Consumer Watchdog Asks FCC to Require Cell Phone Companies to Disclose Data Speeds; Group Cites Widespread Misleading ‘4G’ Claims

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Consumer Watchdog Asks FCC to Require Cell Phone Companies to Disclose Data Speeds; Group Cites Widespread Misleading ‘4G’ Claims

    WASHINGTON D.C. — Citing deceptive and confusing

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    advertising by mobile phone companies concerning data speeds, Consumer Watchdog today petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to require wireless carriers to disclose actual network data speeds.

    The group told the FCC that technical speed standards for “4G” mobile technology are universally ignored by U.S. cell phone companies, which now promise “faster, 4G” speeds in virtually every advertisement, “either without actually making improvements to existing products and services or without disclosing the meaning of ‘faster.’”

    “When it comes to advertising data speed, the cell phone marketplace is like the Wild West. We need the FCC to step up to its role of sheriff and set standards so people can comparison shop without being ripped off and then locked into a two year contract,” said Harvey Rosenfield, founder of Consumer Watchdog and one of the lawyers filing the petition. “The rules we propose will lasso the companies and hold them accountable for the information they are putting out there.”

    The petition points to AT&T’s advertising of the iPhone 4S as an example of 4G/data speed marketplace abuse. The petition states:

    “In January 2012, AT&T began marketing the iPhone 4S as being a 4G phone, even though Apple represents it as 3G — a fact that was reflected on the phone itself: when connected to the AT&T network, a ‘3G’ icon appeared on the screen. Then, in March 2012, the iPhone’s software was suddenly updated so the screen displayed a ‘4G’ icon. Nothing else about the phone or AT&T’s network had changed, yet AT&T immediately began an advertising campaign flaunting the phone’s improved, faster 4G speeds.”

    “AT&T is constantly trying to fool people about having the latest technology. No consumer should be forced to rely solely on claims from a repeat corporate offender like AT&T when buying a new smartphone. The bottom line is that consumers need reliable information about mobile broadband performance,” said Laura Antonini, staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog.

    The petition calls upon the FCC to adopt rules that would require wireless carriers to provide the following disclosures in advertisements making claims about data speed:

    – Average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the advertised network or device within the city or area where such advertisement appears; and
    – National average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the advertised network or device; and
    – Average data speeds supporting any speed comparison made in the advertisement.

    Additionally, the proposed rule should require wireless carriers to provide, at any point of sale, consumers with access to the following information:

    – For every network that a wireless carrier operates, average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the network within each city or area covered by the network; and
    – For every network that a wireless carrier operates, national average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the network; and
    – For every mobile broadband device that a wireless carrier sells, average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the device within each city or area covered by the network; and
    – For every mobile broadband device that a wireless carrier sells, national average data speeds that subscribers experience while using the device.

    Read Consumer Watchdog’s Petition for Rulemaking with exhibits here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cwd_petition_for_rulemaking_8-22-12.pdf

    Read just the petition here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/cwd_fcc_brief_8-22-12.pdf

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    Visit our website at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

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