National Advertising Review Board Finds Certain AT&T Comparative Advertising Claims Supported; Recommends Discontinuation or Modification of Others

For Immediate Release
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs

703-247-9330 / press@bbbnp.org

New York, NY – October 14, 2021 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising law body of BBB National Programs, has determined that AT&T Services, Inc. properly supported certain comparative advertising claims for its fiber-optic internet service in one commercial and one internet video advertisement. However, it recommended that:

  • AT&T discontinue three commercials that communicated the unsupported message that the upload speeds of cable services are inadequate to support videoconferencing.
  • AT&T discontinue or modify one commercial which communicated unsupported claims that AT&T’s fiber service is superior to cable services for videoconferencing and reliability.

 

The advertising at issue had been challenged by Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. before the National Advertising Division (NAD). Following NAD’s decision (Case No. 6950), AT&T appealed all of NAD’s recommendations that it modify its claims.

The challenged advertising claims are based on AT&T’s fiber-based ISP service delivering 20 times faster upload speeds than do comparable cable-based systems, a differential the panel found was not disputed. The challenged AT&T videos present portrayals of cable users suffering anxiety and disappointment as a consequence of a failure to execute a common internet task. The solution is then immediately presented – switch to AT&T Fiber to solve the problem because AT&T Fiber offers faster upload speeds.

Regarding the “Big Meeting” commercial, the panel concluded that data on comparative upload times for large files properly supports the message conveyed to reasonable consumers that AT&T provides “better internet” for the circumstances portrayed – an attempt to upload a massive file for a meeting as the meeting is about to start. The panel also concluded that the key message in AT&T’s nine-second online advertisement – that AT&T provides “a faster internet experience than cable” - is properly supported because AT&T’s fiber services provide 20 times faster upload speeds than the cable tier of service identified in the comparison. 

The panel concluded that the “Special Lady” commercial inaccurately conveys the message to reasonable consumers that cable services have a high degree of unreliability in providing basic videoconferencing as a consequence of substandard upload speeds. Further, both the “Super Fan” and “Spanish Language” commercials portray situations where cable subscribers are unable to connect to videoconferencing.  The panel recommended that AT&T discontinue these commercials due to the absence of any evidence to support the message that the upload speeds of the cable services are inadequate to support videoconferencing. 

Finally, the panel concluded that the “Business Fiber” commercial communicates that AT&T’s fiber service is superior to cable service for videoconferencing and reliability, two claims that are not supported by the record. Therefore, the panel recommended that the commercial be discontinued or modified to remove the references to videoconferencing and reliability.

AT&T stated that it “supports NARB’s self-regulatory process and will comply with the NARB’s decision”; however, the advertiser noted that it respectfully disagreed with NARB’s recommendation to discontinue or modify certain AT&T Fiber ads.

All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.

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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.

About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for BBB National Programs’ advertising self-regulatory programs. NARB’s panel members include 85 distinguished volunteer professionals from the national advertising industry, agencies, and public members, such as academics and former members of the public sector. NARB serves as a layer of independent industry peer review that helps engender trust and compliance in NAD, CARU, and DSSRC matters. 

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