25 Mar T-Mobile challenges Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile ads | Light Reading
NEW YORK The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that Comcast Cable Communications provided a reasonable basis for a qualified claim that by switching to Xfinity Mobile wireless customers can “save hundreds” and “up to $400 a year” on their wireless bill. NAD recommended, however, that Comcast disclose the basis of the claim to avoid overstating the comparative benefits. In addition, NAD recommended that Comcast modify certain savings claims that failed to adequately disclose the material differences in the plans compared.
NAD also concluded that Comcast’s use of a fully-shaded map of the contiguous United States, in conjunction with its 5G claims, conveys a supported message. However, NAD recommended Comcast modify its marketing email to disclose clearly and conspicuously that 5G is “only available in parts of select cities.”
Further, NAD recommended that Comcast modify its advertising to make clear the basis for its “#1 customer satisfaction” claim (a recent American Customer Satisfaction Index survey report) and avoid conveying that this claim is based on or connected to its 5G offering.
The claims at issue, which appeared in digital, television, radio, and website advertisements were challenged by T-Mobile USA, Inc.
Xfinity Mobile provides its customers with in-home Xfinity WiFi and access to millions of secure Xfinity WiFi hotspots to which customers are automatically connected with no additional data charges. Xfinity Mobile is offered exclusively to Xfinity Internet customers, and Comcast also provides its Xfinity Mobile customers with 5G service included with new data plans at no additional charge or premium.
Regarding Comcast’s savings claims, the evidence showed that 65% of its customers could be saving $400 or more per year if they optimize their service plans using Xfinity Mobile’s “Mix and Match” customizable data feature an option that is not available with competitors’ services. While NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for a qualified claim that by switching to Xfinity Mobile, wireless customers can “save hundreds” and “up to $400 a year” on their wireless bill, it recommended that Comcast clearly and conspicuously disclose, in close proximity to the savings claim, the basis of the savings claim what is being compared.
Further, NAD determined that Comcast’s savings claims fail to adequately disclose the material differences in the plans compared: (1) that there are data usage limits between itself and competing providers, and (2) that the savings are premised on a consumer’s purchase of Xfinity Internet. With regard to data usage, NAD noted that Comcast throttles speeds after its subscribers reach a hard 20 GB cap of data usage (even on its “unlimited” plan). In contrast, T-Mobile deprioritizes rather than throttles users who reach certain data thresholds and other competitors offer higher thresholds before slowing data speeds. Further, although Comcast agreed to modify its claims to disclose the requirement that Xfinity Internet is required to obtain Xfinity, some of the advertisements were not sufficiently clear. Therefore, NAD recommended that Comcast clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to the triggering claims, disclose the data usage limitations of its “unlimited” data offering; and modify the content of its disclosures to more clearly state the requirement that Xfinity Mobile is available only to Xfinity internet customers.
Comcast uses a completely shaded blue map of the continental United States to depict its network, with various gradations of blue distinguishing the outline of each state, in conjunction with its 5G claims. NAD considered several executions of this advertising and determined that consumers would be unlikely to take away a misleading message that Xfinity Mobile’s network generally, or its 5G service specifically, is available in 100% of the entire contiguous United States. Rather, NAD concluded that, when viewed in context, these claims reasonably convey the supported message that Xfinity Mobile’s network coverage generally is “nationwide,” that it consists of three components (nationwide 5G, 4G LTE, and WiFi hotspots), and that with this combination, Xfinity Mobile has consumers “covered.”
However, NAD determined that a marketing email which states “Switch to Xfinity Mobile and get ready for when 5G comes to your area,” reasonably conveys the message that availability of 5G coverage is relatively imminent, which was not necessarily the case at the time it was sent for all geographic locations. Further, the disclosure and offer of material information via hyperlink on another page, were not sufficient. NAD recommended that it be modified to disclose clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to the main claim, that 5G is “only available in parts of select cities.”
Finally, NAD determined that, in the overall context of Comcast’s web page, one of the messages reasonably conveyed by the advertiser’s “#1 in customer satisfaction” claim is that it is based on Xfinity Mobile’s 5G service and performance, a message that is unsupported. NAD noted that the “customer satisfaction” section mentions only 5G but makes no mention of other components of Xfinity Mobile’s network (4G LTE and WiFi), unlike other panels on the site, thereby increasing the likelihood that consumers will tie the “customer satisfaction” claim to the only service mentioned alongside the claim. NAD recommended that Comcast make clear the basis for its “#1 customer satisfaction” claim and avoid conveying that this claim is based on or connected to its 5G offering.
During the pendency of the proceeding, the advertiser voluntarily agreed to modify its “most reliable” network claims to disclose their basis (“Xfinity Mobile utilizes the highest-ranked network from Rootmetrics 1H 2020 US report. WiFi networks not tested. Results may vary. Award is not an endorsement”). Further, at the time the challenge was filed, 5G wireless service was not widely available but, rather, only available in select parts of select cities. Consequently, the advertiser modified its disclosure in the Amy Poehler commercial to disclose the limitations clearly and conspicuously on its 5G availability. NAD did not review these modified claims on the merits.
In its advertiser statement, Comcast stated that it agrees to comply with NAD’s decision and noted that “because the advertised 5G service is now broadly available nationwide, Comcast understands that disclosing the limited availability of 5G service is no longer necessary.”