Verizon gets a reprimand over FiOS ad claims

Verizon Communications (VZ) was told to tone down its boasts about its FiOS TV and Internet service after rival Comcast (CMCSA) lodged a complaint with an advertising review board.

The Verizon claims Comcast is challenging include "Get the difference 100% fiber optics makes" and "FiOS TV is rated #1 in customer satisfaction, value and reliability, ahead of all the major cable and satellite companies," and "Say goodbye to sluggish broadband speeds and congestion."

The National Advertising Division, the ad industry's self-regulatory panel, found that there wasn't sufficient "evidence in the record of this case to support the message FiOS produces fewer glitches or less lag-time than cable for video-chatting or gaming or that fiber-optics will deliver a smoother, less frustrating Internet connection than cable for the purpose of video-chatting or gaming."

The claims that FiOS TV was tops in "customer satisfaction, value and reliability," something put into all sorts of ads, wasn't a fair claim because the "reliability" portion implied some sort of testing had been done, the National Advertising Division concluded. Claims about satisfaction, however, came from 2013 American Consumer Satisfaction Survey (ACSI) for subscription-TV service for the first quarter of 2013, and those by themselves were OK, the group said.

All that led the National Advertising Division to recommend that Verizon modify its claims.

Given an opportunity to respond to the findings, Verizon told the group that although the company "respectfully disagrees with the NAD's recommendations to modify its claims regarding the disclosures related to the ACSI survey, and that Verizon's website makes comparative claims regarding video-chatting glitches and gaming lag time, Verizon will nevertheless consider NAD's recommendations in future advertising."

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    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.