Qwest, in Settlement, Drops Disputed Ads

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Qwest Communications International shall no longer state in advertising that 72% of participants in a survey claimed the telco's broadband service is faster than the service provided by Comcast.

Qwest reached a stipulated settlement with Comcast on July 6 to drop the claim in all advertising. As part of that settlement, the telephone company agreed that television, radio, online and billboard ads based on the Qwest broadband survey would disappear by that date.

In June, Comcast sued Qwest in federal court over the marketing campaign that began appearing in May in the 14 states Qwest serves. The suit accused the telco of unfair competition and false advertising, among other violations.

Comcast said the campaign was based on a survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2006. During the test, Qwest Internet access was displayed side by side with Comcast's product. The 72% claim was based on consumers' perceptions of that test, with the participants saying things like “I felt Qwest was faster.”

Comcast contended the marketing claims were based on subjective opinions which, even if sincerely held, couldn't justify the use of misleading statements in advertising.

TWO-TIER SERVICE

Comcast noted Qwest offers two broadband speeds: a 1.5 Megabits-per-second service and another offering speeds up to 7 Mbps but only available to users within 9,000 feet of a Qwest facility.

Comcast said it offers service levels at 6 Mbps and 8 Mbps and, with an optional “powerboost” service, speeds up to 35 Mbps can be achieved. Comcast said the survey omitted its fastest service in the comparison.

In the stipulated settlement, filed July 6, Qwest agreed to stop using the “Qwest Broadband Test,” or any components of that campaign, for two years. It admitted no fault or liability, stating it wanted to “incur no further litigation or attendant costs.”

The stipulation says Qwest may conduct a study in the future, with “proper substantiation of claims,” to be used in marketing, and Comcast is allowed to challenge those claims.

NO 'SLOWSKYS' SUIT

Qwest also agreed not to sue over any statements in Comcast's “The Slowskys” campaign that features a pair of turtles that prefer the slow Internet speeds provided by competitors.

Video competitors are increasingly taking disputes over rivals' claims to court. Time Warner Cable has sued DirecTV over claims of a better HD picture than provided by cable.

And DirecTV sued Comcast over a marketing campaign that claims satellite TV viewers think cable has better HDTV picture quality.

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