AT&T Slams Comcast (Really) for False Advertising Claims

AT&T has filed a formal complaint with the National Advertising Division (NAD), a branch of the Better Business Bureau dedicated to assisting the advertising industry in self-regulation. AT&T accused Comcast of making unsubstantiated claims in its wireless telephone service advertisements. The NAD agreed with AT&T and requested that Comcast modify three of its claims about Xfinity Mobile service. To begin, the NAD requested that Comcast modify its claim that its Xfinity Mobile service is the “fastest mobile service,” as well as disclose that its “fastest mobile service” is based on combined WiFi and cellular speeds and that the claim is true only within its WiFi footprint or when connected to WiFi. Second, the NAD requested that Comcast withdraw its Xfinity Mobile “most reliable,” “highest ranked,” and “best network” claims. Thirdly, the NAD asked Comcast to clearly and conspicuously disclose that an Xfinity Internet subscription is required for Xfinity’s mobile service.

Doubtful claims, or those that distort the truth to make companies appear better than they are, have long been a part of the wireless phone industry. This is partly because when it comes to wireless networks, there is no standard for claims like “best,” “fastest,” or ‘most reliable.” AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the three wireless phone industry leaders, all run advertisements that cherry-pick data from credible surveys to make their products appear superior. Verizon, for example, may claim to have the most dependable 5G coverage, whereas T-Mobile may run an advertisement claiming to have the “finest 5G.” Both claims are supported by the most recent RootMetrics report, a well-regarded in-depth survey, but neither tells the entire story.

There is, however, a distinction between running ads that only use facts that make your product look good and making unsubstantiated claims. That is why AT&T has filed a formal complaint with the NAD against Comcast. Comcast offers mobile services under the Xfinity Mobile brand in collaboration with Verizon. It is only available to Comcast customers who have home internet service, and calls are routed through Comcast’s WiFi hotspots and routers when they are available.

The majority of the NAD’s findings supported Comcast’s first two claims on the Xfinity network, but not in other situations. The agency also argued that the fact that a cellular service can only be purchased if the consumer also subscribes to a residential internet service is a material limitation that must be disclosed.

Comcast has filed an appeal with the NAD, claiming that the challenged advertising conveys truthful messages about the unique benefits of the Xfinity Mobile service, which is delivered through the combination of two networks. The NAD has an appeals process, which is handled by its National Advertising Review Board, the BBB National Programs’ appellate-level truth-in-advertising body.