NAD Concludes "Just Ok is not OK" Claims not Falsely Disparaging, But Recommends AT&T Discontinue "building 5G on America's Best Network" Claim, Disclose Material Connection with Testing Company; AT&T to Appeal
Contact: Abby Hills, Director of Communications, BBB National Programs
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New York, NY – September 16, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that certain claims in this case are materially similar to its 2019 review of the reliability of AT&T’s “best network” claim based on GWS’s OneScore testing and rankings, but recommended that AT&T clearly and conspicuously disclose its material connection to GWS when making a “Best Network” claim based on GWS’s testing. NAD also recommended that AT&T discontinue the claim that AT&T is “building 5G on America’s Best Network” and concluded that the claim, “just OK is not OK,” in the contexts presented was not falsely disparaging. AT&T said that it will appeal NAD’s adverse findings to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).
The claims at issue were challenged by Verizon Communications, Inc., provider of competing wireless services.
- AT&T is “Building 5G on America’s Best Network.”
- AT&T is “America’s best network.”
- “America’s best network is also the fastest.”
- The networks of AT&T’s competitors, including Verizon, are “just okay.”
- Global Wireless Solutions is a truly independent third-party network testing company, with no material connection to AT&T.
- Global Wireless Solutions is an independent third-party network testing company that undertakes testing that is not exclusive to AT&T and is available to other wireless carriers.
- Global Wireless Solutions’ OneScore ranking is not designed to favor AT&T.
- AT&T’s 4G LTE network is superior to all competitor networks, including Verizon’s.
- AT&T’s 5G network has been tested by Global Wireless Solutions and ranked “America’s Best Network.”
One of the issues in the case was whether the matter should be administratively closed because the claims at issue are materially like those in a 2019 NAD case involving certain “Best Network” claims AT&T made. NAD determined that the present challenged claims are materially similar to those in 2019 with respect to the message that AT&T has the best network performance according to a particular test, the OneScore test by GWS, and that no “extraordinary circumstances” warranted a second review of the reliability of the substantiation at issue in the 2019 AT&T “Best Network” case.
However, NAD did not administratively close the entire matter because the challenge was broader than the 2019 challenge in that Verizon challenged new express and implied claims.
NAD recommended that AT&T clearly and conspicuously disclose the existence of its material connection to GWS when making its qualified “best network” claim. NAD concluded that, without such disclosure, consumers viewing the challenged advertising would reasonably take away an incorrect message that GWS, which has a longstanding relationship with AT&T to provide data benchmarking, has no connection to AT&T other than giving it a OneScore Ranking.
NAD also recommended that AT&T discontinue its claims that it is “Building 5G on America’s Best Network” because consumers can reasonably take away the unsupported message that AT&T’s 5G performance will be superior to its competitors as a natural extension of its present 4G superiority (as ranked by GWS). The advertising mentions 5G immediately before and in the same sentence as the “best network” claim, which is based only on an analysis of AT&T’s 4G network. Despite some shared infrastructure between 4G and 5G networks, much of the network infrastructure for 5G is new.
Lastly, NAD concluded that the claim “just OK is not OK” in the contexts presented was not falsely disparaging. The commercials depicted humorous scenarios that demonstrate when “just OK” is underwhelming or insufficient but avoid any reference to competitors or wireless services failing. The commercials refer and draw attention to the claim that AT&T has the “Best Network” according to the GWS ranking.
In its advertiser’s statement, AT&T noted its appreciation for “NAD’s refusal to revisit its prior determination that the GWS OneScore results provide a reasonable basis for the company’s qualified ‘best network’ claim” and “NAD’s conclusion that our use of the line “just OK is not OK” alongside the humorous vignettes depicted in the challenged ads does not falsely disparage our competitors” but disagreed with NAD’s adverse findings for which it intends to appeal to NARB.
Verizon will cross-appeal NAD’s decision not to reexamine AT&T’s ability to make a qualified “best network” claim based on GWS OneScore testing, despite the evidence of AT&T’s material connections to GWS, and NAD’s decision that the express claim “Just Okay Is Not Okay” is substantiated.
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division 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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