National Advertising Division Finds Charter’s “Most Reliable Internet” Claim Supported; Recommendation to Modify or Discontinue Other Claims is Appealed
Mar 15, 2023
New York, NY – March 15, 2023 – Acting on a challenge brought by Frontier Communications Parent, Inc., the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that Charter Communications, Inc., provided a reasonable basis for its “most reliable internet claim.” However, NAD recommended that Charter modify or discontinue other challenged claims for its cable internet service.
Frontier offers residential internet service using fiber and DSL services over copper phone wire. Charter offers its residential internet service as Spectrum internet through a hybrid fiber coaxial network.
Frontier challenged several Spectrum internet advertisements and direct mailers that make superiority claims, performance claims, and consumer eligibility claims.
“Most Reliable Internet Claim”
NAD found that one message conveyed by Spectrum’s Facebook advertisement to “Switch to Spectrum internet for faster and more reliable internet” is that Frontier’s internet is less reliable than Charter’s. NAD evaluated the meaning of reliability in the context of the challenged advertisement and concluded that speed consistency is a consumer relevant way to measure reliability.
Based on Spectrum’s 80/80 Consistent Speed Metric found in the FCC’s most recent Measuring Broadband Report from December 2021, NAD determined that Charter provided a reasonable basis for its “most reliable internet” claim. NAD recommended that, going forward, Charter clearly and conspicuously disclose the basis for the claim and its date.
Quantitative Speed Claims
Frontier challenged several express speed claims made on Charter’s direct mailers, such as:
- “Ultra fast speeds of 400 Mbps”
- “Get the internet speed you need with 100 Mbps”
- “Fast internet starting speeds. Surf, game, stream and more with 100 Mbps Internet starting speeds”
- “Super-fast reliable speeds of 200 Mbps to power all your devices with no data caps”
NAD found that the record demonstrates that upload speeds are important to consumers when choosing an ISP provider and that both download and upload speed are material considerations for consumers when deciding which ISP to use and which tier of service to purchase.
For these reasons, NAD recommended that Charter qualify its speed claims to indicate whether the speed claims refer to download or upload speed.
NAD concluded that the claim “More speed. More channels. Get more with Spectrum,” in context, is not a comparative claim because there is no mention of other providers throughout the four-page mailer. NAD found that the message conveyed is that Spectrum offers 200 Mbps, but if you want even more speed Spectrum provides Spectrum Internet Gig.
However, NAD recommended that the following comparative claims be discontinued or modified because there was insufficient support in the record:
- “Spectrum internet is the top-performing Internet provider, delivering more speed, more consistently”
- “Take gaming to the max! Spectrum internet is America’s leading internet provider with ultra low lags & ultra fast speeds”
- “Spectrum beats the competition hands down. Satellite and other providers don’t come close”
- “Other internet providers just can’t compete with Spectrum”
- “Satellite and other providers simply can’t compete”
Consumer Eligibility Claims
After reviewing confidential information provided by Charter, NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis to support its pre-qualified and qualified claims found in online banners and direct mailers, including, for example:
- “You are pre-qualified to get $30 off your monthly internet bill”
- “Qualified for an automatic credit of $30 a month”
- “Qualified for Internet at No Cost”
Such claims refer to the Affordable Connectivity Program, a government funded program that subsidizes the cost of internet for households that meet certain income or other eligibility requirements by providing a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.
In its advertiser statement, Charter stated that although it “disagrees with NAD’s conclusions and recommendations” it “will comply with those recommendations other than the recommendation with respect to its quantitative speed claim.” Charter further stated that it will appeal the portion of NAD’s decision related to its quantitative speed claims.
Appeals of NAD decisions are made to BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate-level truth-in-advertising body of BBB National Programs.
All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.
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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