Comcast, AT&T Both Say the Other Is Misleading Consumers
July 18th, 2018
After Comcast accused AT&T of spinning a web of lies about its internet service, AT&T returned the favor, accusing Comcast of making slanderous claims that it deceives consumers.
In a radio ad for its Xfinity internet service, Comcast describes AT&T as an “Internot” provider that doesn’t deliver on promised internet speeds. It defines “Internot” as “internet that could be only a fraction of the speed advertised because of where you live — and you pay the same price. Let’s hear it in a sentence: ‘I thought I could get AT&T internet with up to 50 megabit speeds. These Internot providers only delivered 10.’”
After AT&T challenged the radio ad with the National Advertising Division (NAD), NAD recommended that Comcast modify the language to avoid conveying the message that AT&T doesn’t provide customers with the speed tier they sign up for. (Side note: AT&T charges $40 for the fastest internet speed available to a customer, whether that speed is 50 megabits per second, 25, 18, or 10, though a broad swath of AT&T’s customers don’t have access to 50 megabit speeds. These points were not disputed between the parties.)
NAD then turned to a couple of Xfinity TV ads similar to the one above that AT&T also challenged. They feature an AT&T employee named Greg who attends a fictional support group for liars. Pinocchio has a seat in the circle. In regard to one of these commercials, NAD found:
Comcast could not support the claim that AT&T (through the Greg character Comcast created) “was telling people everywhere that they could get AT&T Fiber when it’s really only available to, like, 10 percent of their customers.”
And so NAD recommended that Comcast discontinue the claim.
Comcast said it would appeal NAD’s recommendations to the National Advertising Review Board, arguing that NAD erred by “inserting itself into creative choices notwithstanding the validity of the underlying claims” and by “not taking seriously the impact of AT&T’s refusal to disclose material deficiencies of its network upon the competitive market.”
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The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.