Cox should revise an ad that touts broadband service at speeds of 1 Gigabit, when in fact the internet service provider restricts consumers to upload speeds of 35 Megabits per second, a self-regulatory watchdog said this week.
Advertising claims about broadband speed “convey a message about download and upload speeds,” unless qualified, the National Advertising Division of the BBB National Programs said in an opinion issued Wednesday.
In Cox's case, “the unqualified internet speed claim was not supported by the record,” the organization wrote.
The watchdog recommended that Cox “clearly and conspicuously disclose within close proximity to the claim that gig-speeds are only available for download speeds.”
The decision stemmed from a challenge by AT&T to Cox ads that appeared on television and the radio.
In the TV spot -- which showed a text message exchange between Cox and AT&T -- a narrator playing the role of Cox asked AT&T, “Did you hear Cox delivers gig-speeds everywhere,” to which AT&T responded with emojis of surprised eyes and the message “wowowowow.”
Cox argued to the National Advertising Division that download speeds are more important to customers than upload speeds, but the self-regulatory group said both may be relevant.
“Consumers seeking gig-speed (or faster) internet service should understand both the upload and download speeds, particularly because the upload and download speeds are so different,” the organization wrote. “Both upload and download speeds may be relevant to a consumer’s interest in gig-speed internet based on their particular internet usage.”
Cox also said the ad included a disclosure that speeds were not guaranteed, and were subject to Cox policies and other restrictions.
The National Advertising Division said that disclosure, which appeared for just 4 seconds, was insufficient.
The notice “is confusing and does not adequately qualify the claim to alert consumers that gig-speeds are only available for download speeds,” the watchdog wrote.
“The disclosures are in small font at the bottom of the screen, against the multi-color background and occur in conjunction with distracting animated texts, emojis and voiceover content,” the opinion adds.
At another point in the ad, a narrator says Cox customers “can always choose internet” that's faster than 5G providers.
AT&T also objected to that claim, arguing that it implies AT&T doesn't offer service faster than 5G. The company offers speedier broadband service in markets where AT&T Fiber is available.
The National Advertising Division recommended that Cox revise the ad to avoid implying that AT&T's fastest service is comparable to 5G speeds.
Cox said it would comply with the recommendations, the National Advertising Division reported.