National Advertising Division Recommends Cox Discontinue Implied Superior Reliability Claim for Cox Internet
New York, NY – January 19, 2023 – Acting on a challenge by AT&T Services, Inc., the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that Cox Communications, Inc. discontinue advertising that conveys the implied message that internet from competing services is glitchy and unreliable, but Cox Internet is not.
AT&T Services challenged claims made by Cox in a television commercial for its “Gigablast” internet service that provides download speeds of 1 Gbps and upload speeds of up to 35 Mbps.
At issue for NAD was whether the challenged commercial’s depiction of the failure of an unnamed, generic competing service to reliably stream a baseball broadcast reasonably conveys:
- a broad implied message of superior reliability for Cox Internet over competing services; or
- whether it communicates a limited message about Cox’s ability to provide 4K streaming.
Though an advertiser is free to highlight the actual differences between its product and competing products, claims that highlight the shortcomings of a competing product must be truthful, accurate, and narrowly drawn so as not to falsely disparage the competitor. When highlighting a problem of a competing product that the advertiser’s own product can resolve, the advertiser must ensure that the problem is clearly identified in the ad, the extent of the problem is not exaggerated, and the advertiser’s product solves the problem.
In this case, NAD found that:
- The challenged commercial depicts a streaming failure but does not suggest a reason for the failure, other than “internet from the wrong provider.” Accordingly, consumers may reasonably conclude that the man’s experience is typical and that the “wrong” internet refers to any competing provider.
- In the context of the commercial, which includes an express message about the high speeds offered by Cox Internet (“America’s Fastest Internet Download Speeds”) and an image of a television freezing images, one reasonable message conveyed is that Cox Internet can reliably stream live video when other providers cannot because they are glitchy and unreliable.
NAD concluded that Cox Internet did not provide evidence to support a broad message of comparative superiority over all other providers or any specific message that other internet providers are insufficient for the streaming activity depicted in the commercial. AT&T provided evidence that other providers, including AT&T, offer internet speeds sufficient for routine streaming, as well as speeds above that which is recommended for 4K content (50-100 Mbps and higher).
For these reasons, NAD recommended that Cox discontinue advertising that conveys the implied message that internet from competing services is glitchy and unreliable, but Cox Internet is not.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from making narrower truthful and non-misleading claims about the speed and performance of its service and its ability to stream 4K video.
In its advertiser statement, Cox stated that although it “disagrees with NAD’s interpretation of the advertising at issue” it “will take NAD’s recommendations into consideration in its future advertising.”
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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs, a non-profit organization, is the home of U.S. independent industry self-regulation, currently operating more than a dozen globally recognized programs that have been helping enhance consumer trust in business for more than 50 years. These programs provide third-party accountability and dispute resolution services that address existing and emerging industry issues, create a fairer playing field for businesses, and a better experience for consumers. BBB National Programs continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-and-teen-directed marketing, data privacy, dispute resolution, automobile warranty, technology, and emerging areas. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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