The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa has told the City of Johannesburg it has two weeks to remove an ad claiming it is a “World Class African City”.
The ASA received a consumer complaint from a Mr Steven Haywood, who lodged an official protest with the ASA against the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. He said a commercial aired on Talk Radio 702 contained “blatant untruths”.
“Imagine a city where you can rest assured, knowing that it is financially stable; that there is ongoing electrification of homes. A city that is saving the environment through different energy-efficient interventions. A city that continues to create new jobs despite the economic downturn. Can you imagine living in such a city? You do. These are just some of the City of Joburg’s many significant achievements. Imagine what we’re doing for you tomorrow. Visit Joburg.org.za for more. Joburg, a World-Class African City”.
Haywood, in his complaint, said the commercial claims that the City is financially stable, yet it has received three consecutive qualified audits, with Pikitup bankrupt and the Roads Agency being unable to repair the roads. He also said the fact that R12 billion worth of revenue was being written off this year as “unlikely to materialise” added weight to the claim that the city was not “financially stable”, as claimed in the ad.
Haywood challenged the reference to Johannesburg being “environmentally friendly”, saying the city loses R1.2 billion worth of electricity each month, and loses water to the value of R800 million per month. He referred to Pikitup leaving refuse lying in the streets for days due to fleet shortages.
The ASA, in its ruling, said the City of Johannesburg had acknowledged receipt of the complaint, but did not respond to the complaint, forcing the authority to rule on the submissions at hand.
The ASA ruled under terms of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Advertising Code of Practice, which states, “Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation which, directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity, inaccuracy, exaggerated claim or otherwise, is likely to mislead the consumer”.
“The complainant effectively disputes the veracity of the statements made in the commercial, particularly those relating to financial stability and environmental efforts. The commercial makes no reference to the Pikitup services, and the Directorate therefore will not consider this portion of the complaint at this time,” is said in its ruling.
“The respondent has not disputed the allegation that it has received a qualified audit for three years in a row, that it runs high losses on, inter alia, electricity and water, or that its Pikitup service is bankrupt. While the Directorate did not delve into the full report, it appears that the Report of the Auditor-General to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature and Council on the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality’ as available on the respondent’s website appears to support the allegations of financial instability.
“Given this, and given the absence of anything from the respondent to refute the allegations made, the Directorate has no option but to find that the commercial appears to be communicating a misleading message about the overall wellbeing of the respondent,” the ASA said.
In effect, the City of Johannesburg now has to withdraw the commercial at issue; ensure that the instructions to withdraw this commercial are given immediately upon receipt of this ruling; and ensure that the commercial is withdrawn from all media within the deadlines stipulated. The City is not allowed to use the commercial “in its current format in future”.