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T-Mobile might have 'largest' 5G, but maybe not 'fastest'

NEW YORK – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that T-Mobile USA, Inc.'s claim to have the "largest" 5G network is substantiated and that its "5G speeds as fast as Wi-Fi" claim was supported in the context in which it was presented on the advertiser's website.

However, NAD recommended that T-Mobile discontinue the claim that it has the "fastest" 5G Network or qualify the claim to indicate that T-Mobile's 5G Network has the fastest average overall, combined 5G Network speeds. NAD also concluded that the Advertiser's claim "T-Mobile is the leader in 5G coverage and speed" should be modified to limit the claim to its advantages in coverage and average, overall combined 5G speeds.

NAD also recommended that T-Mobile:

  • Discontinue the claim that "No one else covers more Americans with the fastest 5G."
  • Discontinue the claim that it is the "leader in 5G," as the claim appears on T-Mobile's website and in its Magenta MAX television commercial or modify the claim to limit it to T-Mobile's average, overall combined network speeds and network coverage.
  • Discontinue the unqualified claim that it is the "best value in wireless."
  • Discontinue the unqualified claim "[W]ith the other guys . . . you'll pay more, and get less," as presented in the context of the Magenta MAX commercial.
  • Modify its single-color online coverage map to avoid conveying the message to consumers that its 5G network is available everywhere the map shows coverage, although NAD also found that the advertiser's recent modification to this map to distinguish between its 5G Ultra Capacity and 5G Extended Range is consistent with NAD's recommendation.

The claims, which appeared in online advertising and in a television commercial for T-Mobile's 5G Network, were challenged by Verizon Communications, Inc.

Regarding the challenged claim that "We are now America's largest and fastest 5G Network," NAD noted that as a result of T-Mobile's merger with Sprint, it is undisputed that T-Mobile has the "largest" 5G network. However, NAD determined that one message reasonably conveyed by the advertiser's "fastest" 5G claim is that its network offers the fastest pure speeds of any available 5G network because consumers are not meaningfully informed that the basis of the claim is Opensignal's use of average speeds "as a representation of overall, combined 5G user experience." Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser's claim to have the fastest 5G network should be discontinued or qualified to indicate that T-Mobile's 5G network has the fastest average, overall combined 5G network speeds.

Verizon challenged several iterations of the advertiser's "leader in 5G" claims. NAD determined that:

  • A reasonable interpretation of the claim that "No one else covers more Americans with the fastest 5G" is the unsubstantiated message that T-Mobile covers more Americans with the fastest type of 5G spectrum that is available. As a result, NAD recommended that it be discontinued.
  • The net impression of the "leader in 5G coverage and speed" claims on T-Mobile's website, where the claim is in large font adjacent to an image showing a list of awards from Opensignal, conveys a broad "leader" message. Accordingly, NAD recommended that T-Mobile limit the claim to T-Mobile's advantages in coverage and average, overall combined 5G speeds.
  • The "leader in 5G" claim appearing at the beginning of the Magenta MAX commercial is presented in an unqualified context without any statements or additional information defining the parameters of the claim. Therefore, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued where it is presented in such an unqualified context or modified to limit the claim to T-Mobile's average, overall combined network speeds and network coverage.

NAD determined that T-Mobile's "5G speeds as fast as Wi-Fi" claim was supported in the context in which it was presented on the advertiser's website. NAD noted that the claim is qualified and does not mislead consumers.

Verizon also challenged T-Mobile's use of a single-color magenta map labeled "Coverage Map" in a large prominent font with language above in capitalized, but much smaller, font inviting consumers to "see" 5G and 4G coverage in their area. NAD found that the disclosure was insufficient to make clear to consumers that the areas covered on the map represent areas that are covered by either T-Mobile's 5G or 4G LTE network. Therefore, NAD recommended that the map be modified to avoid conveying to consumers that its 5G network is available everywhere the map shows coverage.

NAD determined that T-Mobile's unqualified "best value in wireless" claim, as it appeared in the context of the advertiser's website, could be interpreted by a reasonable consumer as including all wireless providers, including discount carriers. Because NAD found that the disclosure, which identified Verizon and AT&T as the basis of the price comparison, contradicted the main claim of "best value" in wireless, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

Finally, regarding the unqualified claim "[W]ith the other guys . . . you'll pay more, and get less," NAD concluded that the disclosure appearing briefly on screen in small font during the Magenta MAX commercial was insufficient to limit the claim to just Verizon and AT&T. Further, even if the comparison was between just T-Mobile and Verizon and/or AT&T, the advertiser could not substantiate a "pay more, and get less" claim because the unqualified "get less" in this context depends upon what a consumer subjectively values. Therefore, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

In its advertiser statement, T-Mobile stated that it "is pleased with NAD's decision on balance and will comply." The advertiser further stated that while it "disagrees" with certain aspects of NAD's decision, it is "a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process and will comply with NAD's decision."

BBB National Programs

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