Resolution Statement – 02104-17 Sunshine Mobiles v thesun.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Sunshine Mobiles complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “BAD RECEPTION Mobile phone company branded a ‘scam’ by customers ‘misled into £2,000 contract that doesn’t send you a phone for THREE months’”, published on 16 March 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant, a mobile phone company who provide mobile phones to customers with poor credit ratings, “demanded” 12 weekly payments before they provided customers with a phone. It reported that customers had said that this was not clear on the complainant’s website, “leaving some confused when they only receive a sim card and no phone”. It reported that customers buying a phone from the complainant are “asked to put in personal details, including a credit debit card, before the 12 week waiting period is explained". The article stated that no money is taken from a customer’s account until they process the order, but that one customer still considered that this was misleading. It referred to the company offering “£2000 contracts for phones that don’t arrive for three months”.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that it did not make the 12 week waiting period clear. In addition, it said that by including only an image of the credit card details page from the ordering process, the article further suggested that it did not alert customers to the existence of a waiting period. The complainant said that the article suggested that many customers were unhappy, when in fact the reporter had been contacted by 8 customers out of a total of 30,000. The complainant said that the article had inflated the price of its contract by extrapolating the first payment, which included an application fee, to determine the overall cost of its mobile phone contracts.
4. The publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate. It said that the 12 week waiting period was explained after a customer had already put in their credit card details, as was explained in the article. It said that the article clearly explained in the text that no money is taken until the order is later processed. The newspaper said that in calculating the overall cost of the contracts, it had taken into account the fact that the first payment included an application fee.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to remove the article from its website.
8. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to its satisfaction.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 17/03/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 31/05/2017Back to ruling listing