Liberty Mobile Puerto Rico advertised that it has the “best network” and the “best coverage” in Puerto Rico and disclosed that the claims were based on an “independent study” conducted by Global Wireless Solutions (or “GWS”). Although T-Mobile didn’t challenge the results of the study, it argued that because Liberty had paid GWS to conduct the study, the connection between the two companies should be clearly disclosed, in accordance with the FTC’s Endorsement Guides.
Liberty argued that GWS provides similar services to other wireless providers and that it didn’t have a close working relationship with GWS. Although NAD acknowledged that there was “nothing unusual about the relationship between Liberty and GWS,” it determined that consumers “should be made aware of that relationship through a clear and conspicuous disclosure as it may affect the credibility and weight consumers give to the claim if they are aware that Liberty paid GWS for the study.”
During the course of the challenge, Liberty stopped using the term “independent study” and started to use a disclosure which stated, in part, that the study was “paid for by Liberty.” Although NAD was OK with the language, it had several concerns with how it was presented. NAD recommended that Liberty (a) use some mechanism to direct consumers’ attention to the disclosure; (b) place the language at the beginning of the disclosure, rather than at the end; and (c) ensure that the disclosure was large enough to be readable.
Many companies fund studies and use the results to support their claims. As NAD noted, there’s nothing unusual or problematic about this type of relationship, but it will frequently require a disclosure. We’ve often posted about these types of disclosure requirements in the context of influencers and other endorsers, but this case serves as a good reminder that the requirements apply more broadly and can encompass these types of relationships, as well.