Verizon Should Revise FiOS Ad Boasts, Watchdog Says

Verizon should revise FiOS ads boasting that its broadband service is the top-rated for speed, an ad watchdog says.

The company's ads, which were challenged by rival broadband provider Comcast, conveyed that Verizon's Internet speed is top-rated based on "objective performance measures," according to The National Advertising Review Board, an appellate arm of a self-regulatory unit administered by the Better Business Bureau.

Verizon argued that its ad statements -- including the boast "FiOS Internet is Rated #1" -- were not problematic because they were based on PC Magazine's customer satisfaction survey.

The NARB rejected that position. "Consumer satisfaction survey results should not be used to show objective superiority with respect to measurable performance," the appellate body wrote in an opinion made public this week.

The group added that it agreed with the National Advertising Division (which initially considered Comcast's challenge) that advertisers "may truthfully tout customer satisfaction ratings determined by independent surveys," provided the ads make clear that the rating reflects consumers' opinions, as opposed to objective measurements.

"Claims made with respect to specific objectively measurable attributes, such as Internet speed, are more likely to be understood by consumers as indicating that performance was objectively measured and/or determined in a head-to-head comparison," the NARD writes.

Verizon also argued that FiOS in fact offers the fastest broadband speeds, but the self-regulatory group didn't address that issue for several reasons, including that it was the subject of separate litigation.

The NARB considered ads that appeared on TV, the Web and radio. One of the TV ads included "small text that is difficult to read" stating that Verizon's boast was based on's survey, according to the NARD opinion. The watchdog found that disclosure insufficient in the context of the "fast-moving" ad.

Verizon said it disagrees with some of the NARD's conclusions, but will consider its recommendations in future ads, according to the opinion.

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