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Home Rulings GAMETRIBE / B ESLICK / 2017-5361F

GAMETRIBE / B ESLICK / 2017-5361F

Mr Eslick lodged a consumer complaint against a television commercial for Gametribe that was flighted on E-tv on 13 February 2017.

The commercial shows a young man playing a game on his smartphone while sitting on a couch. As he is playing, screenshots of the game appears on the wall behind him. During the commercial, the USSD code "*120*021#” appears on screen in large font, and at the end of the commercial, the words "Dial *120*021# Now!” appear on screen in large font. The following statements also appear on screen during the commercial, albeit in smaller font: 
  • "DIAL *120*021# ... R3/ day”, which appears in the top right corner of the screen, and 
  • "Subscription service. To cancel your subscription at any time sms STOP to 30111. For help call 087 231 0124. Full T&C at http://gametribe.mobi/terms-conditions. Errors are billed for. Std network rates apply.” This statement appears at the bottom of the screen.

Complaint

The complainant submitted that the commercial, which is shown multiple times daily, offers various games for one to play on smartphones at R3 per day. The problem is, however, that while it costs money to play the games, the cost is shown in extremely small font. These advertisements are aimed at young people, not wage earners, and the cost should therefore be more visible. The complainant added that while the size of the cost may look acceptable on a computer, it is almost illegible on a television set, unless it is being received via an HDMI signal. However, not many people can afford this technology.

Relevant Clause of the Code of Advertising Practice

In light of the complaint, Clause 4.2.7 of Section II (Truthful presentation) was taken into account.

Response

The respondent submitted, inter alia, that its advertising is in line with the code of conduct set out by its governing association. Its pricing is clearly displayed throughout the entire advertisement inclusive of Terms and Conditions, as well as a clearly visible support phone number. 

The respondent argued that its advertising is not aimed at children, and its advertisements have never been approved or scheduled for children’s programming. All its advertisements are supplied to E-tv for assessment and screening. Furthermore, the terms and conditions state that one must be 18 years or older to access its services.

As per the association’s code of conduct, the respondent adheres to the requirement of having double opt-in standards in place. This means that after a user dials the advertised USSD string (e.g. *120*021#) and selects a service, he/she will receive an operator initiated SMS (compliant and with complete information) with pricing stated again, as well as a support phone number. The user has to confirm (with "Yes”) to actually subscribe to the respondent’s service.

ASA Directorate Ruling

The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

Clause 4.2.7 of Section II states: "Where material information is superimposed on screen, the print shall be clearly visible and remain on screen long enough to be easily read by the hypothetical reasonable viewer.”

The question before the Directorate is whether the statement "R3/ day” is clear enough and large enough for the hypothetical reasonable person to read while watching the respondent’s television commercial.

While the font used for the cost of the service is small when compared to the font of the USSD code, the Directorate does not agree that the font is "extremely small”. It is also noted that the cost statement appears in white lettering against a black background, which increases its visibility, and is on screen for approximately 27 seconds of the commercial, which is 30 seconds long.

In terms of the surrounding circumstances, the respondent submitted that the service is not aimed at children. The Directorate notes that this appears to be the case, as the young man featured in the commercial reasonably appears to be at least 18 years of age, and would not be mistaken for a young child. The respondent also submitted that in order to subscribe to its service, one has to go through "double opt-in standards”. It is therefore unlikely that a consumer would subscribe to the service without knowing the cost.

In light of the above, the Directorate is satisfied that the cost of the respondent’s service, i.e. "R3/ day”, is clearly visible and remains on screen long enough to be easily read by the hypothetical reasonable viewer. Accordingly, the respondent’s commercial does not contravene Clause 4.2.7 of Section II.

The complaint is dismissed.

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