Ad Self-Regulation Body Refers Sprint’s ‘50% Off’ Campaign To FCC

Image courtesy of Misfit Photographer

It’s really hard to get complex ideas across during a 30-second television commercial. However, the National Adverting Division, which investigates ad claims for the industry’s self-regulation body, says that Sprint still isn’t really getting across the subtleties of its promotions for new customers switching from other carriers, and has referred the ads to the Federal Communications Commission.

These policies are probably set to change again now that other carriers have made some changes to their plans, but the main thing that’s tough to get across during a commercial is that the plans for switching customers depend on which carrier the customer is switching from.

The problem is that the differences between plans and carriers can get really complicated, so customers face either incomplete information in advertisements or a wall of fine print during commercials that they––let’s be honest here––won’t read and may not even see.

The commercials don’t explain, for example, that customers will need to buy a phone compatible with Sprint’s network, or that there’s a $36 per line activation fee.

The plans from AT&T that Sprint is competing with include tethering, or the ability to share the device’s data connection with other devices, including computers. The T-Mobile plans being compared include international calls and text and cheap roaming in Europe in places that aren’t Andorra.

Sprint ended the original “cut your bill in half” promotions, but ad spots and website copy that use the same language and don’t clarify that the promise of 50% off new customers’ bills means losing some features and conveniently forgetting to mention some features.

Referring the issue to the FCC may not lead to any regulatory action at all, but referring cases to the relevant government agency is what the NAD does when an advertiser doesn’t fully implement its recommendations.

UPDATE: Sprint sent us a statement explaining its position and why it has not made the recommended changes to their ads.

Last week’s National Advertising Division (NAD) report is related to the decision they issued back in June when they found Sprint had a reasonable basis for promising that consumers can save 50 percent off most T-Mobile Simple Choice plans. Since then we have made a few changes to our advertising that were recommended by NAD. Based on its latest review, we have agreed to make additional changes to these ads to ensure they are even clearer for consumers.

However, we disagree with NAD’s suggestion that our TV and radio spots should only mention one competitor. Consumers benefit from robust price competition and Sprint looks forward to continuing to offer a strong network experience at unbeatable prices.

Sprint believes its advertising is truthful, accurate and in the spirit of competition.

NAD Refers Advertising Claims made by Sprint in ‘Save 50%’ Campaign to FCC after Company Fails to Fully Implement NAD Recommendations [NAD]

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