NAD recommends T-Mobile modify advertising for Essentials plan


The National Advertising Division, part of the Better Business Bureau, weighed in on some claims against T-Mobile marketing this week.

The claims in T-Mobile advertising were challenged by Charter Communications and the first relates to T-Mo’s “four lines” pricing advertising. It was argued that consumers may have been misled that about an implied claim that they could purchase fewer than four lines at the same prices available to customers who purchase four lines.

However, the NAD argues that consumers understand the offer of “four lines” and know that that means that the price is only available when you buy four lines. Therefore, the NAD says that T-Mobile’s pricing advertising was not misleading about the price for one, two, or three lines and that T-Mo doesn’t need to make any additional disclosures about its pricing.

The second challenged claim relates to T-Mobile’s Essentials plan. With this plan, customers are prioritized lower than other T-Mo customers, which means their data may be slowed during times of network congestion. The implied claim that’s been challenged, though, is that Essentials customers get unlimited data without a reduction in speed because of advertising like “Unlimited talk, text, & smartphone data on our network.”

The NAD says that T-Mobile can advertise Essentials as “unlimited” so long as its prioritization policies are disclosed. However, the group feels that T-Mobile’s disclosures about Essentials do not explain why or when those customers may get slower speeds and that the disclosure that subscribers “may notice lower speeds” is something they already know, which is that data speeds can vary on a wireless network.

The NAD also feels that the advertising for T-Mobile’s unlimited plans, like this page that compares the plans, doesn’t explain the differences between the prioritization that Essentials customers are subject to compared to subscribers on other plans. This info is “especially significant when consumers are comparing plans,” the NAD argues.

After examining the challenged claims, the NAD recommends that when T-Mobile touts the Essentials plan, it should better explain its data prioritization policies so that customers understand why and when Essentials subscribers will experience prioritiation. The NAD also recommends that when T-Mobile more broadly advertises its unlimited plans, its disclosures should be broad enough to describe any data limitations on all of the unlimited plans.

T-Mobile said that it while it disagrees “with NAD’s conclusion that we should alter our existing disclosures concerning our Essentials Plan, we remain a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”

This isn’t the first time that T-Mobile has had some of its advertising challenged and then reviewed by the NAD. Earlier this year, Charter took issue with some of T-Mo’s advertising related to TVision and the NAD recommended that T-Mobile make some changes to it as well.

Source: NAD

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  • Sayahh

    If you don’t keep companies in check, especially when they’ve just merged and already trying to get a better deal and going back on promises, then they could potentially become the next (or worse than) AT&T.

    Does the NAD even have any powers other than recommendations?

    • Andrew Singleton

      No, they’re a powerless private company just like the BBB. Talk about misrepresentation!

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        BBBs sole power is in their ability to make corporations behave if they can and will. They have tended to become like Welcome Wagon over time.

    • disqus_3BrONUAJno

      AT&T has become nothing more than a trademark. The cellphone company bears no resemblance to the pre-breakup AT&T, which stood for American Telephone and Telegraph when it headed the Bell System.
      As Starship sang: “Someone’s always playing corporation games
      Who cares they’re always changing corporation names”

  • riverhorse

    This is awfully picky- when they let most banks, universities, the mainstream media, social platform & Telco behemoths get away with anything- with nary a peep.

  • Willie D

    Good. TMo is the most untrustworthy when it comes to advertising plans, rates and features. They have been for years now. 4G aka HSPA, Totally Unlimited aka 2GB data cap circa 2011, etc… and now with this merger its time for them to be truthful if they really are best.

    • marque2

      4g HSPA – that was 9 years ago, and the 4g committee allowed it because the speeds of HSPA+ were about the same, on average, as LTE speeds at the time.

      You upset about AT&T currently calling LTE 5e? I guess that isn’t problematic. AT&T did the same with iPhones about 9 years ago as well, but still no issue with them?

      Seems like your statement is a bit fraudulent itself. The most untrusty poster of Cellular issues on Disqus is Willie D apparently.

      • disqus_3BrONUAJno

        LTE is a protocol, not a band.

        • marque2

          Though LTE might make a good band name. Not sure why you are picking on me. I don’t see where I called LTE a band and I was commenting on someone complaining HPSA was being called 4g and what the 4g committee allowed.

        • disqus_3BrONUAJno

          It came from your mention of “LTE 5e.”
          I’m not picking on you, just making sure you understand that 5e is a band designation.
          You might already know, but everytime there is an increase in the carrier frequency, there is an increase in the speed possible. As a rule of thumb, 10% of the carrier frequency is the maximum data rate. LTE up that by using a more sophisticated switching protocol, so I’ve been told. Cellphone carrier frequencies started out around 1 GHz, and 5G will supposedly get up to 50 GHz, so the data rate increase possible is significant, FWIW. The higher a frequency, the more power it contains, so 50 GHz is going to be more ionizing than 1 GHz, which why everyone is going a bit Chicken Little. It s possible that the industry will lower the power levels to take advantage of the increase in energy with frequency. It all depends on how much eugenics are involved.

        • marque2

          I am not sure your 10% rule applies – doesn’t it depend on how wide it spreads the spectrum. It isn’t just about the center frequency.

          My understanding is 5ge is merely a renaming of the latest 4g technologies the other carriers have as well. 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM. Nothing to do with a specific frequency. My V30 phone from what three years back already supported and did “5ge” equivalent on T-Mobile.

        • disqus_3BrONUAJno

          It isn’t my rule, it is called the Shannon limit. It is not about deviation or center frequency, since those are analog terms, and everything since frequency diversty has been digital.
          Your understanding is incorrect.
          5ge sounds like somebodies advertising fluff.

      • Willie D

        This is about TMo, not AT&T. And thats the best you got?

        • dcmanryan

          I think his point was that all carriers have done similar in the past or are currently doing it and I for one find it relevant to the story.

        • Shaun Michalak

          By your comment, it seems you have a grudge against T-Mobile, which is fine.. That is your choice.. But at the same time, say AT&T or Verizon was in the same position as T-Mobile is here.. Which in fact, I have seen them both advertise in similar ways as T-mobile is doing now, would you still be on the same amount of rage, and acceptance of comments, or situations, as you are now?? Go look up cricket commercials, or their descriptions for their plans.. They are very similar to the way that T-Mobile does theirs in descriptions and advertisements.. The difference.. They are plainly picking on T-Mobile right now..

          Let me give you an example.. T-Mobile has tons of Metro stores, online help, call help, etc.. Verizon came out with Visible.. No stores, and no help in any way but instant messaging.. But yet they complain because T-Mobile closes a minor amount of their stores, and say nothing about Verizon that has ZERO stores, phone help, etc.. Who do you think is killing jobs more.. T-mobile with has all of these, or Verizon’s Visible that has almost no ways of help??

        • marque2

          You sir are a hypocrite.

    • dl_crash

      Don’t forget Verizon’s XLTE which is a nonexistent spec.

  • Shaun Michalak

    T-Mobiles essential plan description.., “During congestion, Essentials customers may notice speeds lower than other customers and further reduction if using >50GB/mo”

    It says it right there.. They may notice lower speeds then regular customers.. How can you think that you are on equal levels of priority when they clearly explain that you will be slower.. Only an idiot would think that means you are all equal..

    As for the 4 line pricing thing.. T-Mobile’s advertisements and standards at pricing, and giving discounts per line are not any different then any other company out there.. So why is this a T-Mobile thing?

    “The implied claim that’s been challenged, though, is that Essentials customers get unlimited data without a reduction in speed because of advertising like “Unlimited talk, text, & smartphone data on our network.””

    Since when is a reduction in speed have to do with how much data that they allow?? That is dumb.. Speeds and amount of data are 2 different things, and saying they are the same is stupid. They act like T-Mobile is “capping” the data, which they are not.. They are only de-prioritizing then during high traffic, which is clearly posted in the details of the plan..

  • Mike

    You might as well call essential plans metro by Tmobile, because it sounds just like how there lines can be slower. Personally with all the hype of 5g, I’m surprised we have to keep hearing about speeds slowed, guess we are being trained for the new 5g.

    • Shaun Michalak

      I think it all depends on where you are at, and how bogged down the towers are.. You are correct that they are basically a Metro plan sold by T-Mobile.. But the thing is, until they get that extra spectrum in place, they are going to continue to have too much congestion on some towers.. Especially in highly populated areas.. I would guess that once that extra spectrum is put in place, that the 50gb limit and slower speeds will be more of a thing of the past for most people.

      I honestly believe that if some people would not needlessly waste bandwidth on the towers, it would help out a lot too.. For example, one day I was in the store shopping. I saw this girl walk in with the phone on video chat. Not once did I see her show the other person anything that she was looking at, nor did she look down at the phone, nor did she have the phone positioned so that the other girl talking to her could see her either.. So what was the point of keeping video chat on when you are not using it, other then the fact that you can?? One person may not be a big difference, but say 100 people do it.. that adds up to some bandwidth..

      For the record, that was before COVID, and I am not against video chat.. I have used it many times in the past.. But at the same time, I feel it is stupid to leave the video going if you are not using it at all too.. or how about some common courtesy things.. Like updating your programs at 7pm., or 2pm, and not at the rush times, like 7am, noon, 5pm, etc when you know traffic is the heaviest..

      • Mike

        Good point on how people use data now, it actually keeps changing with time. Actually most people dont understand the bandwidth issue, all they know is the phone should work since a bill is being paid for service once a month. The carriers know that people will use more data as the future goes. One problem is Tmobile has to convert towers to the newer technology so more bandwidth can be added, here is Florida all I get is 5 mhz wide of band 2 or 12. So until modernization occurs we will just have to deal with people using up bandwidth.

        • Shaun Michalak

          and the problem is, the more you have of something, the more that it gets wasted.. People now days do not care about how much they waist of most things, from data to even food.. I can not tell you how many times I have seen people get so entitled to things, that they set themselves up that only certain things will do.. I will not eat left overs.. I only eat T-Bone steaks, or lobster, etc.. Even with cars.. I will only drive a ….. brand or type of vehicle.. Cell service is no different.. I only use “I phones”, or I will only use Verizon because they are the best, etc..

          I understand that people want reliable service, but at the same time, people expect everything, and want everything, and then want everything to cost less.. Well, these companies have to keep investing billions of dollars on upgrading, buying new spectrum, etc to keep up with all the wants and waste that people do.. They want cheaper and cheaper, more and more, but in the end, there has to be a breaking point with resources, and what is available, and can be used, vs what people do use. But people do not care to understand that.. Because their wants out-rule all other options..

        • Mike

          Yes people have increasinly wanted more, i guess thats how alot of the un carrier moves got started, people wanted more. Now as far as profit goes, none of the big carriers are hurting for profit, many pay there CEO’s pretty good…. and have cash left on the balance sheets. To me an average cell bill should be about 30.00 per single line with everything actually unlimited, and not this half half unlimited they try to teach us with data caps and prioritization, and my favorite term, during congestion, who in the world would know when the net is congested? .The FCC needs to bring back net neautrailty, so some of these terms go away. Well my figure amount about 30.00 dollars a month is probably high, I’d bet a monthly amount could be even lower. Right now however the average seems to be around 65.00 a month on a single line for the half half unlimited.

        • Shaun Michalak

          I did not say that they were hurting for money.. I as just stating that if all you do is lower the bill every time someone yelled it is too high, and still had to put money into the infrastructure, at some point, there will be a breaking point where they will be losing money..

          as for the line cost.. I would say it would all depend on where you are at in the mix.. For example, I have unlimited everything on Metro.. With the detailed prioritizing of course.. and with 4 lines, I pay $25 per line.. But say that they gave the same prices through T-Mobile.. Now they would have to lower the prices of the plans through Metro to $15 per line. Considering the prices of taxes, which that includes, that would not leave too much money for keeping things up.. With my VOIP home phone plan, about 35% of the bill is nothing but taxes.. I doubt that a cell carrier, not prepaid, would be much different.. At least, when I had postpaid a while back, it was not for me.

          As for highly congested.. Well, I would assume that most people could figure that out.. Lunch time, rush hours to and from work, at big gatherings, such as football games, etc.. But at the same time, I think it would be common sense that in rural areas with almost not houses (farm land for example), congestion would not really happen.. It just takes a little common sense to figure that one out.. which people are sadly lacking these days.

  • Jose Mendoza

    Sounds good, but how about Verizon? Notice how Ajit Pai rushed to investigate TMobile during an outage and not Verizon when they cut the service of firefighters in California? Or maybe it has to do with the fact that all of these “agencies” are just fronts for Verizon and AT&T which share similar investors and have had execs jump between each in short amount of time? I know TMO also has investor influence by the biggest banks, but it seems like all of these so called “regulatory” agencies are just attack fronts for the bigger carriers. Not surprising, since TMO is a Deutsche Telekom aka German Owned company American corporations always are looking for ways to be as greedy as possible

    • Shaun Michalak

      Just look at Spectrum and their ads.. I have seen so many lies, deception, etc in their ads.. Oh, and they do sell cell phone service too.. But not a word about them either.. For example.. One thing they continuously advertise is “the fastest starting speeds for the price”, “they have the fastest speeds”, etc, which clearly implies that you can not get a cheaper plan, and that they have the fastest starting speeds / fastest speeds..

      Fact is, Velocity (Vnet) here starts out at 300 mb up and down for $60.. Vs Spectrums 100 mb down, 10mb up for $70.. Not the fastest or the cheapest.. and top level down for spectrum is 500mb, where Vnet is 1000mb down.. and spectrum is not a small company.. So where is the complaints about their misleading, and dishonest commercial’s here??

  • dl_crash

    —I wouldn’t recommend essentials plan to anyone.—
    But, come on, all marketing is misleading by design. Consumers need to be responsible for understanding what they are buying and how it’s different than what they have now, and if the twat at the retail store can’t make it clear consumers should take their business elsewhere. Verizon sells and “unlimited plan” that is permanently deprioritized. All companies exist to suck a few more bucks out of your wallet. It’s up to the consumer to decide where that value line is. All wireless carriers suck, find the one that sucks the least for your location and service needs.

  • Michael Elkin

    My issue with the Essentials is that because taxes and fees are not included, it ends up being the same price as Magenta, maybe even more. So it is a lower plan for the same or more money. Great deal for Tmobile and nobody else. Am I wrong?

    • JStatt

      Depends on the local taxes. Essentials is definitely cheaper in my area, but not by very much. It’s just a way for them to have bottom barrel pricing available for consumers who absolutely demand the cheapest deal.

  • gorilla

    Very misleading especially the price is also a result of the autopay discount. Tmo make it seem as though you get an extra $5 off when you enable autopay.