Telecom ‘Truth in Advertising’ rules require honesty

“Truth in Advertising” guidelines for telecom companies, published this week by the Information and Communications Technology Authority, require companies offering phone, internet and other services to be honest when marketing to consumers.

The guidelines first appeared as part of a decision on a dispute between Digicel and Flow.

ICTA Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe said in a press release, “The key is to be as open and transparent as possible.

“There should be no omitting or hiding of material information that a consumer needs in order to make an informed decision in relation to the purchase or continued use of an ICT service. Consumers have a right to receive clear, intelligible, unambiguous, timely information.”

Flow, for the most part, came out on top of the dispute that was first filed in 2014. ICTA said most of Digicel’s claims that Flow, then called LIME, was misleading customers were without merit. However, the regulator said that a 2014 map used by LIME did mislead customers.

The regulator said in the Oct. 11 decision that it will perform its own coverage study to map each provider’s mobile phone coverage.

ICTA and Cayman’s telecoms came under fire in the Legislative Assembly a year ago for allegedly advertising internet speeds much faster than what consumers actually received at home.

A Flow spokeswoman said the “Truth in Advertising” rules came up during the dispute resolution with Digicel this year. “We respect and support the ‘Truth in Advertising’ guidelines,” Flow’s head of marketing Julie Hutton said.

In an email she countered the accusations against Flow.

“We are concerned that not all providers are following the guidelines and some operators are making unsubstantiated claims resulting in misleading advertising for consumers,” Ms. Hutton wrote.

Releasing the rules, the regulator notes, “Of particular interest to consumers will be the issue of pricing messages. The new guidelines state that price statements about any ICT Service being marketed should include information about the manner in which the price will be calculated as well as the definite prices; contain governmental surcharges, fees and miscellaneous charges that are collected from consumers on behalf of government or appropriate authority; and state any costs the law allows the licensee to pass onto its consumer as a surcharge.”

Mr. Fa’amoe said companies have to clearly explain any factors in getting mobile phone service on the island, noting that call volume, location and the type of phone can impact service.

 

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