April 21, 2023
NAD Reviews T-Mobile's Claim Regarding the Speed of T-Mobile's Home Internet Service
In April 2023, BBB National Advertising Division (NAD) reviewed a Fast-Track SWIFT challenge initiated by Comcast Cable Against T-Mobile's claim regarding the speed of T-Mobile's home Internet service.
T-Mobile's commercial consisted of three parts.
- a new service offered as an alternative to fixed wired internet;
- including audio that states, “Don't you worry ‘bout speed”; and
- a visual of an odometer that dings when it reaches the highest level of speed (5G).
What is an unqualified performance claim in digital marketing compliance?
NAD determined that the “Don't you worry ‘bout speed” claim and related context conveyed the message to consumers that the service provides 5G speeds to all consumers without limitation.
T-Mobile's claim, including related context, is known as an unqualified performance claim.
The FTC has typically interpreted unqualified performance claims in a broad, unqualified way, i.e., that the product will achieve the claimed performance.
The FTC's guiding principle is that marketers should substantiate all reasonable interpretations (net impression) of broad claims, or marketers should qualify the scope of broad claims to a more limited scope which they can substantiate.
And that's how NAD interpreted T-Mobile's claim, finding that it was not substantiated by T-Mobile's evidence and that it should either be discontinued or qualified.
So, how would you adequately qualify T-Mobile's claim?
General Mills provides an example for its Cheerios breakfast cereal product that has withstood the test of time (but might not be germane to internet speeds).
- Cereal box Claim: "Lower Cholesterol."
- Qualifier: “As part of a heart-healthy diet.”
For T-Mobile's claim, something along the lines of a qualifier for “5G speeds for typical home & home office use” might pass muster.
The qualifier example would imply that excessive streaming, gaming, or attached devices” could result in a diminution of internet speed.
Granted, marketers don't like qualifiers for apparent reasons.
However, in a highly competitive market, the enforcers of truth in advertising compliance may often be competitors, as in this T-Mobile case.
Rest assured; competitors will parse your ad claims.
And they typically aren't shy about challenging claims that may affect their marketing of competitive products.
Bottom line, marketers should parse proposed ad claims for purposes of determining what consumers, acting reasonably under the circumstances, might derive from marketing copy, including the product/service's name, label (if any), and related context.