Advertising Self-Regulator Asks Verizon To Stop Making Misleading 5G Advertising Claims

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the BBB National Programs, which runs the advertising industry’s self-regulation system, announced that it has recommended to Verizon that it stop making misleading claims about its 5G network speed and availability. The act was a response to two of Verizon’s television ads that suggested Verizon’s 5G network is largely available across the United States and that consumers should expect speeds as fast as “2 gigs.” These ads were challenged by AT&T, whose 5G network claims have also been scrutinized for misleading claims.

The NAD stated that Verizon’s ads are misleading because they claimed “[p]eople from midtown Manhattan to downtown Denver can experience what your 5G can deliver.” This implied that its “ultrafast” 5G network is “broadly available nationally” and is “broadly accessed in the cities where it has been launched” when this is allegedly not true. NAD said Verizon even noted that its 5G service is currently limited. “Verizon’s 5G coverage is primarily restricted to outdoor locations in certain neighborhoods and varies from block to block,” the company allegedly stated. Thus, it is not “broadly accessible” as was claimed by Verizon.

The NAD noted that Verizon can advertise its 5G network, but it “should ensure that its advertising clearly and conspicuously communicates to consumers the relevant, material limitations of its current network.”

At issue is Verizon’s use of mmWave 5G, “a technology that offers very fast speeds, but the signals have a limited range and are easily blocked.” For example, on its coverage map, the 5G network “is concentrated in streets and sidewalks.” As a result, while Verizon claims that its 5G network is available in 35 American cities, the 5G signals throughout each of the cities will vary.

The NAD was also troubled by Verizon’s speed claims in its advertisements, for example, “2 Gigs” in Los Angeles and “1.7 Gigs” in Houston. The NAD stated that there is not enough evidence that this is an accurate representation of the speeds that consumers will get in these cities for normal use.

Verizon said that it would comply with NAD’s recommendations to cease making claims that “its 5G service is widely available in cities across the country,” that “its service is broadly and readily accessible in cities where it has been launched,” and that it stops “implying that the speeds referenced in the commercials are typically experienced by consumers.”Verizon added that while it will comply with the NAD’s recommendations, it “does not agree with all aspects of NAD’s decision.” Additionally, Verizon said that it “remains committed to the self-regulatory process and believes strongly in transparency of customer messaging.” A spokesperson for Verizon noted that the ads in question “stopped running months ago.”