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AT&T complains to ad group about Boost, Comcast wireless claims

Boost Mobile and Comcast will modify their advertising with respect to each company’s wireless phone offerings following dual complaints lodged to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) by rival phone provider AT&T.

The complaints were filed with the BBB’s National Advertising Division (NAD). In joint statements published on Thursday, the NAD said it found merit to some of AT&T’s concerns while dismissing others.

Specifically, the NAD recommended Boost Mobile stop marketing its wireless phone service as offering unlimited video streaming on some of its plans. The NAD said Boost Mobile downgrades, or “throttles” a subscriber’s data speed once they use a certain amount of wireless data, which means customers are “unable to stream video, surf the web or do any other activity that requires substantial data use at speeds that meet consumers’ expectations for an unlimited plan.”

“The only activities that would still function acceptably are those that use minimal amounts of data, such as email without attachments, or those that use no data, such as talk and text,” the NAD said in its decision.

The NAD said Boost Mobile couldn’t remedy the situation by simply offering a disclosure because it would “contradict the message reasonably conveyed by the underlying claim.” In other words, Boost Mobile couldn’t say it offered unlimited streaming video on some of its data plans while warning that customer data may be throttled once it reached a certain point.

Boost Mobile said it would comply with the NAD’s recommendation to stop promoting its unlimited video streaming on some plans, but disagreed with the NAD’s observation regarding how customers can access certain web features once their data speeds are throttled. The company, which is owned by Dish Network, said it would appeal the unlimited data issue to the National Advertising Review Board.

In a separate decision, the NAD rebuffed AT&T’s complaint that cable giant Comcast didn’t clearly disclose that its wireless service offered limited 5G connections to customers.

Comcast re-sells wireless phone service on Verizon’s network under the Xfinity Mobile brand name. When AT&T filed its complaint, Comcast was only offering Verizon’s millimeter wave-based 5G service, which at the time was only available in a handful of cities.

Comcast produced a commercial with comedian Amy Poehler in which a disclosure was made that 5G was not available in all areas, despite Poehler saying that “everybody gets 5G.” But the disclosure was printed in small, gray font, and was placed in a portion of the screen with limited contrast, which made it difficult for most people to read.

The NAD recommended Comcast update its commercial with a better disclosure, and place similar disclosures on its website. Comcast said it would comply with the decision, but noted it was largely irrelevant now because the company has since started offering 5G access via Verizon’s low-band spectrum, which is more widely available throughout the country than its millimeter wave-based 5G network.

Comcast did not indicate it would challenge any of the NAD’s recommendations.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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