Airtel fined R50,000 for misleading customers


At the hearing before the board of commissioners, at the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) premises in Orion Mall, the board ruled that Airtel had infringed Sections 21(1) (a), 30(1) and 32(f) of the Consumer Protection Act , relating to misleading information in respect of goods and services and this had  resulted in some of Airtel consumers paying higher prices than what had been advertised .

The December 17, 2011 issue of Nation had carried the following Airtel advertisement:

“Sms fever! Enjoy our reduced tariffs; only 40 cents per sms for all prepaid customers.”

However, following  complaints lodged at the department of information communication and technology ( DICT) which were subsequently investigated by that Regulator, it was discovered that some of Airtel’s customers had been charged 55 cents per sms rather than 40 cents as advertised.

 Airtel’s initial response to DICT regarding the matter was that the rate of 40 cents was applicable only to the Standard Mobile Package and that their records revealed all customers in that service class was charged 40 cents per sms.  Evidence from the Airtel’s call data record contradicted this.

Following the hearing conducted on June 27, 2012, the board of commissioners concluded that they were not convinced that Airtel had taken the complaints and issues raised seriously and decided that the advert in issue was very misleading to the general public.

 Airtel was not charging its customers as per its advert which amounted to the issue of engaging in conduct that is misleading to consumers as well as making misleading representations of the price of its services to consumers.

The board reminded Airtel they had been issued a Compliance Notice on April 2011 regarding a similar offence of misleading advertisement but that a future infringement would lead to more serious consequences for the company .

The board of commissioners determined that a fine of R50,000 be imposed on Airtel in accordance with Section 67(1) of the Consumer Protection Act of 2010.