After Appeal, NARB Recommends AT&T Discontinue “5G Evolution” and “5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G” Claims

For Immediate Release 

Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs, 301.412.7769 / ahills@bbbnp.org 

 

New York, NY – May 20, 2020 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc. discontinue its “5G Evolution” and “5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G” claims. The advertising at issue had been challenged by T-Mobile USA, Inc. before the National Advertising Division (NAD). Following NAD’s decision, AT&T appealed NAD’s recommendation that these two claims be discontinued. 

NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and NAD is the investigative unit. Both NARB and NAD are divisions of BBB National Programs. 

Agreeing with NAD’s findings and recommendations, the NARB panel determined that both claims will mislead reasonable consumers into believing that AT&T is offering a 5G network and recommended that the claims be discontinued. At NAD and on appeal, it was not disputed that the AT&T network is not a 5G network. The NARB Panel agreed with NAD’s analysis and concluded that the term “Evolution” is not likely to alert consumers to the fact that the service is not 5G. The Panel noted that the current prevalent technology in wireless is 4G LTE, and LTE stands for “evolution.” Thus, consumers may well interpret “Evolution” in the challenged claims as signifying that AT&T’s technology has already evolved into 5G.  

Further, the Panel agreed with NAD’s conclusion that the addition of “The First Step in 5G” does not cure the concern that consumers could reasonably take away the message that beginning 5G technology is delivered. The Panel noted that a reasonable consumer could conclude that the reference to “The First Step to 5G” was the advertiser’s way of promoting a 5G network, while promising an even more robust 5G network at a later time, especially since the slogan is being used in conjunction with “5G Evolution.” 

AT&T stated that it “respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority,” and reiterated its position that its customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that AT&T’s current network provides. As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, it will comply with the NARB’s decision. 

 

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About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): NARB is the appellate body for advertising industry self-regulation. NARB’s membership is composed of 87 professionals from three different categories: national advertisers (49 members), advertising agencies (26 members), and public members (12) made up of academics and former members of the public sector.  

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.  

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