NAD Recommends Cox Communications Modify or Discontinue Certain Comparative Performance Claims for its 1 Gbps and 300 Mbps Internet Service

New York, NY – Sept. 18, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Cox Communications, Inc. modify or discontinue certain comparative performance claims for its 1 Gbps and 300 Mbps internet service in two video commercials, following a challenge by AT&T Services, Inc.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The claims at issue included:

Express claim:

  • “Cox offers Gig speed internet everywhere” *”Gig availability varies by home.”

Implied claims:

  • AT&T’s internet service does not deliver sufficient speeds to stream or download movies.
  • Consumers can subscribe to 1 Gbps or 300 Mbps speeds from Cox for only $19.99 per month.

The challenged television commercials compare Cox’s 1 Gbps or 300 Mbps service to AT&T internet service by showing that movies have successfully downloaded and begun to play in the “Cox” living room, whereas movies have either failed to stream or are downloading slowly in the “AT&T” living room (depicted by spinning waiting wheels), along with accompanying language about these parallel scenes. A spokesman concludes, “It’s clear that Cox is the better choice,” and the voiceover then says, that unlike AT&T, Cox has the touted “speeds available everywhere. Get Cox high speed internet starting at $19.99 per month for up to ten megs.” The text touts “Cox Internet starting at $19.99” followed by, in smaller font, “per mo. for 12 mos. w/ 1 yr. svc agr. up to 10 Mbps incl.”

NAD noted that during the pendency of the challenge, Cox modified its commercials to remove the phrase “in 8 seconds” from the phrase “I just downloaded 10 HD movies.” This modified claim will be treated, for compliance purposes, as if NAD had recommended the modification and the advertiser had agreed to comply.

With respect to the challenged comparative claims, the commercial shows the Cox service, identified as Cox 1 Gbps or 300 Mbps (available “everywhere”), completing the download of movies while the AT&T service is shown either failing to stream movies or slowly downloading them.  NAD noted that the commercial does not identify the specific AT&T service depicted and that consumers can stream movies on all of AT&T’s most widely available top tiers of service (such as 50 Mbps, 25 Mbps, and 18 Mbps). NAD determined that messages reasonably conveyed by this commercial are (1) that Cox’s top speeds are being compared to AT&T internet generally, without a limitation to specific speed tiers; and (2) that the AT&T customer cannot stream movies at all on AT&T internet – a message which is not supported.  Therefore, NAD recommended that the challenged claim be discontinued or modified to avoid conveying the misleading message that AT&T internet does not provide sufficient speeds to stream movies.

NAD also considered the message reasonably conveyed by the pricing claim and related disclosures, which were voluntarily modified during the course of the challenge. The commercial concludes with the offer, “Get Cox high speed internet starting at $19.99 a month for up to 10 megs” with the disclosure, “Cox Internet starting at $19.99” followed by, in smaller font, “per mo. for 12 mos. w/1 yr. svc agr. up to 10 Mbps incl.” NAD noted that although it states the price as “starting at” and specifies “for up to 10 megs,” the entire commercial highlights the comparative benefits of Cox’s 1 Gbps or 300 Mbps service. NAD determined that without a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the advertised benefits of high speed internet are not available at an introductory price, the price claim could reasonably convey a misleading message about the material features of the Cox service available for $19.99.  Therefore, NAD recommended that Cox modify its price claim to clearly and conspicuously disclose, in close proximity to the display of its $19.99 introductory price, that the advertised benefits of Cox’s 1 Gbps or 300 Mbps service are not included in the displayed price.

Finally, with respect to the claim “Cox offers Gig speed internet everywhere,” which was accompanied by the disclaimer “Gig availability varies by home,” because the evidence supplied supports a more limited claim NAD recommended that Cox discontinue the claim or modify it to reflect the availability of its 1 Gbps speed tier.  NAD noted that nothing in the decision prevents Cox from touting the wide availability of its 1 Gbps speed tier where Cox service is available as compared to the more limited availability of AT&T’s 1 Gbps speed tier where AT&T service is available. In its advertiser’s statement, Cox stated that it will comply with NAD’s recommendations.