A website for Voxi, www.voxi.co.uk, a mobile phone network, seen on 30 April 2021, advertised a 12GB data plan for £10 per month. Alongside the heading 12GB, “8GB” was crossed through and text stated “EXTRA DATA”. Other text stated “Hurry! Offers end May 27”.
Issuegiffgaff, who believed that 8GB for £10 per month had not been sufficiently established as the usual selling price, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
ResponseVodafone Ltd t/a Voxi said the ad that giffgaff saw on 30 April was for the launch of a new plan. They 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 they had made the reference price, 8GB for £10 per month, clear to consumers. They 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, with the number of sales at each price point, and the planned price points up until 2 September 2021.
The ASA considered 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. We therefore expected to see pricing history which showed 8GB was the usual data allowance customers received for £10 per month.
We acknowledged Vodafone’s statement that the plan was a new one. However, there was nothing in the ad that explained that. We noted that unlimited calls, texts and social media were included in both plans and that video calls were excluded from the unlimited allowances in both. Vodafone confirmed that, other than the amount of data a customer received each month, there was no difference between the two plans. We considered that by following on the ad from a similarly-worded but, we understood, unrelated, previous plan, and the use of scored-out pricing, gave the offer the appearance of a saving against a usual, established selling price. We considered 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.
Turning therefore to the pricing history for the plan that had been running up to that point and which Vodafone had supplied, we saw that the plan had moved regularly between being on promotion at 12GB (on one occasion, 8GB) for £10 per month, and not being on promotion (6GB for £10 per month) during the period for which Vodafone had supplied figures. When the plan moved to being on promotion, the number of days for which it was on promotion tended to be greater than the number of days for which it was not on promotion (70, 56 and 66 days on promotion compared with 57, 70, 53 and 63 days not on promotion). We considered Vodafone had not established 8GB or 6GB for £10 per month in the previous plan.
We 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.
We considered ads needed to make clear to consumers if a savings claim was being made against a future price. Because the ad did not make clear that the savings claim was being made against a future price, and because Vodafone had not established that 8GB was the usual data allowance for the equivalent previous plan, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Vodafone Ltd t/a Voxi to ensure that introductory offers were clearly marked as such.