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T-Mobile to bow to advertising arbiter's findings in 5G ads

by BBB National Programs
NEW YORK The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that T-Mobile, U.S., Inc. provided a reasonable basis for its future-based aspirational claims that, based on the recent merger between T-Mobile and Sprint:

  • "T-Mobile will build America's largest . . . 5G network";
  • T-Mobile's 5G network will have "more towers, more engineers, and more coverage" than the 5G networks of T-Mobile's competitors; and
  • T-Mobile's 5G network "will deliver unprecedented reach . . . ."

However, NAD recommended that T-Mobile modify certain claims to avoid any implication that the promoted benefits resulting from the Sprint/T-Mobile merger will be imminently available to the vast number of T-Mobile customers:

  • "You'll get the best 5G network . . .";
  • T-Mobile is "building a 5G network that will deliver unprecedented . . . reliability, and the highest capacity in history"; and
  • "You'll get the . . . most reliable network . . . ."

The claims at issue for T-Mobile's post-merger with Sprint 5G service, which appeared in online and television advertising, were challenged by Verizon Communications, Inc.

As an initial matter, NAD determined that the challenged advertisements did not reasonably convey a present-tense message that the aspirational future benefits from T-Mobile are presently available to consumers. NAD concluded, however, that claims about the benefits of the Sprint-T-Mobile merger together with the combination of imagery depicting magenta and yellow beams rapidly shooting from tower to tower, speeding through server rooms across cities and over vast landscapes, engineers installing technology upgrades, and consumers using their smartphones or teleconferencing, reasonably convey the unsupported message that the touted benefits of the merger will be imminently realized by consumers.

NAD noted that with respect to at least certain metrics, the benefits from the merger may not be imminent.

After carefully reviewing the evidence in the record, NAD concluded that T-Mobile provided a reasonable basis for its future-facing aspiration claims that T-Mobile "will build America's largest . . . 5G network," "with more towers, more engineers and more coverage," "[w]e're building a 5G network that will deliver unprecedented reach . . ." than the 5G networks of T-Mobile's competitors, and that the evidence and arguments provided by Verizon were insufficient to warrant a different determination.

With respect to T-Mobile's claims in the consumer-directed spot that as a result of the merger "you'll get the BEST 5G Network," NAD concluded that consumers could reasonably interpret these claims to mean that due to the recent merger T-Mobile is imminently poised to become, comparatively speaking, the "Best Network," or that this "Best Network" will be imminently available to the vast number of T-Mobile customers, or will soon provide "the most reliable 5G network." NAD recommended that the challenged advertising be modified to avoid conveying such messages.

In its advertiser's statement, T-Mobile stated that it "supports the self-regulatory process and will comply with NAD's recommendations."

BBB National Programs

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