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NAD finds certain Google Fiber claims supported, with qualification; recommends other claims be discontinued

he National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that Google Fiber Inc. provided a reasonable basis for certain superior speed claims for its fiber service as compared with cable internet providers in its footprint. However, with respect to its “faster in every direction” claim and its “everything you do goes much faster” claim, NAD recommended that the advertiser make certain modifications. In addition, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the challenged:

  • Quantified speed superiority claims;
  • Superior reliability claims; and
  • The claim that cable service providers are unreliable and prone to outages.

The claims at issue were challenged by Charter Communications, Inc.

Quantified speed claims
NAD determined that the advertiser’s support was not a good fit for its quantified speed superiority claims and recommended that it discontinue the claims:

  • “up to 77x faster uploads”
  • “up to 12x faster downloads”
  • “[w]ith Google Fiber, you’ll get faster download speeds than you’d get with traditional cable, whether you go with 1 Gig (up to 6x faster) or 2 Gig (up to 12x faster)”

NAD concluded that the quantified speed claims reasonably convey the message that the speed difference is between two comparable metrics and speed tiers when it is in fact comparing Google Fiber’s top potential speed of its 1 Gbps and 2 Gbps tiers to the median speeds of Charter’s (and other cable providers’) lower tiers.

NAD also noted that “up to” claims can convey a misleading message to consumers where there is an apples-to-oranges comparison. NAD found that consumers may reasonably expect the advertiser’s “up to” claims to reference the same speed tier, using the same metric, in which the consumer’s experience will be impacted by factors such as weather, equipment, and congestion. They may not expect that the “up to” language relates to a comparison of median speeds to top speeds across different tiers of speeds.

The “Faster in every direction” claim
In support of its “faster in every direction” claim, the advertiser submitted confidential crowdsourced data from a third-party service showing that Google Fiber had the fastest median upload and download speeds as compared to all other internet service providers within its footprint. However, NAD concluded that this data did not support the unqualified “faster in every direction” claim. Rather, it showed that for specific periods of time, Google Fiber was faster in both median download and median upload speeds.

Accordingly, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim or modify it to clearly and conspicuously disclose the market or relevant time period in which Google Fiber provides the fastest speeds.

The “Everything you do goes much faster” claim
Charter challenged claims made on Google Fiber’s webpage that “[w]hen you have up to 77x faster upload speeds than cable internet, everything you do goes much faster – from quickly sending large files, to gaming without lag, to experiencing smoother, more reliable video calls.” Although NAD found that the advertiser had not supported its quantified speed claims, including the 77x faster upload speeds claim, NAD considered the “everything you do goes much faster” claim separately.

NAD looked at whether Google Fiber’s potential upload speeds were in fact faster than Charter’s. Since Google Fiber offers 1 Gbps upload speed as compared to Charter’s 35 Mbps, NAD concluded that the advertiser could support a modified claim that “everything” that requires upload speeds “goes much faster,” including file uploads, gaming, and videoconferencing.

Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the “everything you do goes much faster” claim to specify that everything that requires upload speeds goes much faster, including file uploads, gaming, and videoconferencing.

Superior reliability claims
NAD recommended that Google Fiber discontinue the claims:

  • “Unlike the old-fashioned copper lines you get with traditional cable, our internet gives you a strong, steady, 99.9% reliable connection with (way) fewer points of failure than cable internet.”
  • “Our 100% fiber optic network means you’ll have fewer outages than cable internet.”
  • Cable internet providers, including Charter, offer old and outdated internet service, as compared with Google Fiber’s fiber optic internet.

NAD found that evidence that fiber may be better at resisting outages is not a good fit for claims that Google Fiber has “(way) fewer points of failure than cable internet” and “fewer outages than cable internet.” Reliability of a service and service outages can be measured and claims of superior reliability or fewer outages should be supported by evidence demonstrating that the service provider itself is more reliable compared to competitors, not merely citing technology differences.

NAD also determined that third-party surveys showing Google Fiber was rated highly by customers in reliability as compared to competitors are not a good fit for a comparative reliability or “fewer outages” claim. Nor was NAD persuaded by third-party data showing that in each market in which Google Fiber is offered it is the service provider that most consistently reaches a threshold of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload between Q2 2020 and Q2 2021. NAD noted that a test that only measures the extent to which any provider reached the 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload thresholds does not take into account other factors such as connections that failed to reach those thresholds.

Finally, during the proceeding Google Fiber voluntarily discontinued certain quantified reliability claims and modified its “99.9% reliable connection” claim to add a disclosure that the claim refers to network availability, excluding certain types of outages. NAD did not review the voluntarily discontinued claims on the merits.

In its advertiser statement, Google Fiber stated that it “will comply with NAD’s decision.” The advertiser further stated that while it disagrees with certain aspects of NAD’s decision “Google Fiber is a strong supporter of self-regulation and will respect NAD’s recommendations.”

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. PR Newswire

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