NARB Panel Recommends AT&T Modify Claims Regarding Availability of ‘AT&T Fiber

New York, NY – July 24, 2018 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc., modify advertising to clarify for consumers the availability of AT&T Fiber, the company’s fiber-to-the-home product, but declined to recommend that AT&T refrain from market-wide advertising in markets where AT&T Fiber is available to less than 20% of the market.

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

AT&T’s advertising claims were initially challenged by Charter Communications, Inc., before the National Advertising Division. AT&T appealed NAD’s determination that the company must disclose that AT&T Fiber may not be available to all consumers  when advertising that AT&T Fiber is ”Coming Soon” to a market where it is not yet available.

Charter, separately appealed NAD’s failure to recommend, as requested by Charter, that AT&T not engage in market-wide advertising for AT&T Fiber until the service is available to at last 20% of the market.

AT&T argued before that NARB panel that “Coming Soon” is a sufficient qualification for a pre-launch advertisement, and that disclosure of limited availability for a service that is not yet available would be confusing and potentially misleading to consumers.

The NARB panel did not agree. The panel affirmed NAD’s position that marketing a service as “Coming Soon” to a market where it is not yet available will, without sufficient qualification, reasonably convey a message that the service will be available to all or most consumers in that market. The panel also agreed with NAD that if the service will not be available to most consumers, then the limited availability of the service should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.

The panel recommended that, if AT&T advertises that AT&T Fiber is “Coming Soon” to a market where it is currently unavailable, the advertisement include a clear and conspicuous disclosure that (a) is near the main “Coming Soon” claim and (b) informs consumers of AT&T Fiber’s limited availability when AT&T Fiber is launched in the market. The disclosure, the panel said, would not be required if AT&T Fiber will be widely available in the market within a short time period.

Turning to Charter’s cross appeal, the NARB panel noted that it “shares the NAD’s reluctance to set a fixed service availability threshold before a new service may be marketed. The panel agrees with AT&T that such a threshold would unfairly restrict an advertiser’s ability to promote new services and would harm consumers by preventing them from learning about new services that may be available.”

AT&T, in its advertiser’s statement, thanked the panel “for its careful consideration of the issues” and agreed to comply with the panel’s recommendations.

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.