Fairfax fails on disclosure, editorial/ advertising line

June 25, 2009 — 10 Comments

I was on The Age website today reading an unrelated matter, and I saw an internal site promo for iPhone pricing details (note is was in a group of content related internal ads, and isn’t an ad for an external site)


So I clicked through, and ended up on this page which reports on price drops by Optus and Virgin (note Virgin is a fully owned subsidiary of Singtel Optus.)

iPhone 3G 16GB (Current Model) Price Drop - The Age

Then I scrolled down the page….and I found this

iPhone 3G 16GB (Current Model) Price Drop - The Age

Note the circled bit. The first three results are for Optus iPhones, the 4th is a Virgin Mobile deal, and the 5th is a Telstra iPhone (after that point it seems to switch between the three in the top 20.)

But look at the Telstra mobile result (circled bit)

iPhone 3G 16GB (Current Model) Price Drop - The Age

No telephone number… but the Optus result does.

Clicking through the link takes you to a more detailed page about the phone.

Here’s the contact details on the Telstra iPhone pages

Telstra Mobile $30 'Phone' Plan Mobile Phone Plan   Apple iPhone 16GB (3G) - The Age

Yet here’s the similar page for an Optus iPhone

Optus $59 iPhone Cap Mobile Phone Plan   Apple iPhone 16GB (3G) - The Age

But it’s not a one off: all the Singtel companies get a full sales spiel, Telstra doesn’t. Here’s the Virgin spiel:

Virgin Mobile $45 Your Cap Mobile Phone Plan   Apple iPhone 16GB (3G) Deal - The Age

Now I don’t disagree that Optus phones offer better value; Telstra’s deals are blue murder, and I’m surprised they even featured once in the top five. But there’s also clearly a commercial relationship between the editorial and Singtel, because the Optus/ Virgin phones get extra details, and I’m sure Fairfax hasn’t offered that out of the goodness of their heart.

But here’s where it gets dodgy, because out of the full top 20 list (or out to 22 in an extended view) the number of Vodaphone iPhone deals mentioned is 0.

If this was actually fair consumer advice, there would absolutely have to be a Vodafone iPhone listed there somewhere, and although I’m not a Vodafone customer (I’m with Optus) I’ve seen their plans and they’re competitive with Optus, and leave Telstra’s plans for dead.

So why have they been excluded? Could Telstra have been included sans contact details because they are an occasional Fairfax advertiser (the Bigpond page takeovers a couple of months back come to mind) and Vodafone isn’t?

Either way: this would appear to be advertising content masquerading as editorial consumer advice with zero disclosure from Fairfax.

Update: just noticed that although Vodafone’s logo is offered as an option in “filter mobile plans by carrier” you get this result