National Advertising Division Finds Certain T-Mobile Home Internet Claims Supported; Recommends Others Be Modified or Discontinued

NEW YORK, March 17, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that T-Mobile USA, Inc.’s “no data caps” claim for its Home Internet service was not misleading. NAD also found that T-Mobile’s advertising did not reasonably convey a disparaging message that competing cable internet providers, including challenger Charter Communications, Inc., require long-term contracts and exploding bills, as compared to T-Mobile’s Home Internet service.

However, NAD recommended that T-Mobile:

  • Discontinue claims that T-Mobile Home Internet offers customers consistent speeds over 100 Mbps or modify its claims to provide truthful and accurate information about the speed or range of speeds that its customers can consistently experience.
  • Modify its “best speeds” claim to make clear that “best speeds” is limited to those speeds available to T-Mobile Home Internet customers.
  • Modify the claim of “5G Internet” to make clear that its Home Internet service is available either on a 5G or 4G LTE network and avoid implying that all T-Mobile Home Internet customers will always receive a 5G signal.

T-Mobile Home Internet is a relatively new service launched by T-Mobile to provide residential internet to customers. Unlike cable and fiber, which connect to homes through a landline, T-Mobile Home Internet connects wirelessly to a customer’s router through its 4G or 5G network. This allows consumers to access the Internet without a landline. Because the Home Internet connection shares T-Mobile’s cellular network, the speeds consumers experience may be affected by the number of people using the cellular network through a process called deprioritization.

100 Mbps Claim

In response to a question on its website “What speeds can I expect from T-Mobile Home Internet?” the advertiser claims that “many” of its users will experience average download speeds over 100 Mbps speeds, and typical download speeds between 35-115 Mbps, with speeds varying depending on location, signal strength, availability, time of day and other factors.

NAD found that T-Mobile is reasonably conveying the message that a substantial number of customers will achieve average speeds of over 100 Mbps. NAD concluded that, on the limited record of this proceeding, T-Mobile did not have support for the challenged 100 Mbps claim. Therefore, NAD recommended that such claims be discontinued or modified to provide truthful and accurate information about the speed or range of speeds that T-Mobile Home Internet customers can consistently experience.

“Best Speeds” Claim

In response to the question on T-Mobile’s website “Can I purchase higher-speed service?” the advertiser states “We don’t offer tiered pricing based on speeds at this time. T-Mobile Home Internet customers automatically receive the best speeds available from the service at their home address. As better speeds are available, customers will automatically experience them, at no additional cost.”

NAD found that consumers may reasonably take away the message that they will have the best speeds available on T-Mobile’s network among all T-Mobile customers, when that may not be the case during times of congestion, given T-Mobile’s deprioritization policies.   Accordingly, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify this claim to make clear that “best speeds” is limited to those speeds available to T-Mobile Home Internet customers.

Data Caps Claim

NAD noted that data caps and deprioritization are two different concepts, with deprioritization referring to a reduction of a customer’s speed and data caps referring to a limit on the amount of high-speed data the customer can use before speed or data limits are imposed.

NAD found that although T-Mobile deprioritizes Home Internet customers during times of congestion, it does not impose a data cap. Therefore, NAD determined that the advertiser’s “no data caps” claim was not misleading.

5G Claims

NAD determined that a message reasonably conveyed by the advertiser’s “5G Internet” claim, in context, is that 5G internet is available to all eligible customers of T-Mobile Home Internet. Further, NAD found that the advertiser’s disclosure that some consumers may only get 4G LTE service (“T-Mobile Home Internet service connects to the same great 4G LTE or 5G network T-Mobile smartphones run on, depending on signal availability at your eligible address”):

  • Is not adequate to alert consumers that they may only be able to access the 4G LTE network;
  • Contradicts the message that customers will get “5G Internet”; and
  • Is not clear and conspicuous.

NAD also concluded that the advertiser’s disclosure of 5G availability at the point of purchase was not sufficient to cure the misleading message that consumers would be on the 5G network.

Because T-Mobile Home Internet does not offer all its customers 5G service, NAD determined that it has not provided a reasonable basis for the claims of “5G Internet.” Accordingly, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim “5G Internet” to make clear that its Home Internet service is available either on a 5G or 4G LTE network and avoid implying that all T-Mobile Home Internet customers will always receive a 5G signal.

Long-term Contracts and Exploding Bills Claims

NAD considered whether T-Mobile makes implied claims that cable internet providers, including Charter, require long-term contracts and exploding bills, as compared to T-Mobile’s Home Internet service.

NAD noted that nothing in the challenged advertisements mentions Charter or any cable company at all. NAD determined that these claims did not reasonably convey a disparaging message that Charter required long-term contracts and exploding bills and, therefore, these claims were not misleading.

Finally, during the proceeding, T-Mobile voluntarily discontinued the claim “average speeds over 100 Mbps for most customers,” as well as certain comparative speed and pricing claims vs. Spectrum Internet. NAD did not review these claims on the merits.

In its advertiser statement, T-Mobile stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.” The advertiser noted its appreciation of NAD’s determination that its “no data caps” claim was not misleading and that its “no long-term contracts” and “no exploding bills” claims are neither misleading nor disparaging.  T-Mobile further stated that although it disagrees with NAD’s conclusion regarding its “5G Internet” claims, “we remain a support of the self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”

All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.

About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.  

SOURCE BBB National Programs

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