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AT&T prevails in ad spat over Charter internet reliability claims

AT&T won its latest battle with Charter Communications over marketing claims, with the National Advertising Division (NAD) recommending the latter discontinue advertisements which call into question the reliability of AT&T’s internet service.

The ruling followed AT&T’s challenge of a Charter ad for its Spectrum service. The commercial in question claimed Spectrum won against “telephone internet companies” in terms of providing reliable and glitch-free internet service. NAD noted Charter’s claim made no distinction between cable, copper and fiber services and recommended it discontinue advertising which included such a vague assertion.

However, AT&T’s victory is fairly hollow. Charter had argued that the NAD should not accept AT&T’s challenge on the grounds that the claim AT&T objected to was not explicitly stated in its commercial and in any event the commercial had already been discontinued by the time AT&T’s challenge was submitted. Thus, it declined to submit evidence in support of its marketing claim. In issuing its ruling, the NAD insisted it had jurisdiction to decide the matter since Charter’s commercial continued to run through the date of the complaint. Charter said in a statement it was “disappointed” in the NAD’s decision to hear the challenge but added it would “take NAD's recommendations into account in formulating its future advertising."

NAD is part of BBB National Programs, an organization which oversees self-regulation programs for the advertising industry. Its ruling this week comes as fiber and cable providers spar for the upper hand in marketing campaigns.

Last month, Google Fiber was told to drop certain speed and reliability claims following a challenge by Charter. Meanwhile, AT&T and Charter have been engaged in a months-long tit-for-tat battle over various claims.

In February, AT&T was told to amend its ads after it lost an appeal aimed at defending against a Charter challenge of its fiber claims. The following month things spilled over into the mobile realm, as NAD told Charter to drop a “disparaging claim” it made in an ad stating AT&T intentionally misleads consumers about its wireless pricing. And in April, NAD ruled that while Charter had backed up its claim of offering the “most consistent download speeds” via its Spectrum Internet service, it should drop claims that it offers “better performance” than the competition for gaming applications and that it is more reliable than AT&T’s internet offerings.

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