AT&T asks court to pull Verizon's 'misleading' iPhone ads

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
AT&T has stepped up its federal case against Verizon Wireless, amending its complaint to seek a restraining order against holiday season ads attacking its data network and describing the iPhone as 'misfit' because of poor 3G coverage.



Verizon began advertising spots mocking AT&T for providing less comprehensive 3G coverage in a new campaign last month.



The ads referenced Apple's iPhone "there's an app for that" campaign with lines like, "if you want to know why some people have spotty 3G coverage, there's a map for that too," depicting Verizon's 3G network in red and AT&T's 3G network in blue. The maps clearly portray Verizon's coverage as being ubiquitous and AT&T's service as only existing in a few areas nationwide.



Earlier this month, AT&T filed its original complaint against Verizon's ads, which claimed users were being misled after a survey found that 53% of those who saw the ads assumed that the areas not covered in blue in Verizon's maps of AT&T's service were total gaps in coverage.



"The map attributed to AT&T shows large swaths of white or blank space, as if these are areas in which AT&T has no coverage whatsoever," the suit stated. "By depicting AT&T's non-3G coverage as white or blank space in the map used in Verizon's print advertisement, consumers are being misled into believing that AT&T's customers have no coverage whatsoever and thus cannot use their wireless devices when they are outside of AT&T's depicted coverage area."



AT&T expressed urgency over the campaign, noting that the ads are airing during the "most vigorous and important marketing season for the wireless industry." Verizon responded by dropping some phrases in its ads that suggested users outside of AT&T's 3G coverage would be "out of touch," and added small print noting "voice & data services available outside 3G coverage areas."



Round two



In its expanded complaint, AT&T says "Verizon is running a series of advertisements which falsely communicate that AT&T does not have wireless data coverage throughout much of the United States. [?] Contrary to the image presented in the Verizon ads, our wireless network is pervasive. It covers over 300 million people, or 97 percent of the U.S. population. Our fastest, or 3G, network covers approximately 233 million people, or 75 percent of the U.S. population."







Citing Verizon's own coverage reports, AT&T's complaint says that its rival's CDMA/EVDO 3G network "covers approximately 284 million people, or 91% of the population," and says "Verizon knows that its use of AT&T coverage maps is misleading because according to the coverage map legend on Verizon's, T-Mobile's, and Sprint's websites, the geographic spaces colored 'white' or left 'blank' on their maps represents areas in which there is no wireless coverage whatsoever."



The action filed by AT&T asks for "injunctive relief and damages," and asks the court to "immediately temporarily restrain, and preliminarily and permanently enjoin Verizon from running" both its ads and "from falsely advertising that AT&T customers cannot communicate or use their wireless devices when they are not in a '3G' coverage area."



AT&T's complaint also notes that "prior to the wider availability of '3G' networks, AT&T's '2.5G' GSM/EDGE network supported the hugely popular and iconic iPhone for more than a year, and still supports millions of iPhones and other wireless devices currently in use."



Spotted elephant called as witness



The complaint dives into the details of each ad Verizon is running, including the new "Island of Misfit Toys" spot, giving a play-by-play of how claymation characters were used to malign its network and describe the iPhone as misfit.



The complaint cites "the spotted elephant, in a surprised manner" asking why the iPhone was banished to the island of misfit toys. "What are you doing here? You can download apps and browse the web!" Then a "Dolly for Sue asserts that 'Yeah, People will love you [the iPhone]." Once Verizon's sparse map for AT&T's 3G coverage appears, "the iPhone wilts and its screen goes dark," just as "the toy airplane then assures the iPhone that 'you're going to fit right in here!"



AT&T's complaint then turns gravely serious in stating "the image of the sad and wilting iPhone on a island of misfit toys falsely communicates that the iPhone is a broken device because it cannot browse the web or download applications when outside of AT&T's depicted coverage area."



Two other spots depict the iPhone as being labeled as "naughty" or causing user infuriation due to limited 3G coverage, and AT&T also cites direct mail advertisements sent by Verizon that again depict AT&T's 3G coverage as being the company's only US data network.



Five times the 3G?



"In all of the advertisements described above," AT&T's statement says, "Verizon makes the misleading statement that it has "5 times more '3G' coverage than AT&T." While this statement is literally true based on square miles, it is misleading because the overwhelming majority of the US population lives and works where both Verizon and AT&T have '3G' coverage.



"Indeed, from a population standpoint, Verizon only has 1.24 times more '3G' coverage than AT&T (285 million people/230 million people)."



In addition to an injunction to stop the ads, AT&T also asks for "treble damages as a result of Verizon's violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)" as well as attorney's fees, and describes its damages as being calculated in relation to Verizon's "sales and profits from its false and misleading advertisements" as well as its own lost profits.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 133
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,483member
    The ad only mentions 3G, I don't get the complaint even though I am an iPhone user and AT&T user (where I get coverage lol). I guess I get the inference that you can't use the iPhone outside of the red area ... Verizon are overstepping there. For our annual summer stay at our home in the mountains I had to use Edge the entire time but it worked ... sort of.
  • Reply 2 of 133
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    This is so lame, how are these ads misleading in any way? It's an accurate map of 3G coverage with the description "map of 3G coverage." This is just a malicious lawsuit.
  • Reply 3 of 133
    ATT coverage - even in "3G areas" - is often underbuilt and oversubscribed.



    If this map reflected density of 3G customers per tower, ATT would look even worse.
  • Reply 4 of 133
    teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Quote:

    AT&T's complaint then turns gravely serious in stating "the image of the sad and wilting iPhone on a island of misfit toys falsely communicates that the iPhone is a broken device because it cannot browse the web or download applications when outside of AT&T's depicted coverage area."



    Classic! In the complaint! for the record!!



    Regardless of what the outcome, Verizon has produced some absolutely amazing ads lately.
  • Reply 5 of 133
    paul94544paul94544 Posts: 1,027member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


    This is so lame, how are these ads misleading in any way? It's an accurate map of 3G coverage with the description "map of 3G coverage." This is just a malicious lawsuit.



    I switched to AT&T from Verizon 18 months ago from my RAZR phone.



    Sure AT&T's coverage isn't all goo, but either is Verizon's. The town I lived in I used to get many dropped calls with the RAZR on Verizon. In the back of my house the signal dropped off to 1 bar at the front it went to 3 bars. Personally I don't believe the hype Verizon (GTE) puts out about "Can you hear me now". I Used to be a vendor for GTE years ago and some of the people I had to deal with at their HQ were complete A$%%oles. Arrogant SOB;'s mostly. Anyways I have found that ATT has a wider coverage area into more rural areas like Yosemite, the North coast of CA for example. Try getting Verizon there? I think these two companies are as bad as one another. I wouldn't trust either of them and their claims . Come on its Marketing, one rung lower on the" and first against the wall" after Politicians, Lawyers and used car salesmans =- oh I forgot realtors
  • Reply 6 of 133
    The misleading part is how friggin' slow the "3G" coverage in the vast majority of Verizon's network is, since anything CDMA is considered "3G"... even if it's the dog-slow 1xRTT. Only the EVDO-ehanced areas compare to the 3G of the iPhone (and from my experience, Verizon's EVDO is faster than AT&T's 3G). In most places without the EV ehancements, EDGE is faster than the Verizon "3G". (Which is pretty sad.)



    I'm not an AT&T fan by any means, but sheesh, Verizon is reeeeeealy stretching the truth here. A huge chunk of their "3G" network is pretty much just "2.5G" just like EDGE.
  • Reply 7 of 133
    samabsamab Posts: 1,953member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by RoboNerd View Post


    The misleading part is how friggin' slow the "3G" coverage in the vast majority of Verizon's network is, since anything CDMA is considered "3G"... even if it's the dog-slow 1xRTT. Only the EVDO-ehanced areas compare to the 3G of the iPhone (and from my experience, Verizon's EVDO is faster than AT&T's 3G). In most places without the EV ehancements, EDGE is faster than the Verizon "3G". (Which is pretty sad.)



    I'm not an AT&T fan by any means, but sheesh, Verizon is reeeeeealy stretching the truth here. A huge chunk of their "3G" network is pretty much just "2.5G" just like EDGE.



    The red area are all ev-do coverage.
  • Reply 8 of 133
    Sorry Verizon. You can make all the clever ads you want.



    I left you for AT&T because they have the iPhone.



    They still do, and you don't. Sorry Verizon.
  • Reply 9 of 133
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Paul94544 View Post


    ... Sure AT&T's coverage isn't all goo, but either is Verizon's. The town I lived in I used to get many dropped calls with the RAZR on Verizon. In the back of my house the signal dropped off to 1 bar at the front it went to 3 bars. Personally I don't believe the hype Verizon (GTE) puts out about "Can you hear me now". I Used to be a vendor for GTE years ago and some of the people I had to deal with at their HQ were complete A$%%oles. Arrogant SOB;'s mostly. Anyways I have found that ATT has a wider coverage area into more rural areas like Yosemite, the North coast of CA for example. Try getting Verizon there? I think these two companies are as bad as one another. I wouldn't trust either of them and their claims . Come on its Marketing, one rung lower on the" and first against the wall" after Politicians, Lawyers and used car salesmans =- oh I forgot realtors



    I agree. I just meant that considering the grey area allowed in most advertising, that the claims they are making are hardly misleading compared to what most companies get away with.



    Much bolder, (and less "truthy") claims are made on a daily basis by advertisers, politicians and realtors all over the world.
  • Reply 10 of 133
    The point that the ATT lawyers will make is that consumers are used to maps like those depicted in the ad that the white spaces are representing no coverage areas - not just no 3G coverage. Even though Verizon shows the maps to represent 3G coverage, we consumers see it as no coverage. In a tv ad, you're not thinking about ATT's white space being covered by their edge network, because you only have mere seconds to even look at the map. I would tend to agree with ATT in this case, although I wouldn't fight it with a lawsuit.



    IMHO the best way to fight back on something like this is to create ads that show real network speed comparisons - especially if it's true that the non EVDO areas of Verizon's 3G coverage area are slower than ATT's non-3G areas.



    In marketing, it's often easier to make the competition look bad without addressing your own benefits (or drawbacks).



    Both companies have their benefits and drawback. Even making any comparison between them when you don't have identical phones (at identical times and environmental conditions) to compare service, is pointless. Just like scientific double blind with placebo testing. To compare, you would need to control all variables. Of course the results, even in scientific studies, are often guided by what you want to learn from them.
  • Reply 11 of 133
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by samab View Post


    The red area are all ev-do coverage.



    I believe you're mistaken. In the previous AI article it was established that that wasn't the case.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    However, Verizon still says on its website that for users "in Mobile Broadband markets that do not yet have EV-DO Rev. A, you can expect download speeds of 400 to 700 Kbps and upload speeds of 60- to 80 Kbps."



    There is no distinguishing between these two levels of service (one being similar to EDGE, the other being roughly twice as fast) on Verizon's coverage maps.



  • Reply 12 of 133
    I really don't care how much red is on that map if I can't use to to connect to my iPhone, it really appears Verizon is a little scared here. And I'd like to point out that most Verizon phones are useless once you leave the country, AT&T should publish a map of the entire planet to show you where their phones work.
  • Reply 13 of 133
    samabsamab Posts: 1,953member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jmgregory1 View Post


    IMHO the best way to fight back on something like this is to create ads that show real network speed comparisons - especially if it's true that the non EVDO areas of Verizon's 3G coverage area are slower than ATT's non-3G areas.



    All the red area is EV-DO coverage.



    Real speed comparison? Verizon advertised their 3G speed as 600 kbps - 1400 kbps (middle point is 1000 kbps) AT&T advertised their 3G speed as 700 kbps - 1700 kbps (middle point is 1200 kbps).
  • Reply 14 of 133
    Verizon.



    They had their chance.



    To their credit...ATT took theirs.



    But it was a poisoned chalice regardless.



    Apple broke the power of the phone network companies.



    A precedent has been set.



    Apple's star is rising. And M$ is nowhere.



    How ironic.



    The 3rd Great Age is upon us.



    Lemon Bon Bon.
  • Reply 15 of 133
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,265member
    I don't think I've ever seen a bigger case of corporate sour grapes. My favorite part is:



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    While this statement is literally true based on square miles, it is misleading because the overwhelming majority of the US population lives and works where both Verizon and AT&T have '3G' coverage.



    So, the statement is true...end of story, case dismissed. Verizon has made no false claims in their ads.



    And they are even using ATT's own definition of what their 3G coverage is. It's clearly outlined on ATT's website. So all the crap about "2.5G is really 3G" and other claimed technical details are, quite frankly, irrelevant. The only way that ATT can claim Verizon is misrepresenting ATT's 3G coverage is to say that ATT ifself is mispreresenting their own 3G coverage.



    You don't see MS whining about the Mac vs PC ads misrepresenting PC's, do you? No, you see them fighting back with their own ads, not running to the courts.
  • Reply 16 of 133
    daharderdaharder Posts: 1,580member
    Two Words: Boo Hoo



    Now go fix your network so that other carriers won't have cause to point out your (obvious) inadequacies.
  • Reply 17 of 133
    samabsamab Posts: 1,953member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DeaPeaJay View Post


    I believe you're mistaken. In the previous AI article it was established that that wasn't the case.



    But we are also talking about a piece written by Prince McLean --- who tends to not be that accurate on a lot of things.



    Verizon finished their ev-do rev A overlay in 2007 --- not a single part of Verizon's network is on the older ev-do rev 0 technology.



    http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2007/...ev-a-overhaul/



    EDGE has a theoretical download speed of 384 kbps and a real life average speed of 150 kbps. Prince likes to exaggerate.
  • Reply 18 of 133
    daharderdaharder Posts: 1,580member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by YodaMac View Post


    Sorry Verizon. You can make all the clever ads you want.



    I left you for AT&T because they have the iPhone.



    They still do, and you don't. Sorry Verizon.



    @YodaMac,



    Care, I Do Not



    (and I'd wager, neither does Verizon)
  • Reply 19 of 133
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by samab View Post


    But we are also talking about a piece written by Prince McLean --- who tends to not be that accurate on a lot of things.



    Verizon finished their ev-do rev A overlay in 2007 --- not a single part of Verizon's network is on the older ev-do rev 0 technology.



    http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2007/...ev-a-overhaul/



    EDGE has a theoretical download speed of 384 kbps and a real life average speed of 150 kbps. Prince likes to exaggerate.



    touché



    I like the way Andy Inhatko put it on MacBreak weekly. People don't care if they have great coverage in Utah, they care if they have it at home and at the office. I've been very pleased with my coverage here in East Tennessee, even when all I had was edge. It was never very painful to use. But then our networks probably aren't as saturated as a lot of areas are.
  • Reply 20 of 133
    Apple should buy a chunk of ATT and Verizon with their money stash, and we would have the final end to end solution/control that SJ wants. Stop wasting money on lawsuits and competitive ads, and start building a better network. All the way from the chips (PA Semi) to the carriers.
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