Verizon Ads Mislead About 5G Availability, Watchdog Says

Two Verizon television ads for 5G service may mislead people about the availability of the company's ultra-fast network, according to an industry watchdog.

Verizon should “discontinue claims communicating that its 5G service is widely available in cities across the country, as well as claims communicating that its 5G service is broadly and readily accessible in the cities where it has been launched,” the BBB National Programs' National Advertising Division recommends in a new opinion released Tuesday.

The group's recommendation stemmed from AT&T's challenge to two TV ads. In one of the spots, Verizon engineers in locales across the country -- including the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C., Lake Michigan in Chicago and a street of houses in New York City -- boast of the company's 5G service.

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In that ad, the engineer in Washington, D.C. says she is “part of the team building the most powerful 5G experience for America,” while the engineer in New York boasts that the new service is “25 times faster than today’s network in New York City.”

The second ad also feature engineers throughout the country bragging about Verizon's 5G service. That spot includes an engineer in Omaha saying the company's service is “like an eight lane highway compared to a two lane dirt road.”

While Verizon has launched a 5G network, its rollout has been limited. When AT&T challenged the ads, the service was available in 17 stadiums and several arenas and parts of 34 cities. It's currently available in 24 NFL stadiums and arenas and parts of 35 cities. But even in the neighborhoods where it's available, it's typically not usable indoors.

The challenged ads included disclaimers stating that 5G is only available in areas of certain cities, and that consumers need a 5G-capable device to use the network.

But the National Advertising Division said the disclosures -- which were in a small font and only appeared for a short time -- were “difficult to notice, read and understand.”

“While the commercials state that Verizon’s network is being built and is rolling out, this language, in the context of the current advertising, does not convey a clear message about the limited availability of the network in the cities where it has been launched, particularly given the unique limitations on network availability,” the watchdog wrote.

Verizon said it disagreed with the watchdog, but will comply, according to the opinion.

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