T-Mobile can legitimately claim that its home internet service is available to many households in most U.S. cities and towns, but it’s been advised to stop implying that a consumer can save up to 50% on their home internet services compared to major competitors like Verizon.
The recommendation comes from the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs. Verizon was the one that raised the issue with the organization, which provides dispute resolution services.
In a commercial that T-Mobile aired during the Super Bowl this year, “Scrubs” stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison sing a duet and at one point, Faison is holding a laptop to show how much money he’s saving with T-Mobile 5G Home Internet.
In big letters, it says “Save Up to 50%.” Underneath that in smaller lettering – and probably noticeable only if you have a way to stop the commercial for a closer look – it shows the comparison to the National FCC Broadband Rate Benchmark. In the same frame, a disclosure appears on the bottom on the screen, where it says: $105/mo. (FCC Urban Broadband Rate Survey Reasonable Comparability Benchmark) vs. $50/mo. (T-Mobile 5G Home Internet). Speeds & features vary.”
Again, it appears very briefly on screen – NAD said it’s about two seconds – so it’s hard to catch. But someone did, and NAD analyzed it, saying the term “benchmark” is open to interpretation in this context.
One reasonable interpretation, according to NAD, is the term refers to the average rate paid by Americans for home internet service.“
However, the Urban Rate Survey does not represent the actual price that any consumers pay, but rather is a benchmark rate set by the FCC to ensure equitable pricing for rural areas,” NAD said in the press release announcing its decision. NAD noted that while the Urban Rate Survey may reliably collect internet service rate data for the purpose of informing public policy, the benchmark rate derived from this survey is not a good fit for the challenged savings claim.
NAD also determined that the “Up to 50%” savings claim is unsupported because few consumers are paying the $105 a month that T-Mobile uses as its basis for comparison from the FCC’s benchmark rates.
According to NAD, T-Mobile has already responded to its recommendations and expressed disagreement with certain of NAD’s findings regarding the FCC Broadband Rate Benchmark. But T-Mobile told NAD that it will take its advise into account in future advertising and that T-Mobile remains a supporter of the self-regulatory process that NAD oversees.
Separately, Charter Communications had similar beefs with T-Mobile’s claims, and the NAD recommended that T-Mobile stop saying people can save up to 50% compared with the FCC benchmark and other internet providers.
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