NARB Recommends Verizon Discontinue or Modify Certain Superiority Claims for Verizon Fios; Finds Modified “Fastest Internet Available” Claim Substantiated
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New York, NY – December 22, 2020 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) of BBB National Programs has recommended that Verizon Communications, Inc.:
Qualify its “fastest internet available” claim by disclosing clearly and conspicuously the source of the data supporting the claim;
- Discontinue claims that Fios provides superior streaming or buffering and that fiber is more weather resilient;
- Modify claims that Fios supports more devices to explain which consumers would see a consumer relevant benefit; and
- Discontinue unqualified claims (i) of superior reliability, (ii) that Fios provides superior performance, (iii) that fiber technology provides superior performance; and (iv) that fiber is better.
The advertising at issue, as well as other claims, had been challenged by Charter Communications, Inc. before BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD). Following NAD’s decision (Case No. 6395), Verizon appealed, and Charter cross-appealed, certain NAD findings and recommendations.
The panel determined that Verizon’s “fastest internet available” claim is true and that Verizon’s evidence in support of the claim, PC Magazine data, is sufficiently robust to constitute a reasonable basis for the claim. However, the panel recommended that Verizon clearly and conspicuously disclose that PC Magazine is the source of the data supporting the claim, or disclose another source it may opt to rely on in the future to support the claim. The panel noted, however, that this source-of-data disclosure need not be incorporated in the body of the “fastest internet available” claim and that Verizon need not specify in its disclosure that the PC Magazine data aggregates speed tiers.
The panel found that the claims that Fios provides superior streaming or buffering, and that fiber is more weather resilient, were not supported and recommended that they be discontinued. The panel concluded that Verizon’s evidence showing that its ISP service is faster did not provide proper support for seamless streaming or buffering superiority claims. Nor did Verizon’s evidence provide a reasonable basis for asserting that Fios service provides a benefit compared to cable service in terms of performance during bad weather conditions.
Regarding the claim “with fiber you can connect more devices at once,” the panel concluded that because the claim does not likely apply across-the-board (i.e., it is likely true at some level of usage, but Verizon did not show that upload speeds deliver a meaningful benefit to the typical business), to avoid misleading consumers, Verizon should clarify under what conditions the benefit would be likely.
Further, the panel recommended that Verizon’s unqualified claims of superior reliability for its Fios service be discontinued because evidence regarding superior speed does not provide a sufficient basis of support for such claims. The panel similarly determined that Verizon’s superiority in speed does not by itself give it support for an overall superiority claim for Fios, and therefore, recommended discontinuation of unqualified claims that Fios and fiber technology provide superior performance.
Finally, the panel concluded that the claim “fiber is better,” unqualified, conveys a message to reasonable consumers that ISP services based on fiber technology are invariably superior to ISPs using cable technology. However, the evidence in the record did not support this message and the panel recommended that such unqualified claims be discontinued.
Verizon stated that it “will comply with the NARB’s decision.” Verizon further stated that it is “pleased that the NARB found that the claim that Verizon’s Fios service is the 'fastest internet available' is substantiated, and thanks the NARB for its careful review of this case.”
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 87 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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