NAD Finds Comcast Can Support Overall Speed Claims Challenged by CenturyLink, but Recommends Certain Modifications

New York, NY – Sept. 16, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has determined that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, can support overall speed claims challenged by CenturyLink, but recommended that Comcast modify its advertising to better clarify certain Internet speed comparisons.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

CenturyLink, a competing provider of high-speed Internet services, challenged claims made by Comcast in print and broadcast advertising. The claims at issue promoted Comcast’s Xfinity services, alongside the company’s “Starter XF Triple Play Services.”

Claims at issue included:

  •  “Up to 4x faster than CenturyLink”
  •  “Compares Comcast’s and CenturyLink’s fastest available speeds”
  •  “Xfinity gives you the fastest internet”
  •  “The fastest internet”

Certain facts of the case, NAD noted, were undisputed:

  •  Comcast’s top download speed of its stand-alone Xfinity Internet service is faster than CenturyLink’s fastest stand-alone service.
  •  Xfinity’s top speeds in its bundled $99 Triple Play service (Internet, voice, video/TV) are faster than that of the Internet speed included in CenturyLink’s bundled services.
  •  Only about 20 percent of consumers located in CenturyLink’s footprint can obtain 20 or 40 mbps, and only by subscribers who purchase its Internet services on a stand-alone basis – not as part of a bundle.
  •  Comcast’s top speed in its bundled Triple Play ($99) package, 20 or 25 mbps, is also faster than speeds available in approximately 80% of CenturyLink’s footprint.CenturyLink contended that the advertising at issue falsely implied a comparison of the fastest speeds offered in Comcast’s $99 Internet, voice, video/TV “Triple Play bundle” – 20 or 25 mbps (megabits per second) – with CenturyLink’s fastest download speed, 20-40 mbps, available on a stand-alone basis in certain limited markets.

NAD did not agree with CenturyLink’s blanket position that the availability its stand-alone service with speed of 20 to 40 mbps in limited markets was sufficient to invalidate Comcast’s superiority claim.

In the absence of consumer perception evidence, NAD used its expertise to determine the implied messages conveyed by the challenged advertisements. NAD noted that none of the challenged advertisements referenced CenturyLink’s stand-alone service.

At the same time, NAD was not convinced that the challenged 30-second commercials clearly communicated that the “fastest internet speed” offered as a point of comparison was not the speed of the Internet service offered as part of the $99 Triple Play package.

NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its overall speed claims, but recommended that the advertiser modify the challenged advertisements to more clearly communicate the speed consumer can expect with the Triple Play package.

NAD further recommended Comcast modify the advertising at issue to better communicate that the Triple Play package offer is “introductory” or that the consumer can “now get started” with this special offer.

Comcast, in its advertisers’ statement, said the company believes the “current commercials are clear with respect to the faster Internet speeds it includes with its $99 Triple Play, but as a respectful participant of the self-regulatory process will take NAD’s concerns with respect to the clarity of this price offer into consideration in formulating its future advertising.”