SANRAL adverts did not aim to mislead

Pretoria The South African National Roads Agency (SOC) Limited (SANRAL) disagrees with the ruling of Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa’s (ASASA) regarding the advert that was flighted on behalf of government to create awareness of the new dispensation of the e-toll system.

The new dispensation made provision for a 60% discount on e-toll debt, and this was included in SANRAL advertising broadcast in May and June as part of an information campaign. Complaints were made against the advert focusing on the government message on the basis that the promised discount was not in effect. ASASA ruled that the advertising was misleading.

SANRAL General Manager for Communications Vusi Mona, emphasised that it had not been SANRAL’s intention to mislead the public.

“This advert was flighted from May 28th and during the month of June following the Deputy President’s announcement of the new dispensation. The advert was aimed at communicating the message that Government has heard the people and responded with a new dispensation that included the 60% discount,” said Mona.

Mona said that when the details of the new dispensation were announced, it was made clear that the new system would be implemented in phases, and the adverts were not a public call to action.  Full implementation of the new dispensation required a number or regulatory and system changes which had to be accommodated through a phased roll-out.

“Through advertising, we sought to make the public aware of the provisions of the new plan that would assist them in clearing their e-toll debt and make e-tolls more cost effective for Gauteng road users,” he said.

Mona said this was not the first instance where SANRAL has differed with ASASA based on complaints brought forward by opponents of the e-toll system. Earlier this year ASASA ruled that a SANRAL advert stating the number of e-tags that had been bought by the public be pulled off air. SANRAL was later able to verify that the number had been independently audited and the number stated in the advert was correct. “In the absence of an audit, it is normal practice to publish unaudited figures to show a trend in the interim,” said Mona.

Mona highlighted the fact that information about the timing of implementation of the new dispensation was being competently communicated through the e-toll customer contact centre which deals with customer queries and complaints.

“SANRAL believes that this issue should not have come before ASASA, particularly because the adverts are no longer being flighted, which in effect makes ASASA’s decision null and void, “ he added.

Mona remarked that there appeared to be an organised and co-ordinated campaign against SANRAL, as the agency had received several queries which focused only on the e-toll adverts and none on their other advertising campaigns. He speculated that the complaint may have served only to draw ASASA in as an unwitting participant in their campaign.

“It would be unfortunate if that were the case,” he said.