NAD Finds Verizon’s Ranked #1 by RootMetrics Claims Supported; Recommends Verizon Modify, Discontinue Unqualified “Best Network” and Other Claims.

New York, NY – May 7, 2019 – Following a challenge by T-Mobile USA, Inc., the National Advertising Division has concluded that Verizon Wireless, Inc. provided a reasonable basis for its claim that RootMetrics is independent, as well as for its claims that it was “ranked #1 by RootMetrics in Call, Data, Speed, and Reliability,” and that RootMetrics ranked it the best network. However, NAD recommended that the unqualified claims that Verizon is the “Best Network” and “Best Unlimited” be modified so that they are clearly tied to RootMetrics’ test results, or be discontinued. NAD also recommended that Verizon discontinue its claims that it offers the “most reliable 4G LTE network” and the “best network for streaming.”

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

The claims challenged by T-Mobile included, but were not limited to:

  • RootMetrics is “independent.”
  • “Verizon was ranked #1 by RootMetrics in Call, Data, Speed, and Reliability”
  • “Best Unlimited, Best Network”
  • Verizon has the “most reliable 4G LTE network.”
  • “Best network for streaming”

NAD found that Verizon had provided a reasonable basis for its claim that RootMetrics is independent. Although Verizon licenses RootMetrics’ data, Verizon is not the only company that makes payments to RootMetrics for its drive test data, and RootMetrics is a subsidiary of IHS Markit. Absent a showing that Verizon’s relationship to RootMetrics is different than that between other wireless carriers and data licensees, whether the data provider be RootMetrics or PC Magazine or Ookla or J.D. Power or Nielsen, Verizon’s licensing relationship might be reasonably expected when it touts the results of RootMetrics or any test award. Because Verizon did not commission and fund the research, and the relationship took the form of typical licensing relationships, NAD concluded that Verizon had met its burden of providing a reasonable basis for its claim that RootMetrics is independent.

After a detailed examination of RootMetrics’ methodology and testing, NAD determined that Verizon had supported its claims regarding the results of RootMetrics’ testing, where it tied the award to the testing, such as in the claim “Verizon was ranked #1 by RootMetrics in Call, Data, Speed, and Reliability.” The claim itself acknowledges that RootMetrics’ analysis is, in part, subjective. Although the award is based on numerous tests, the weighting of each test is a decision that requires judgment, informed by RootMetrics’ research and expertise.

Where claims such as “Best Network” and “Best Unlimited” were not clearly tied to the RootMetrics testing, NAD recommended that the claims be modified or discontinued. There is no industry standard for testing telecommunications networks and the key players in the telecommunications industry have not agreed to standardize testing, but in support of these unqualified claims, Verizon supplied third party data (including data from Tutela, P3, J.D. Power, and PC Magazine) showing that it wins numerous awards from different testing companies. However, the awards were inconsistent, with other companies tying or surpassing Verizon in different key metrics in different tests. T-Mobile supplied data from Ookla which further rebutted the unqualified “Best Network” claim because the data showed that any difference in speed between Verizon and T-Mobile shown in the Ookla data was unlikely to be meaningful to consumers. As a result, NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue the unqualified claim that it has the “most reliable 4G LTE network.”

NAD recommended that Verizon discontinue its “Best Streaming” claim concluding that the testing provided was not a good fit for its broad “Best Streaming” claim, and that insufficient information was provided for NAD to evaluate the reliability of the testing. Even if NAD had accepted the streaming testing, it would not support the message reasonably conveyed by the challenged commercials that Verizon subscribers can watch streaming video in a time and place where customers of other carriers are unable to watch the same video. Nor would it substantiate the message that competing networks, including T-Mobile’s, deliver an unreliable streaming experience that is subject to frequent disruptions.

In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon stated that it would comply with NAD’s decision. Verizon stated that it “appreciates NAD’s finding that Verizon’s advertising properly refers to RootMetrics as an independent testing company. Verizon also appreciates NAD’s determination that Verizon has a reasonable basis for its claims that it has the ‘best’ or ‘#1’ network according to RootMetrics and that RootMetrics recognized Verizon as ‘#1 in Call, Data, Speed, and Reliability.’”

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.