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Published on October 5th, 2007 | by Babar Bhatti


Are Mobile Companies Using Deceptive Marketing In Pakistan?

I have been observing a trend of aggressive marketing and advertisement by the mobile operators in Pakistan. 50 paisa, 3 paisa, 1 paisa. Trying to one-up other competitors, the advertisements emphasise the lowest possible rate to grab attention. In reality the low rates being advertised come with many conditions. To figure it out one has to read the fine print carefully. I think this is unfair to the consumers and we need to criticize this trend which some may characterize as deceptive marketing. Have a look at these sample advertisements (click to enlarge) – good luck with the fine print!

waridzem.PNG telenortsp.PNG paktelpower.JPG

Over the years mobile service packages have become difficult to understand. It used to be pre-pay & postpay and in-network & out-of-network. Now there is the option of lower price for pre-defined numbers (usually in-network) such as family and friends. Then there is the billing duration which used to be 1 minute in good old days. Not anymore. The rates advertised are usually based on lowest billing duration (say 30 seconds) and may only be valid during certain times (e.g. Paktel’s Power Hours are 7 pm – 10 pm) . The billing duration for the same package can vary for in-network and out of network calls!

Given all of the complexity, it is difficult for a common person to easily understand and compare these plans. I mean who has time to analyse all of this (except your truly)? My guess is that most of the time people get upset but carry on with their busy lives. Wouldn’t it be fair if all the operators advertisements included the rate for 1 minute call clearly? How about being more up-front and making the fine print a bit less fine?

I think this problem is common to all operators, therefore all of them should share the responsibility to create a baseline standard.  Better to fix this now before the regulator (PTA) is asked to step in.

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11 Responses to Are Mobile Companies Using Deceptive Marketing In Pakistan?

  1. hamayun says:

    if any one can heilp me with questioner regarding deceptive ads in telecom ind

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  3. Amir Khan says:

    Another hike in tarrif, I believe that majority of customers are unaware of, the increase in GST from 15 % to 21 %, which has further resulted in increased call rates.
    I wonder why the present government is trying to snatch away this facility from the poor that was abudantly provided to people by the previous government. OR we are all fool?

  4. i am a artist i want to come in any advirtisement plz send me your contact number ore any website i can come in your any advirtisement any mobile company like nokia or sonyercson or samsung

  5. Pingback: State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan » Falling Quality Of Service in Pakistan Mobile Telecom

  6. Babar Bhatti says:

    Sohaib, Binary-Zero, Rizwan, Adil and Inspirex,

    Thanks for sharing your views. All the comments here show that this is a real issue about which something needs to be done.

    I agree that we desperately need strong consumer advocacy groups in pakistan which can work closely with authorities (PTA in this case).

  7. Inspirex says:

    Id agree with Shoaib. There is a dire need of consumer advocacy groups in pakistan, but sadly there is none. Telecoms rank highest amongst the ambiguous advertisers lot, and tragically there is no regulatory control over their advertising and marketing strategies, in which they take shameless liberty of the “fine print”.

    In Pakistan, no advertising sector is regulated, except for ads by Asset management companies which manage and sell mutual funds. Not even banks. I have had the honour of drafting the code of ethics for Asset management companies but the only reason that happened was because they were headed by Chartered accountants and amongst the new breed of CEOs were regulators themselves.

    There has to be a need from within the telecom operators to put an end to deceptive advertising.

  8. I agree with Rizwan, its the responsibility of regulartory people, because in capital market, company interest is to make more and more money, and if they have open market like Pakistan, where there are no rules, that become heaven for these multinational companies, and they get the licenese to do whatever they wanted to do.

  9. Rizwan says:

    Ideally the responsibility should be on regulatory authorities, these tactics have been tried and tested in west, luckily in west they have regulatory bodies, judicial system and common sense which results in clamping down on this very quick. In Pakistan we do not have all three, therefore the advantage is with who ever can take the advantage. I am not totally disharted as at least there are few handful sites like this which are at least pointing out concern and this is the right thing to do.

  10. binary-zero says:

    Its a general topic, you may have herd a UBL scheme for iPhone gift few months ago when every one know its illegal to have iPhone (apart from technical issues) and no body sued them in consumer courts :)

    believe me if we had a correct judicial system in wich you can sue a company like in USA on a general thing for millions – this all crap in these companies will go away and they would start acting like professionals.

  11. Sohaib Athar says:

    Very true, with a few of the billboards that I have seen, there’s no fine print.
    The * just says “Conditions Apply”. Another ad touts all night FREE calls with the fineprint of something like 24 Rs per day, which translates to around 1000Rs. per month.
    A few months ago, there was a discussion on such deceptive marketing practices on the marketing-360 group @ Yahoo, which is a gathering of advertising pros, among other people. I think there’s a consumer act about such practices too, though I’m not a lawyer. Maybe someone will get really frustrated and take it to court some day.

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