AT&T (NYSE:T) has filed a lawsuit against Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) over those “There’s a map for that” commercials - but not because AT&T is disputing the accuracy of those 3G coverage maps. (PDF of complaint) Nope, AT&T thinks that consumers are too dumb to differentiate between 3G and non-3G coverage and it wants those maps changed - specifically, the colors. (Techmeme)
The Verizon map is largely covered by red, meant to represent its 3G coverage areas. The AT&T map, by contrast, is sparsely covered by blue - meant to represent its 3G coverage - and has vast sections of the nation covered in white, representing areas without 3G coverage.
AT&T argues that the maps are confusing and that consumers are led to believe that there is no AT&T coverage of any kind in those white areas. From the complaint:
AT&T does not seek to stop Verizon from running its advertisements, nor does it seek to change the words Verizon uses in its advertisements. At this time, AT&T seeks only an order prohibiting Verizon from displaying, in the “Bench” advertisement, or in any other advertisement, a map of AT&T’s “3G” coverage in which AT&T’s non-”3G” coverage areas are depicted by white or blanks space. This limited relief is necessary to prevent consumers from being misled by the maps into believing that AT&T offers no wireless service in large parts of the United States. The Court should enter a temporary restraining order because Verizon should not be permitted to benefit from its misleading use of coverage maps while the Court sets a schedule for a preliminary and permanent injunction hearing, especially in light of the fact that we are approaching the busiest time of year for the purchase of wireless services.
Sure, Verizon could have been more creative with the colors - maybe using light blue for 2G coverage and dark blue for 3G, but why should Verizon go out of its way to advertise AT&T’s 2G coverage when it’s a commercial about 3G coverage? I could see if the commercial were about all of the services - but these commercials clearly show people doing things that need 3G, such as watching streaming video.
The funny part is that AT&T previously complained that a line about customers being “out of touch” and the ad was changed. But the company says it remains misleading.
So what have we learned from the filing of this lawsuit? Well, I know I’ve learned that AT&T’s 3G coverage in the U.S. looks a lot worse than I thought it did. I know I would be pretty upset if I were an iPhone owner living in middle America. And it appears that I made the right call when I decided to stay with Verizon Wireless.
You know what confuses me about this lawsuit? No one seems to be disputing the factual part of the ad - the 3G coverage areas. So, the only thing AT&T really stands to accomplish with this lawsuit is to raise awareness about the spottiness of its 3G service outside of major metropolitan areas.