NAD RECOMMENDS T-MOBILE DISCONTINUE ITS “100%” COVERAGE CLAIM AND CLAIM THAT IT COVERS MORE OF CERTAIN CITIES THAN AT&T.

New York, NY – Jan. 15, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that T-Mobile USA, Inc. discontinue its claims, “[CITY], You’re 100% Covered,” “we now cover more of [City] than Verizon and AT&T. In fact, we cover all of it,” following a challenge by AT&T Services, Inc., provider of a competing wireless service.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

AT&T also challenged certain tweets promoting T-Mobile wireless services including:

  • “Just switched to T-Mobile from AT&T – best choice ever. Now my signal doesn’t randomly give out in my own ”
  • “After over 15 years using your service I finally switched to a company who actually provides the services we pay for! T-Mobile is working like a champ!”
  • “I loved the T–Mobile service on my deployment. It was the only service available, so I switched to you all. I’ve kept it since being home. Thank you T-Mobile.”
  • “We had AT&T for 15 years. I was grandfathered into unlimited but it was expensive. We just switched to T-Mobile bc it’s all unlimited and about 1/3 of the cost. I don’t know why we waited so ”

The challenged coverage claims appeared on T-Mobile’s website and -targeted consumers in the Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York Designated Marketing Areas.  The challenged tweets appeared on T-Mobile’s mobile website.

To support the claims “[CITY], You’re 100% Covered” and “we now cover more of [City] than Verizon and AT&T. In fact, we cover all of it,” T-Mobile submitted data comparing its population-based LTE coverage map to Verizon and AT&T’s population-based coverage maps, which showed that T-Mobile covers more people on its LTE network than AT&T or Verizon in the Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York markets. NAD determined, however, that at least one of the messages reasonably conveyed by the challenged advertising is that T-Mobile’s network provides more geographic coverage than AT&T and Verizon, and that T-Mobile’s fine print disclosure that its coverage claim was based on the population covered in the DMA was neither clear nor conspicuous and, as a result, not sufficient to limit T-Mobile’s superior coverage claim to people. . Thus NAD concluded that T-Mobile’s reliance on population-based coverage data was not a good fit for advertising claims that convey a message about geographic coverage. NAD also observed that the T-Mobile’s coverage claims were not appropriately limited to T-Mobile’s LTE network. Additionally, NAD concluded that T-Mobile’s use of the numerical “100%” conveys a definitive message to consumers that T-Mobile covers every single person, in every possible geographic location within each market—a message not supported by the evidence in the record.

Accordingly, NAD recommended that T-Mobile discontinue its claim “…we now cover more of [City] than Verizon & AT&T. In fact, we cover all of it,” as well as its “100% covered” claim. NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision prevents T-Mobile from making a carefully tailored coverage claim based on its population-based LTE data.

As for the series of Twitter messages reposted by T-Mobile on its mobile landing page under the headline “What Ex-AT&T Customers are Saying,” AT&T argued that they contain claims about specific or measurable attributes of AT&T’s services but that T-Mobile failed to provide any evidence that the consumer’s experience here is typical of what AT&T customers can expect to experience T-Mobile informed NAD that three of the four challenged tweets were permanently discontinued prior to the filing of AT&T’s challenge and that it has since permanently discontinued the fourth tweet.

Because the first three were permanently discontinued prior to the date of the complaint, NAD administratively closed the inquiry as to those claims pursuant to ASRC Procedures. Given that T- Mobile agreed to permanently discontinue the one remaining tweet that was in use as of the date of the complaint, the discontinued tweet will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue reposting the tweet and T-Mobile agreed to comply. NAD cautioned T-Mobile that to the extent it wishes to use consumer tweets that communicate a typicality message, such as those here, it is responsible for providing adequate substantiation for the claims reasonably communicated.

In its advertiser’s statement, T-Mobile stated it will comply with NAD’s recommendations.

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.