August 11, 2015 / 9:50 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. judge tells Cablevision to stop calling Verizon 'liar'

NEW YORK, Aug 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has ordered Cablevision Systems Corp to stop running advertisements accusing rival Verizon Communications Inc of lying about having the fastest wireless network.

The ruling on Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Brown in Central Islip, New York, comes days after he ruled against Cablevision’s own bid to block Verizon from advertising that it had the “fastest WiFi available” for misleading consumers.

Brown said his ruling on Friday meant that Verizon was not lying to the public by claiming its FiOS fiber optic network provides the fastest WiFi.

Cablevision’s advertising campaign, which it launched after filing a lawsuit against Verizon in January, was “literally untrue and implicitly false” and was likely to mislead consumers, Brown said at a court hearing, according to a transcript, which was made public on Tuesday.

Initial print advertisements featured Verizon representatives with their “pants on fire” or as Pinocchio, the fictional children’s character prone to lying.

While Cablevision told the judge in July it would voluntarily discontinue those advertisements, it notified the court of plans to air new ads, including one with a sheriff telling Verizon that “this town’s had enough of your lies.”

Brown found Cablevision’s claims of lying to be false and imposed a temporary restraining order requiring Cablevision to stop running ads accusing Verizon being a “liar,” having “crooked facts” or otherwise being dishonest by Friday.

“The law, like our economic system, encourages spirited competition,” Brown said. “But when a competitor exceeds the bounds of decency by falsely impugning the integrity of a competitor, it runs afoul of the law.”

Susan Retta, Verizon vice president of consumer marketing, welcomed the ruling, saying Cablevision’s advertising was “nothing but a campaign to keep accurate and factual information away from consumers.”

Lisa Anselmo, a Cablevision spokeswoman, said the company would continue to challenge Verizon’s claims, “not only through the legal system but also in the court of public opinion.”

In his Friday ruling, Brown also rejected Verizon’s effort to block various other advertising claims by its rival as untrue, including regarding how many hotspots it offers.

The case is Cablevision Systems Corp v. Verizon Communications Inc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-456. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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