Following Comcast Complaints, Ad Watchdog Says Verizon Should Revise Its “#1 In Internet Speed” Claims

Image courtesy of Alec Taback

Which broadband company has the blah blah blah fastest blah blah? Virtually all of them claim to be the best and speediest, using various surveys and statistics to justify their numbers, and subtly couching their boasts in language that best suits their goal. However, a private ad industry watchdog says that Comcast has a justifiable gripe about the way Verizon has advertised FiOS internet speeds.

In ads for FiOS, Verizon has boasted that, “In customer satisfaction studies FiOS is rated #1 in Internet speed [for] 8 years running.”

Of apparent concern to Comcast was the likelihood of this statement — along with another about FiOS being “rated number one in HD picture quality… based on customer satisfaction studies” — would be mistaken as being based on measured data rather than customer opinion.

So Comcast first took its gripes to the National Advertising Division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council in 2014, and then again in 2015, with the NAD saying in both instances that Verizon should revise its ads to clarify that such claims are measures of customer satisfaction as opposed to objective data.

While the NAD decisions are in no way binding, Verizon nonetheless has maintained the ads are not misleading and appealed the 2015 recommendations to the National Advertising Review Board, which considered the matter further and ultimately sided once against Verizon.

The internet speed boast comes from PC Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Survey, and Verizon’s #1 speed ranking in that survey is not based on any independent measurements of FiOS connection speeds, nor is it based on a comparison of FiOS speeds to those of other providers. Instead, it’s a reflection of FiOS customers’ satisfaction about their internet speeds.

While that’s something to be proud of, the NARB says it may be misleading the way the result is presented in the ad campaign.

“In this context, reasonable consumers may very well take away a message that Verizon’s #1 rating is based on a comparison of objective Internet speed performance and/or a head-to-head comparison of different Internet service providers,” concluded the NARB, which recommended that Verizon tweak the ads in question to “more clearly communicate that the higher rating with respect to Internet speed is a customer satisfaction rating based on consumers’ rating of their own Internet service providers.”

The NARB panel reached a similar conclusion with regard to the HD picture boasts.

For its part, Verizon says it “appreciates the panel’s guidance in this matter” and will take its opinion into consideration for future ads.

Update: Verizon sent us an additional statement on the NARB dispute, saying: “It’s not surprising that Comcast would argue over semantics to distract from their usual poor performance in consumer satisfaction surveys. No matter how you phrase it, Verizon Fios has the happiest customers.

[via Ars Technica]