If you see an ad that says a product is available “exclusively” from only one vendor, what does that mean? Would you take it to mean that the retailer is the only place where you can buy that product? That’s what ads for the Google Pixel smartphone seemed to say about the phone’s relationship to Verizon, but it wan’t so.
Co-branded ads from Google and Verizon said that the phone was available “Exclusively at Verizon.” While Verizon was the only mobile carrier with the right to sell the phone, one could buy the device directly from Google.
When the Pixel was first released, T-Mobile tried to grab some publicity by offering bill credits that would add up to half the price of the phone.
“Don’t let the ‘exclusive’ advertisements fool you,” T-Mo CEO John Legere said at the time. “The Pixel phone is tested and proven to be fantastic on our lightning fast network, and we want to help you get the best of both worlds!”
While Verizon was billed as the “exclusive carrier partner” for the Pixel, this didn’t mean what it used to: Customers could order Pixel and use it with the carrier of their choice.
That’s why T-Mobile filed a complaint with the National Ad Division, a service of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that serves as a voluntary referee when companies have an issue with each other’s advertising.
In this case, T-Mobile took issue with the “exclusive” language and to claims from Verizon about its network being the best for the zippy new phone.
It its decision, the NAD noted that Verizon couldn’t prove that it had the only network that could help users get the most out of the new flagship Google phone, and that while it was the exclusive carrier that sold the phone, it was not the only retailer.
Verizon agreed to keep these guidelines in mind for future ads, but these TV commercials have stopped airing.