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October 15, 2020
NEW YORK – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that Verizon Communications, Inc. provided a reasonable basis for claims that its 5G service offers "speed 10x faster" than T-Mobile's 5G and that Verizon's 5G is "faster even than my home internet." NAD also concluded that two challenged advertisements do not convey implied claims regarding the ability of Verizon's 5G service to provide coverage indoors.
However, for other claims, NAD recommended that Verizon:
Avoid conveying the unsupported message that Verizon's 5G service is 10x faster than home internet;
Discontinue the claim that its customers "don't worry about lag" when using its 5G service; and
Discontinue the claim that a download that used to take 20 minutes now takes 20 seconds or modify it to make a quantified claim supported by the evidence.
Further, with regard to claims comparing Verizon's 4G LTE to T-Mobile's 5G, NAD recommended that Verizon:
Modify the advertising to convey a message about what consumers can typically expect to achieve network-wide; or
Modify its demonstrations to depict the typical network-speeds.
The claims at issue were challenged by T-Mobile US, Inc., provider of competing wireless services. T-Mobile challenged a series of advertisements, which included monadic and comparative claims about Verizon's 5G service, as well as claims comparing Verizon's 4G LTE service to T-Mobile's 5G service.
T-Mobile challenged Verizon's "5G Built Right for Firefighters," "5G Built Right for Music," and "5G Built Right for Education" advertisements and argued that the commercials convey the challenged implied messages that Verizon's network:
Generally provides sufficient coverage indoors to support real-time interactive services, or
Will generally provide indoor coverage in the future from exterior cell sites that will be sufficient to support real-time interactive services.
NAD determined that Verizon's "5G Built Right for Music" and "5G Built Right for Education" advertisements do not convey a general message about the performance of Verizon's 5G Ultra-Wideband service outside the specifically depicted locations. As a result, NAD concluded that the commercials do not convey the challenged implied messages.
Verizon committed to permanently discontinue its "5G Built Right for Firefighters" and "5G Built Right for First Responders" advertisements and the challenged claims made therein. Therefore, NAD did not review these claims on their merits.
Regarding claims in Verizon's "Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G" advertisement, NAD determined that:
Verizon had provided a reasonable basis for its claim that its 5G service is "faster even than my home internet," but recommended that Verizon modify its advertising to avoid conveying the unsupported message that its 5G service is 10x faster than home internet.
The advertiser did not provide reliable support for the claim that is customers "don't worry about lag" when using its 5G service and recommended that it be discontinued.
Although there was no dispute that Verizon's 5G service is significantly faster than its 4G service, the evidence in the record does not support the claim that a download that used to take 20 minutes now takes 20 seconds (i.e., Verizon's 5G is 60 times faster than its 4G), and therefore Verizon discontinue the claim or modify it to make a quantified claim supported by the evidence.
Verizon substantiated its claim that its 5G offers "speed 10x faster" than T-Mobile's 5G (referring to download speeds), which also appeared in a "Places and Performances" advertisement as well as a video advertisement that contains a product demonstration comparing Verizon's 5G to T-Mobile's 5G.
In response to T-Mobile's contention that the challenged advertising conveys the implied message that Verizon offers 5G services to consumers on a wide-scale basis that are over ten times faster than T-Mobile's nationwide 5G services, NAD recommended that Verizon clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited availability of its 5G service.
T-Mobile also challenged two videos featuring Jenny Slate that open with the question "5G is faster than 4G right?" Standing on a city street, Jenny Slate asks passersby which they think will be faster, Verizon 4G or T-Mobile 5G, to which they generally reply that 5G will be faster. These videos also include a network speed demonstration showing that Verizon 4G is faster than T-Mobile 5G. NAD concluded that consumers could reasonably take away the unsupported message that this demonstration is true for consumers typically, across the network.
Further, with respect to challenged implied claims that Verizon's typical 4G LTE download speed is over 120 Mbps (as shown in one of the videos) and T-Mobile's typical 5G download speed is 20 Mbps (as shown in the other video), NAD determined that the speeds depicted in the speed demonstrations should reflect the speeds consumers typically experience. NAD did not reach the issue of whether the advertising conveys a misleading message about the basis for the claim but noted that, to the extent that different benchmark measurements produce different results, inconsistent evidence on comparative speeds calls into question the reliability of the test results and whether the comparative claim is supported.
NAD therefore recommended that, regarding Verizon's comparisons of its 4G to T-Mobile's 5G, Verizon modify the advertising to convey a message about what consumers can typically expect to achieve network-wide or, alternatively, limit the message to a speed comparison in specific cities and, where those speeds are not typical network-wide, and avoid conveying the message that the speeds described are typical network-wide. NAD made similar recommendations regarding the product demonstrations: that Verizon modify its demonstrations to depict the typical network-wide speeds or, alternatively, limit the message to a speed comparison in specific cities and, where those speeds are not typical network-wide, avoid conveying the message that the speeds are typical network-wide.
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