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Voxi advert banned over misleading price claims

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert for the Vodafone subsidiary after a complaint by rival Giffgaff.

On 30 April 2021 the Voxi website advertised a 12GB data plan for £10 per month. The data allowance of 8GB was crossed out and text stated “extra data”. Other text stated “Hurry! Offers end May 27”.

But Giffgaff, a virtual operator on the O2 network, complained to the advertising watchdog that 8GB for £10 per month had not been sufficiently established as Voxi’s usual selling price, and claimed that the ad was misleading.

In response, Vodafone said the ad that Giffgaff saw on 30 April was for the launch of a new plan. It said that, “to reduce potential consumer confusion”, Voxi kept the previous plan at its reference price, 6GB for £10 per month, for 63 days before the launch of the new one.

By crossing out “8GB” in the 30 April ad, Voxi believed it had made the reference price, 8GB for £10 per month, clear to consumers. It supplied a pricing history for the previous plan beginning 20 February 2020 to 29 April 2021 and for the new plan for the time that had elapsed since its launch on 30 April until the ASA’s investigation in June 2021.

However, the ASA considered that consumers would understand the crossed through “8GB” to mean that 8GB was the established, usual data allowance customers would receive for £10 per month, and that 12GB represented an advantage for no extra cost.

The regulator said it expected to see pricing history which showed 8GB was the usual data allowance customers received for £10 per month. Vodafone confirmed that, other than the amount of data a customer received each month, there was no difference between the two plans.

But the ASA considered that by following on the ad from a similarly-worded, but unrelated, previous plan, and the use of scored-out pricing, gave the offer the appearance of a saving against a usual, established selling price.

It concluded that consumers were therefore unlikely to realise that the offer related to a new plan and would expect the savings claim to refer to the plan that had been running up to that point.

The ASA pointed out that the pricing history for the plan moved regularly between being on promotion at 12GB for £10 per month, 8GB for £10 per month, and not being on promotion at 6GB for £10 per month.

The regulator acknowledged that, after the launch of the new plan, Voxi subsequently reduced the amount of data to 8GB per month for £10 after the introductory offer ended. However, there was nothing in the ad to explain what the savings claim was based on or to say the offer was an introductory one.

The ASA concluded that the Voxi ads needed to make clear to consumers if a savings claim was being made against a future price. Because the ad hadn’t done this and Vodafone hadn’t established that 8GB was the usual data allowance for the equivalent previous plan, it concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and that the ad was misleading.

The ASA told Vodafone that the advert must not appear again in the form complained of and that introductory offers should be clearly marked as such.

The ASA ruling is the latest in a series where mobile phone networks challenge claims made in rivals’ adverts. In September EE complained that O2’s claim of being “Britain’s best for coverage” was misleading and an O2 advert was subsequently banned.

In July the watchdog banned a Vodafone advert where it claimed to be “the best network.” Also in July, two TV adverts for Three UK were banned after Vodafone raised complaints.

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