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31 05 2007

The Competition Council passed a decision whereby it recognised the advertising statements of UAB Bitė Lietuva as specified in the decision to constitute misleading advertising. The statements concerned the possibility to send free SMS between the customers of the LABAS pre-paid service without any additional conditions and for an unlimited time that affected the decisions and actions of the advertising users in relation to the acquisition of the pre-paid LABAS card. For the infringement of the requirements of the Law on Advertising UAB Bitė Lietuva was subjected to a fine of LTL 18,000.

The investigation conducted by the competition authority established that the advertising statements recognised as misleading were used by UAB Bitė Lietuva in the period 2005-2006 as part of the LABAS service promotion campaign. A number of texts and announcements related to the pre-paid service were at different occasions published via the TV and radio channels, in the press, internet, outdoor billboards and schools. Statements used for the purpose of advertising include statements such as “If anybody in the street asks you – how much is an SMS???!!! You just tell them – THAT COSTS NOTHING???!!! Between LABAS users – for ever and with no any additional conditions”, “And remember – between LABAS users SMS free for ever and without any conditions“ and other statements similar in their contents were definitely affecting the behaviour of consumers inducing them to acquire the LABAS pre-paid card offered by UAB Bitė Lietuva. The users could reasonably expect that they will be able to send free SMS messages between LABAS as long as they remain the users of the service. However, starting from 1 September 2006 UAB Bitė Lietuva introduced some additional terms for the use of the service (first to charge the account by an established nominal, then to order the free SMS between the LABAS users service by sending a SMS with a word UŽSAKYTI („Order“) for LTL 1, etc.). In case a LABAS user did not order the free SMS service 30 days after the last charging of the service (preceding the ordering of the free SMS services) the communicating of the SMS messages was chargeable.

The Competition Council concluded that the users were misled by the advertising statements in 2005-2006 used for the LABAS services advertising claiming that SMS messages between such users could be communicated free of charge for ever and without subject to any other conditions, and by such actions the advertising provider UAB Bitė Lietuva infringed the requirements of Article 5 of the Law on Advertising of the Republic of Lithuania.

Competition Council Spokesperson