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NAD Recommends T-Mobile Modify Post-Merger 5G Claims to Avoid Implication that Aspirational Benefits are Imminently Available

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that T-Mobile, U.S., Inc. modify certain advertising claims that imply imminent availability of certain promoted benefits to T-Mobile customers as a result of the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. The T-Mobile claims at issue included “the best 5G network,” the “most reliable 5G network,” and the “best prices” for 5G service and appeared in television and radio advertising that was discontinued in July 2020. These claims were challenged by AT&T Services, Inc.

NAD determined that the challenged advertisements did not reasonably convey that the aspirational future benefits that will result from the T-Mobile-Sprint merger are presently available to consumers. NAD noted that while T-Mobile made certain commitments to the government as part of the merger approval process and is in the process of expanding and improving its 5G service, the complete integration of the T-Mobile and Sprint networks is not expected to occur for between three to six years.

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NAD considered whether T-Mobile had a reasonable basis to support the implied claims that due to the merger T-Mobile is imminently poised to become, comparatively speaking, the “Best Network,” or will soon provide “the most reliable 5G network,” and concluded that T-Mobile did not present reliable evidence during the course of the proceeding on broad comparative metrics such as network speed and reliability that would fit its claim of imminent overall superiority.

Further, NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret T-Mobile’s “best price” claim to mean that T-Mobile will guarantee that its prices will be lower than its competition in both the near and remote future. NAD noted that this superior pricing claim is contingent on the pricing offered by T-Mobile’s competitors for 5G service, which is subject to change. T-Mobile did not provide evidence that its commitment to maintaining its current low pricing ensured that the vast majority of customers would always pay less with T-Mobile than with their competitors, both in the near and more distant future.

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Therefore, without the requisite support for such claims, NAD recommended that the challenged advertising be modified to avoid conveying such messages.

NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from formulating a more remote aspirational message as to its hopes and ambitions with regard to the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, or from making truthful and non-misleading claims about its current pricing and commitment to maintaining low prices.

In its advertiser statement, T-Mobile stated that it “will comply with NAD’s decision . . . given that the ads in question stopped airing in July 2020” although it noted that it “strongly disagrees” with NAD’s view of its “aspirational goals not only as claims requiring substantiation, but as guarantees.” T-Mobile also stated its belief that the evidence it provided regarding pricing should have been sufficient support for its claims.

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