BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Finds Two Frontier Communications Commercials Falsely Disparage Spectrum and Recommends They Be Discontinued.

New York, NY – April 9, 2019 – Following a challenge by Charter Communications, the National Advertising Division recommended that Frontier Communications discontinue two television commercials for its FiOS internet service, having found that they reasonably convey the unsupported and falsely disparaging message that Spectrum’s upload or download speeds are insufficient for the routine consumer tasks portrayed.  During the course of the proceeding, the advertiser had agreed to discontinue a separate radio advertisement that Charter argued falsely disparaged cable companies.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The challenged commercials each begin with a scene acted out in a black box theater format, accompanied by a narrating musician. The first features a man in his pajamas working from home who is forced to shift to a coffee shop with other at-home workers “looking for bandwidth.” The second features a woman frozen in a yoga pose because her streaming instructional yoga video was frozen. Both commercials finished with a comparative upload speed claim: “10x faster upload speeds vs. Spectrum” or “4x faster upload speeds vs. Spectrum” corresponding to fastest upload speeds offered by each internet service provider in the area where the commercials aired.

Charter asserted that the commercials falsely conveyed the message that its Spectrum’s service does not provide sufficient overall speeds and/or reliability for consumers to be able to complete the routine tasks depicted in the advertising, while Frontier’s FiOS service does. Frontier countered that any comparative messages are clearly limited to the express upload speed claims.

NAD concluded that at least one reasonably conveyed message by each of the challenged spots is that Spectrum’s internet service does not provide sufficient speeds to support the basic internet tasks depicted in the commercials, noting that the depicted internet failures are immediately followed by the express superiority claim. It also noted that the tasks depicted are not limited to those that rely solely on upload speeds.  Consequently, NAD recommended that these commercials be discontinued.  NAD noted, however that nothing in its decision prevents the advertiser from highlighting the truthful difference between its upload speeds and those of its competitors. Nonetheless, it cautioned the advertiser that it should take care not to falsely disparage its competitors’ internet services or tie its upload speed advantage to overall superiority in internet speeds or reliability.

In its advertiser’s statement, Frontier stated that it will comply with NAD’s recommendations and that it is “pleased that NAD determined that nothing in its recommendation prevents Frontier from highlighting the truthful difference between Frontier’s higher upload speeds and Charter’s lower upload speeds.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.