On the 28th of May of 2020, the Advertising Ethics Jury of the Self-Regulating entity was presented with a dispute to decide on the validity of a mobile phones advertising campaign on the Internet, namely on an online store and on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram.
The present dispute was between Deco – Associação Portuguesa para a Defesa do Consumidor (henceforth "Deco") and MEO - Serviços de Comunicações e Multimédia, S.A., (henceforth "MEO"). Deco challenged MEO´s mobile phones advertising campaign conducted on its online store, Facebook and Instagram claiming it amounted to unfair commercial practice and misleading advertising.
Deco argued that the essential price information was purposely omitted from both social networks or online stores. Besides, in the latter, although the price was not completely omitted, it did not correspond to the total price of the good, since it was omitting the existence of an administrative fee which had to be added to the selling price. That said, Deco considered that both practices were illegal.
MEO defended itself by stating that the mentioned administrative costs "are naturally not included in the price of the equipment because they are indirect costs inherent in this type of operation which entail additional internal costs independent of the value of the equipment, which is not the case with cash purchase". It also stated that, with regard to the social networks' campaign, "since no equipment is marketed on those social networks, which serve only as a vehicle for the company's advertising communications, there is no obligation to make the prices of the equipment in question available". Therefore, and according to MEO, those campaigns were not misleading, nor did they infringe the unfair commercial practices regime.
However, the Advertising Ethics Jury of the Self-Regulating entity decided in favor of Deco since it considered that those commercial communications failed to comply with essential information requirements being, therefore, ambiguous and incorrect. As such, they are also likely to mislead the Consumer, in particular as regards "the value of the Product and the total price to be paid by the Consumer". For this reason, the Ethics Jury decided that MEO´s commercial communications are not in accordance with the legal principles on advertising whereby their disclosure should cease immediately.
Originally published by GALA, on June 2020