Marketing

Verizon Backs Off of Cablevision Attacks

12/19/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Verizon Communications said it will
modify ads attacking Cablevision Systems’ broadband
performance — but the telco still plans to claim
the MSO isn’t delivering on its promises.

Cablevision filed suit Dec. 6 in the U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking to
force Verizon to stop running the ads, which cite a
Federal Communications Commission study to claim
the cable operator delivers “59% or less” of advertised
speeds during peak periods (see “Cablevision: Verizon’s
Ads Are False … Now,” Dec. 12, 2011).

The FCC study in question was released in August
but was based on data from March 2011, and
Cablevision said more recent data from the agency
showed it had greatly improved for the month
of October to deliver more than 90% of advertised
speeds during peak periods for customers on its
15-Megabit-per-second tier.

“[A]lthough these new FCC results still show that
Cablevision doesn’t provide customers the Internet
speeds they are paying for to this day, there is
at least some information suggesting that Cablevision’s
services aren’t as bad as they used to be,”
Verizon said in a filing opposing Cablevision’s motion
for a temporary restraining order to stop the
ad campaign.

In the filing, Verizon said it plans to revise its current
ads, a move that “obviates the need for a preliminary
injunction.” The revised ads will: (1) remove the
reference to the August FCC report as “new,” “recent”
or “just released”; (2) not state that Cablevision’s current
poor performance is proven by the August FCC
report or that Cablevision is currently delivering just
59% or less of its advertised speeds; and (3) not state
that to currently “get anything close to speeds Cablevision
promises, you would have to use your iO
internet at 4:30
a.m.”

However, the
telco added:
“To be clear,
Verizon can
and will continue
to otherwise
set the
record straight
about Cablevision’s
services
and false advertising claims, and make claims such
as ‘Cablevision does not deliver on their advertised
download speeds during peak hours.’ ”

Cablevision responded in a statement: “The bottom
line is Verizon is again changing their ads because
they were false and misleading,” alluding to a separate
complaint by Comcast involving the telco’s HD
picture-quality claims.

False-advertising disputes are common. But Verizon’s
aggressive ads and Cablevision’s subsequent
lawsuit underscore how high the stakes are in winning
consumers’ perceptions on broadband quality,
Chris Cole, partner in the Advertising, Marketing
& Media Practice at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, said.

“I don’t think Cablevision had much of a choice”
but to resort to litigation after Verizon wouldn’t voluntarily
modify the ads, he said. “It goes beyond just
the product — it also tends to call into [Cablevision’s]
reputation.” Cole said his firm does not currently represent
either Verizon or Cablevision.

March