NAD Expands Guidance on Customer-Satisfaction Claim Support, Recommends Verizon Discontinue ‘Rated #1’ Claims Challenged by Comcast; Verizon to Appeal

New York, NY – Oct. 14,  2015 – The National Advertising Division has provided additional guidance on the types of advertising claims that can be supported by customer-satisfaction surveys in a case where claims made by Verizon Communications, Inc., for FiOS internet and television service were challenged by Comcast Cable Communications. Verizon has said it will appeal NAD’s adverse findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

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

Following its review of the evidence in the record, including the results of a survey commissioned by the challenger, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the following claims:

  • “In customer satisfaction studies, Verizon is Rated #1 in internet speed and reliability”
  • “Rated #1 in HD Picture Quality based on customer satisfaction studies”

NAD also recommended that the advertiser craft future claims based on customer-satisfaction surveys in a way that makes clear the claims are customer-satisfaction claims – for instance, “Verizon customers are more satisfied with FiOS speed, reliability and/or HD picture quality than customers of competing providers.”

NAD noted in its decision that it has previously held that customer-satisfaction surveys are relevant to demonstrate customer satisfaction with a particular service provider and can be used to support qualified claims about consumer satisfaction – but should avoid conveying the message that performance or service was measured and compared.

“The fact that we are reviewing this issue yet again tells NAD that we have not provided sufficiently clear guidance as to what claims can be supported by a customer-satisfaction study,” NAD’s decision states.

NAD noted that claims about customer satisfaction with a specific service attribute – particularly an attribute that can be objectively measured and compared – should clearly convey a message of customer satisfaction, not a message of superior service.

NAD further noted that claims about technical performance superiority differ from claims about customer satisfaction.  Both are legitimate claims and both kinds of support are appropriate “as long as the advertisement makes clear to consumers what type of claim the advertiser is making.”

NAD found that a “reasonable takeaway from Verizon’s claims that it is ‘Rated #1’ for ‘speed and reliability’ or ‘HD picture quality,’ even when qualified by the language ‘in customer satisfaction surveys,’ is that Verizon “provides faster speeds or better HD picture quality.”

NAD cautioned the advertiser that when it is using a customer satisfaction study to support its claims, its claims should match the support provided – that its customers are more satisfied with a particular service attribute (speed, reliability or HD picture quality) than customers of competing providers.

Verizon, in its advertiser’s statement, said that it would appeal NAD’s findings to NARB.

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.