Judge Says Cablevision Must Stop Running Ads Calling Verizon A “Liar”

One Cablevision commercial depicts a sheriff telling Verizon that the town is done with its lies about WiFi.

One Cablevision commercial depicts a sheriff telling Verizon that the town is done with its lies about WiFi.

It’s not uncommon to see a cable provider commercial that pokes fun at or attempt to disprove a competitor for their claims of being the faster, less expensive, or just plain better option. But there’s one less lineup of such ads you’ll be seeing on your TV, as a judge ruled this week that Cablevision must stop running its ads that essentially call Verizon a “liar” regarding claims that it had the fastest wireless network.

On Monday U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Brown granted Verizon a temporary retraining order to put a stop to Cablevision ads running in New York, ruling the spots were “literally untrue and implicitly false” and knowingly misled consumers.

Cablevision’s ad campaign — which began back in January and depicted, among other things, a sheriff telling Verizon that “this town’s had enough of your lies” — claimed Verizon wasn’t truthful about its broadband internet speeds, the quality of its DVR, service appointments, and other business practices.

“The law, like our economic system, encourages spirited competition,” Brown said in his ruling. “But when a competitor exceeds the bounds of decency by falsely impugning the integrity of a competitor, it runs afoul of the law.”

Reuters points out that Cablevision previously agreed to voluntarily discontinue certain print ads in July. Those ads included depictions of Verizon as Pinocchio and reps for the cable company with “pants on fire.” Under the judge’s order this week, Cablevision has until this Friday to discontinue its television ad campaign.

Verizon was quick to welcome the judge’s ruling in a statement (PDF), saying Cablevision’s ads were nothing “but a campaign to keep accurate and factual information away from consumers.”

“The Cablevision lawsuit and its other tactics have a great consequence, even if it’s the opposite of what Cablevision had hoped: It’s clear, and confirmed by a court, that if you want faster Internet upload and download speeds and the ability to access those speeds wirelessly, Verizon offers it,” Susan Retta, Verizon vice president of consumer marketing, said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Cablevision tells Reuters that the company would continue to challenge Verizon’s claims, “not only through the legal system but also in the court of public opinion.”

Brown’s ruling is just the latest chapter in the Verizon/Cablevision saga.

Back in January, Cablevision filed a lawsuit [PDF] alleging that Verizon’s advertisements that it had the “fastest WiFi available” were an attempt at misleading customers during Cablevision’s launch of its own WiFi service called Freewheel.

The company accused Verizon of making misleading statements that are not only false advertising about its own products but also mislead consumers with regard to Cablevision.

“The false ads in Verizon’s campaign are designed to undermine the competitive threat Cablevision’s WiFi services pose to multiple facets — both internet and cellular service — of Verizon’s business,” the suit stated.

Brown threw out that lawsuit last week, saying that Verizon was not lying to the public by claiming its FiOS fiber optic network provides the fastest WiFi.

“The evidence presented suggests that Verizon FiOS’s top three tiers, namely 150/150 Mbps, 300/300 Mbps, and 500/500 Mbps all provide faster download speeds than Cablevision’s fastest plan, and all five FiOS plans offer faster upload speeds than any of Cablevision’s offerings,” Brown ruled on Friday.

Retta said in a statement that the court decision also confirmed that Cablevision’s 1.1 million WiFi hotspots emanate from routers in the private homes of its subscribers and not in public locations, as the company claimed.

U.S. judge tells Cablevision to stop calling Verizon ‘liar’ [Reuters]

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