I was on the Opinion page of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning when I saw a banner advertisement for a “free” real estate service. A few clicks in, it was revealed that there were indeed charges incurred for using this “free” service. So what happens when a consumer compains about false advertising? I decided to find out.
I haven’t made a complaint to the ACCC, but a Google Search quickly led me to:
And pretty soon I was tapping away my complaint. As it involves an online campaign, and online campaigns can update rapidly, I was careful to archive photos and text relating to the complaint on my website, in case the campaign was re-engineered to avoid scrutiny in light of this post.
Here is the wording of my complaint, complete with hyperlinks. The complaint took about 15 minutes to pen, all up. I’ll keep you posted as to manner and speed of the ACCC’s response. It’s worth noting that they require quite a lot of personal information about you to make a complaint. I provided all required information, so I guess I’ll be hearing from the ACCC soon?
This complaint refers specifically to an online banner campaign run by the Australian business, Fairfax Digital, for their ‘Domain Mobile Home Alert’ product.
A snapshot of the advertisement is available here:
It was retrieved at approximately 11.30am on Wednesday 27th February 2007 from the web address: http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/
The claim of the advertisement is:
“Find your next home on your phone for free”
However, several clicks later, it is revealed on an FAQ popup page under the heading “How Much Does It Cost?”:
“You will be charged 55c including GST for each SMS alert that you receive. Domain does not charge you an additional amount to view your alert results via the Domain Mobile site. Your standard mobile network charges for “data retrieval” may apply to access your alert results via the Domain Mobile site.”
For the purposes of this complaint, this page has been archived at: http://www.timlonghurst.com/criticism/domainmobilehomealert/MobileHomeAlertFAQ.htm#faq
IN SUM: A product advertised as free is charged in multiples of 55c. This product is not free and the advertising deliberately seeks to mislead and deceive consumers regarding the price of the product.
[UPDATE: (21 October 2015): This page gets quite a lot of traffic and ‘comments’ had become a forum for people to vent frustration on a range of claims they believed to be misleading. Moderating comments on this page would be very time consuming so I’m making this page ‘comment free’. Hope you understand and thanks for visiting!]