BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Sprint Nextel Discontinue Claim “Most Dependable 3G Network”

New York, New York – Nov. 24 ,  2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Sprint Nextel Corporation discontinue the advertising claim that Sprint operates “America’s most dependable 3G network.” Sprint said it will appeal NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

Sprint’s advertising claim was challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Cellco Partnership, d/b/a Verizon Wireless.

At issue in this proceeding is Sprint’s claim to be “America’s most dependable 3G network.” NAD analyzed the evidence in the record with appreciation of the rapidly evolving and highly competitive marketplace in which telecommunications providers compete.

NAD noted in its decision that both parties agreed that the dependability of a 3G network in this case should be measured using some form of data collected by Nielsen Mobile during “drive tests” and first considered the question of whether Sprint must support its “most dependable” claim using the single most recent Nielsen drive test, as argued by the challenger, or the two most recent drive tests, as argued by the advertiser.  

NAD was not persuaded by the advertiser’s argument that multiple Nielsen drive tests must be considered in order to rule out the effects of any weather-related issues, cell tower failures, and other one-time events. NAD determined that the best evidence to support its current “most dependable” claim is the most recent Nielsen drive test data.

NAD then considered the results of the most recent drive test presented as evidence and looked first to the two measures of dependability that were not in dispute: connection success and session reliability.

Verizon Wireless had a lower connection failure rate and a lower task failure rate than Sprint and performed better in terms of session reliability. NAD determined that Verizon’s superiority on those measures – according to the most recent Nielsen drive tests –undermined Sprint’s “most dependable” claim as to outdoor usage.

NAD then turned to consideration of Sprint’s claim as it related to indoor usage, looking to the question of signal strength, as measured by Nielsen’s Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI) data, to determine whether it should be considered in assessing Sprint’s “most dependable” claim. NAD had several concerns with the advertiser’s signal strength evidence, including whether the evidence was a reliable indicator of the indoor dependability of the advertiser’s network.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that the advertiser lacked sufficient support for its claim to be “America’s most dependable 3G network.” NAD found that the unsupported claim could not be cured by a disclosure stating that dependability was measured according to signal strength among other factors. NAD therefore recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim.

Sprint Nextel, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company respectfully disagrees with NAD’s findings and “maintains that its dependability claim is fully substantiated based on the results of the connection success and session reliability tests, together with results of the signal strength tests.”

The company said it will appeal NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board.