The Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) has found Bolt’s claim that drivers can “earn around R30,000 per month” misleading and in contravention of the Code of Advertising Practice.

Bolt isn’t a member of the ARB, and while it provided the authority with a response to the complaint, it dodged MyBroadband’s questions about whether it would withdraw the advertisement.

Complainant Nothani Hadebe brought the matter to the ARB, highlighting several aspects of the advertisement he believed to be misleading.

These include the claim that drivers can make up to R30,000 a month, which Hadebe said is impossible while driving under the Bolt banner.

Secondly, the ride-hailing platform claims in its advertisement that there are no monthly fees, which Hadebe said is untrue as they charge a 30% commission for every trip a driver makes.

Lastly, Hadebe explained that Bolt doesn’t own any vehicle, meaning drivers are lured into buying cars on credit by the promise of earning R30,000 per month.

While not a member of the ARB, meaning it isn’t required to respond to the complaint, Bolt refuted the claims saying that at no stage does the advertisement say it guarantees an income of R30,000 per month.

Bolt responded that there are drivers who make use of its e-hailing application that do earn R30,000 a month.

The ride-hailing company said it doesn’t charge a monthly fee, adding that its commission is 23% per trip rather than the 30% Hadebe had claimed.

However, Bolt did not provide the ARB with substantiation for its arguments — a requirement of the Code of Advertising Practice.

“The Directorate is of the view in the matter at hand that the claims in question implies that a Bolt taxi driver, working a reasonable amount of hours, would be able to earn up to R30,000 a month or up to R6,000 a week,” the ARB said.

“The use of the word ‘around’ makes it seem that this is a reasonably achievable goal, rather than an absolute top-level achievement that has occasionally been reached.”

According to the ARB, the Code of Advertising Practice expects the advertiser to have proof that a reasonable amount of its drivers attain such performance while working reasonable hours.

The ARB also highlighted discrepancies in Bolt’s advertising. A Google ad claims that Bolt drivers earn around R250 a day, which works out to R7,500 a month.

Meanwhile, two other Bolt ads claim that its drivers earn R17,500 and R14,000 monthly.

“In light of this contradictory evidence, and in light of the failure of the Advertiser to provide substantiation, the Directorate has no basis on which to find that the claim is substantiated,” the ARB said.

It found Bolt’s claims to be misleading, unsubstantiated, and in breach of clauses 4.1 and 4.2.1 of section II of the Code of Advertising Practice.

Regarding Bolt’s claim of no monthly fees, the ARB considered the ride-hailing industry as a whole to determine the norm.

It noted that a reasonable person would expect the platform would make money from the transaction.

“On one hand, it does appear to be true that there are no monthly fees,” it said.

“On the other hand, on the evidence before the Directorate, it would appear that monthly fees are not standard, yet Bolt is claiming it as a special feature.”

It said that the claims might lead the reader to conclude that the monthly fees mentioned is the commission that other platforms charge, and without an asterisk or disclaimer, the ARB deemed the claim to be ambiguous and misleading.

“Based on the above, the claim ‘There are no monthly fees’ is ambiguous and misleading and is therefore in breach of clause 4.2.1 of section II of the code,” the ARB ruled.

The directorate found that Hadebe’s claim that Bolt drivers are lured into buying cars on credit by the promise of earning R30,000 per month is not in breach of the Code of Advertising Practice.

Bolt said that it is not an ARB member and not bound by its ruling.

“However, for purposes of providing comment, we reaffirm that our advert is not misleading in any way, as it does not guarantee that any driver will earn R30,000,” it added.

The ride-hailing company’s country manager for South Africa, Takura Malaba, said the ad forms part of Bolt’s broader marketing plan.

“Bolt continues to enhance its creative and business processes, and the current advert, as noted, is not misleading, and it forms part of a broader marketing plan,” he said.

“The type of collateral for our marketing varies from time to time, and we are always looking to have refreshed adverts published.”