The South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) and the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) are on a collision course over a radio ad the authority has labelled “misleading”. The Media Online reports.
A complaint about the advertisement, flighted on behalf of the government agency, and, according to general manager of communications, Vusi Mona, to “create awareness of the new dispensation of the e-toll system”, was upheld by the ASA.
This is the second time the ASA and Sanral have clashed. Last year the authority pulled an ad about the number of e-tags bought by the public. Mona said Sanral later verified the number had been independently audited and was correct. “In the absence of an audit, it is normal practice to publish unaudited figures to show a trend in the interim,” he said.
Mona said there appeared to be an organised and co-ordinated campaign against Sanral, as the agency had received several queries that focused only on the e-toll adverts and none on their other advertising campaigns. He added the complaint might have designed to “draw ASA in as an unwitting participant in their campaign”.
Now the ASA has ruled against Sanral once more. The offending copy read, “Government has listened to you and responded by giving you a new e-toll dispensation. Among other things, we’ve reduced the rate to 30 cents per kilometre for light motor vehicles and slashed the monthly cap by 50%. If you have outstanding e-toll fees dating back to December 2013, you will receive a 60% discount and 6 months to pay. We thank all who have paid their dues. You have helped in moving South Africa forward.”
At the heart of the complaint lodged by a member of the public is the fact that the commercial was misleading “as it suggests that the new dispensation and associated discounts is available to motorists. However, the 60% discount is not yet active and people would be paying more than they believe they are liable for”.
Sanral said the commercial was part of a government an e-tolls awareness campaign. “Effectively it was merely a solidification message that government has heard the people and responded by providing the new dispensation including the 60% discount. This was not a Sanral call to action, and the commercial does not state who is presenting the content.
“In fact, Sanral is currently busy implementing the required system changes in order to allow people to benefit from the new dispensation. However, it can only implement these and call people to action once the Minister of Transport officially approves the new changes, and it is published in the government gazette.
“Call centre staff are trained to inform road users that the new dispensation 60% discount is not in effect yet,” said Sanral in response to the complaint.
But the ASA directorate said the language used implied changes had been implemented and that motorists would receive the discount. “No mention is made of the fact that these proposals are actually still in the making, and are not effective yet, the ASA said. “The respondent confirmed that it could only effect the changes mentioned in the commercial once the Minister of Transport officially approves them and they are published in the government gazette.
“The omission of this vital information is likely to create a misleading expectation, with listeners believing that they are already entitled to the various savings, when in fact this is not yet the case.”
It ordered the commercial be immediately withdrawn.
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