I was watching Get Carter on Five last night. This was the original film where Michael Caine returns to Newcastle to find out why his brother died. In the course of doing so he uncovers a trail of sordid vice and corruption with various dodgy goings on that lead him to exact a form of justice. Quite why the police haven’t brought the bad guys to justice isn’t clear but Carter has only to scratch the surface to get evidence of the problems and then he deals with them.
Anyway, great film and great music and, being on Five, it of course had adverts. One advert caught my attention and it wasn’t just because it was a premium rate service with the number being promoted on gyrating bottoms. What shocked me were all the flagrant breaches of the PhonePayPlus Code of Practice on promoting premium rate services.
It is not FREE
The advert was promoting the number 88099. The biggest part of the promotion were the words saying Text FREE to 88099. Ok it didn’t say it was free to text, it merely asked you to text the word FREE. Strange they chose that word isn’t it?
The code, section 5.11 is fairly clear on the use of the word FREE, saying no service may be promoted as free if it isn’t. In January 2009, PhonePayPlus also issued a Statement of Expectation which summarises the changes and actions service providers may need to take in order to remain compliant with the code. In the statement it says “price information must be clearly displayed – as prominent as any other aspect of the promotion. Promotional material must not suggest any premium rate product or download is ‘free’”.
It costs one pound fifty
There are strict guidelines on how convey the price. Again, to quote PhonePayPlus, “In all cases the price should be expressed in conventional terms such as “50p per minute” or “£1.50 per text”. Variations on this by charges being presented in per second formats or without reference to a “£” sign (where the rate is above 99p) may breach the PhonepayPlus Code.”
PhonePayPlus makes it a big deal that pricing should be set out in familiar numerical form. Quoting the price in full words doesn’t meet that requirement, especially where it’s only on for a short time.
Who is policing this?
Surely it is not beyond the regulator to do some proactive policing in this area. All TV adverts have to approved by Clearcast before they can be transmitted. Clearcast are supposed to ensure the advert is acceptable for the audience likely to view the advert. However, they are not responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulations surrounding premium rate services.
Television advertising often reaches much larger audiences than other forms of advertising. It therefore would appear appropriate for PhonePayPlus to devote some resource to ensuring these adverts comply with regulations before they can be aired. A recent survey commissioned by PhonePayPlus suggested that the public have more faith in services promoted on television as the mere fact the service can afford to use this medium somehow makes it more legitimate. It is a shame therefore that the adverts haven’t been cleared by the regulator.
Michael Caine’s anti-hero, Jack Carter, does have one redeeming feature. He takes up the challenge on his own back, identifies the bad guys and enforces his code of justice. Wouldn’t it be good if the regulator also took up the challenge, identified the bad guys and enforced its code?