NAD Recommends Verizon Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for its 5G Services, Finds Certain Claims Supported; Verizon to Appeal

New York, NY – March 21, 2019 – In the first case involving advertising for 5G to come before the National Advertising Division, NAD has recommended that Verizon Communications, Inc. modify or discontinue certain claims regarding its 5G services following a challenge by AT&T Services, Inc. The commercials touted Verizon’s history of technological achievements and its ambitions for the future.  NAD recommended that these commercials be discontinued or modified in order to avoid conveying certain messages, including the unintended message that Verizon has launched 5G mobile wireless network. Verizon said that it will appeal the adverse findings.

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 three challenged television commercials, Verizon argued, are brand awareness advertising and convey no comparative message, noting that they name no competitors or any of Verizon’s products. Two of the commercials feature historical moments in the development of mobile wireless technology, and the third shows Verizon’s network rollout, including its fiber deployments and small cells.

NAD found that one message reasonably conveyed by the stories told in these commercials, and by some of the claims, is that Verizon has achieved the important milestone of deploying the first mobile wireless 5G network. Although NAD acknowledged that the commercials’ featured stories are told in the past and future tenses, it noted that each also featured a Verizon engineer talking about Verizon’s network in the present tense, using words such as now and today.

NAD concluded that by discussing the historic achievements that Verizon has already made in the field of mobile wireless technology in conjunction with present-tense claims such as ”First to 5G,” “building America’s first and only 5G ultra wideband network,” “… once again, we’re transforming reliability as we know it, building America’s first and only 5G ultra wideband network, with unprecedented capacity enabling faster speeds,” and  “Now, with the launch of the only 5G ultra wideband network, we’re doing it again…”, Verizon reasonably conveys the unintended, and unsupported, message that 5G mobile service is currently available.

NAD also found that Verizon’s advertising conveyed a comparative message. If, as advertised, Verizon is “First to 5G”, NAD determined that this necessarily means that its competitors may be second or third.

While Verizon argued that the “first and only 5G network” claims are limited to its “ultra wideband network” and, thus, qualified to avoid conveying the message that Verizon is the nation’s only 5G network, NAD disagreed. Verizon explained that it is building the nation’s only “ultra wideband” network based on three exclusive features of its current network: its unrefuted wide spectrum holdings, deep fiber resources, and the ability to deploy large numbers of small cells. However, NAD noted, Verizon’s claim, “America’s first and only 5G ultra wideband network” is not linked directly to the exclusive technology or benefits Verizon is claiming to provide. Consequently, to the extent that Verizon wants to use its “first and only ultra wideband network” claim, it can do so if it ties this claim directly to its unique technology or performance benefits.

Verizon, in its advertiser’s statement, said it would appeal the decision because it “believes NAD failed to properly evaluate the net impression of the challenged commercials” and “disagrees that the challenged claims or net impression of the commercials at issue convey anything more than corporate pride in its achievements and the development of its next generation 5G Ultra-Wideband Network. Verizon also disagrees that reasonable consumers are likely to misunderstand its claims about its ‘5G Ultra-wideband network,’ which is unique from networks under development by other carriers.”

Verizon added that it appreciates NAD’s acknowledgement of its long history of technological innovation. Verizon also appreciates that NAD determined that Verizon can continue to tout its impressive history of technology firsts, and the unique technology and benefits available to consumers via Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network.

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.