February 24, 2022
NEW YORK – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising law body of BBB National Programs, has recommended that T-Mobile U.S. Inc. discontinue all express and implied claims that T-Mobile has the most reliable 5G network, an assertion the company had made based on data from third-party testing company, umlaut.
The advertising at issue had been challenged before BBB National Programs' National Advertising Division (NAD) by Verizon Communications, Inc. (Case No. 6991) and by AT&T Services, Inc. (Case No. 7001). T-Mobile appealed NAD's recommendations in both cases that it discontinue claims asserting, expressly or by implication, that T-Mobile is America's most reliable 5G network according to umlaut. With the consent of all three parties, the two appeals of those cases were consolidated.
The NARB panel agreed with NAD that one key component of network reliability is the ability of a network customer to, first, connect with the network and second, complete the intended data task ("task completion"). Further, in the absence of convincing consumer research justifying a different result, the panel agreed with NAD's conclusion that at least one component of a network reliability analysis should be task completion.
After concluding that NAD acted properly in assessing umlaut's methodology, the NARB panel agreed with NAD that umlaut did not attempt to assess task completion, but rather assessed (i) network speed and (ii) network coverage using two different approaches. The panel noted that mobile carriers routinely promote wireless networks in terms of coverage, speed, and reliability. This practice further confirms that, to the reasonable consumer, reliability is a metric that is distinct from coverage and speed even if those two metrics may properly be part of the assessment of reliability, as NAD concluded in the underlying proceeding.
T-Mobile stated that it "will comply with NARB's decision." The advertiser further stated that although it "disagrees with NARB's conclusion that umlaut's April 2021 evaluation of 5G network reliability was faulty because it failed to consider 'task completion,'" . . . it "nonetheless remains mindful of NAD's directive that wireless carriers ensure their network performance claims be based on current data, and will make sure that any future claim that its 5G network is the most reliable addresses the concerns that NARB has articulated in this decision."
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