In the ad, the actor is seen sitting in a car with a woman who he appears to be breaking up with.
“I haven’t got the strength to keep arguing with you,” he says, before adding: “I’m leaving.”
A voice from his phone then replies: “You can’t leave, you’re still within your contract”, then a voiceover adds: “Breaking up is never easy. But unlike other networks, Vodafone has a 30-day service guarantee, so if you don’t love us you can leave us.”
After complaints from 11 people, the ASA launched an investigation and has ruled that the clip implies Vodafone customers can leave their contract at any time – which is not actually the case.
The service guarantee only applied to the first 30 days of a new deal and the ASA explains that “after that point, consumers would face those same difficulties in trying to leave their contract with Vodafone”.
The watchdog said: “Whilst we acknowledged Vodafone’s reference to the small print which referred to the terms and conditions on the website, we did not consider that this altered the impression presented by the ad.
“Therefore, because the ad implied that consumers were entitled to exercise the guarantee at any time and that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
Ad clearance agency Clearcast said Vodafone wanted to highlight that their service guarantee was for 30 days, whereas others only offered 15 days, and argued Freeman’s portrayal was to emphasise frustrations that could be felt with other providers not giving customers enough time to decide whether their contract was right for them.
A Vodafone spokesperson said: “We already make clear that the 30 days is from the start of a customer’s contract in our terms and conditions, and will also make sure this is totally clear in our marketing.”