Better Business Bureau Recommends Cablevision Change Some Ads

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The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Cablevision Systems modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for its Optimum Online service, after a challenge by Verizon Communications.

NAD noted in its decision, announced Thursday, that Cablevision voluntarily discontinued certain claims prior to or during the course of the ad group's investigation, including "best HD picture," "sharpest HD picture and sound," "#1 for Speed," "America's Fastest Home Internet Access," and the use of the "five times faster" claim in direct marketing to Verizon FiOS customers.

However, following its review, NAD recommended that Cablevision stop claiming its broadband service is the "fastest around" and that "everything else is stuck in the past."

In addition, while NAD found that the claim that Optimum Online is "5x faster" was accurate at the time of Verizon's challenge, it recommended that Cablevision clearly distinguish between Verizon's DSL service and the FiOS server.

"Advertisers must take steps to ensure that their claims remain accurate, particularly in a market ... where the technology evolves so quickly," NAD said.

NAD recommended that the claim "most advanced fiber optic network" be discontinued, but noted Cablevision can characterize itself as an "advanced hybrid fiber optic network."

Finally, NAD determined that the references to "110 percent' pixel performance and generates "bluer" blues and "greener" greens in the context of the revised broadcast advertising did not convey objectively provable superiority claims requiring substantiation.

In a statement, Cablevision said it "appreciates NAD's careful consideration of the issues in this matter" and "agrees to take into account NAD's findings in this inquiry in future advertising."

The cable operator also said: "It is worth noting that in this and other recent proceedings, the NAD has firmly supported a number of Cablevision's marketing statements, including the fact that our high-speed Internet service is up to five times faster than phone company high-speed Internet and that all of our services are provided over an advanced network, while rejecting a number of Verizon's positions including their unfounded claims of HD picture superiority."

The findings on Cablevision's ads and marketing come after the NAD last November issued a recommendation that Verizon alter or stop claiming that its FiOS service offers superior sound and picture quality - after Cablevision complained.

The division did determine that it was reasonable for Verizon to claim it offers the "the best TV picture, period," as well as a testimonial claim "it's the best picture and sound you're ever gonna get. It's insane."

Separately, last week New Jersey's Attorney General sued Verizon Communications, alleging the telco engaged in "deceptive and misleading" marketing, sales, billing and customer service practices related to its FiOS services.

Among other allegations, the state charged that the telco failed to provide advertised promotional gifts, such as flat-screen HDTVs, and charged consumers higher prices for service than prices quoted in door-to-door solicitations and ads.

In a statement Verizon New Jersey president Dennis Bone said: "We believe that the issues raised by the attorney general today are related primarily to the start-up of the FiOS business nearly two years ago in New Jersey and have been largely addressed."

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