls from designer Annah Stretton, seeing if Zoe Bell can escape from a shipping container bobbing in the ocean or testing the speed of the network against a jet sprint boat.

Complaints questioned the credibility of Telecom’s claims. The ASA chairman ruled the ads were “hyperbolic in nature” and “obvious hyperbole was acceptable under Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics”.

One complaint was upheld – the scene where Zoe Bell is standing up in a 4WD going though Mt Victoria tunnel – and was considered “likely to encourage a disregard for safety, as the behaviour was easily emulated and highly dangerous”.

Determined not to be picked on, Telecom itself has laid three complaints this year against Telstra and Vodafone for misleading advertising. Telecom won one, settled one and withdrew the other.

Now that the Aussie telcos are smartening up their acts, let’s hope their Kiwi counterparts can be more discerning, ditch the hyperbole (save plenty of ad budget at the same time) and just give us the facts.

McCann’s original agency slogan “Truth Well Told” needs to be remembered more often.

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