NAD Recommends Verizon Discontinue Certain 5G Availability and Speed Claims in Two TV Commercials

For Immediate Release 

New York, NY – July 14, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that, in the context of two television commercials touting Verizon’s rollout of 5G service in cities across the country, challenged by AT&T Services, Inc., certain express and implied claims regarding the breadth of Verizon’s 5G coverage and typical speeds potentially communicate a misleading message to consumers.  

NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue claims which communicate: 

  1. That its 5G service is widely available in cities across the country, and
  2. That its service is broadly and readily accessible in cities where it has been launched.  

 

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims implying that the speeds referenced in the commercials are typically experienced by consumers.

The following are representative of the challenged claims: 

Express Claim: 

  • “People from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver.” 

 

Implied Claims: 

  • Commercial falsely implies that Verizon 5G service is broadly available nationally. 

  • Consumers will be able to access Verizon’s 5G network in the specific locations its engineers are depicted to be standing (and representative locations like them). 

  • Verizon’s 5G network typically delivers speeds of “almost 2 Gigs.” 

 

NAD noted that the challenged advertising consists of shifting images of Verizon engineers describing the exceptional speed and capacity of Verizon’s 5G network while standing in geographically diverse cities throughout the United States, with several running real-time speed tests on their phones. NAD determined that while the challenged advertising communicates the accurate message that Verizon is building its 5G network, the commercials simultaneously tout the current performance of the network, ultimately conveying the net impression that Verizon’s “ultrafast” 5G network is widely available in cities across the country and, where it has already been launched, is broadly and readily accessible to consumers.   

NAD also determined that the challenged advertising reasonably communicates that Verizon’s exceptional speed and performance can be broadly accessed in the cities where it has been launched. Finally, NAD determined that the challenged advertising does not convey a message that consumers will be able to access Verizon’s 5G network in the specific locations its engineers are depicted to be standing, but rather that the locations are representative of the numerous cities across the country where Verizon’s 5G services is available to consumers.   

With regard to substantiation, Verizon does not dispute that its current 5G service is limited. Verizon’s 5G coverage is primarily restricted to outdoor locations in certain neighborhoods and varies from block to block. Since Verizon’s 5G coverage, at present, is not broadly accessible throughout the cities where it has been launched, NAD was concerned that the challenged advertising potentially communicates a misleading message to consumers. NAD considered whether Verizon’s disclosure (“5G Ultra Wideband only available in parts of select cities and locations. 5G-capable device req’d. Coverage may vary and is not available exactly in all locations and venues depicted.”) is sufficient to limit its claims, but concluded that it is not clear and conspicuous, and fails to effectively qualify or limit the claims. Therefore, NAD recommended the claims be discontinued.  

NAD noted that to the extent Verizon wishes to promote the current availability and performance of its 5G network to consumers across the nation – including people who live in cities and towns across the country that may not receive Verizon 5G coverage for months, if not years – Verizon should ensure that its advertising clearly and conspicuously communicates to consumers the relevant, material limitations of its current network.   

Further, with regard to the speeds referenced during the challenged commercials (e.g., “almost 2 gigs here in Los Angeles,” “1.7 Gigs here in Houston”), in the absence of evidence showing that Verizon’s speed test results accurately characterize how Verizon’s 5G network will perform under normal consumer use, or a clear and conspicuous disclosure of the expected results, NAD recommended these claims be discontinued.   

In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon stated that it will comply with NAD’s recommendations even though it does not agree with all aspects of NAD’s decision. Verizon further stated that it “remains committed to the self-regulatory process and believes strongly in transparency of customer messaging.”  

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