FedEx Sues UPS Over ‘Most Reliable’ Claim

By Andy Meek

Memphis-based FedEx Corp. has gone to court in an attempt to get rival United Parcel Service Inc. to take down TV and print advertising touting UPS as “the most reliable” shipment carrier.

FedEx filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee Friday asking for a temporary restraining order against UPS. The legal flap concerns UPS’ promotion of a November 2008 Morgan Stanley Parcel Return Survey the Atlanta-based carrier refers to in TV and print ads.

FedEx and UPS spokesmen did not immediately return calls. In its complaint, FedEx uses the wording of a voiceover in the UPS TV ad as one example of why the Memphis shipping giant was rankled enough to go to court.

“If you’re looking for a shipping company who really understands today’s economy, you’d want one that’s helped customers through 20 recessions, had over 400,000 employees worldwide, over a hundred years’ experience and was just ranked the most reliable,” the TV ad tells viewers. “Well, that would be UPS.”

Not quite, FedEx lawyers told its rival in a March 31 letter to UPS lawyer James Harris.

In the 2009 version of the Morgan Stanley survey, FedEx was listed at the top of the “service reliability” category, according to the FedEx complaint. The Memphis company also takes issue with the wording that UPS was “just ranked” the top carrier.

“UPS’ claim that it was ‘just’ ranked most reliable is simply not true,” FedEx senior counsel Bradley Peacock wrote to Harris a few weeks ago. “The ‘survey’ was published in early November 2008, and was obviously based on information compiled prior to that date.

“Moreover, the survey was conducted prior to DHL’s departure from the U.S. domestic market, a factor which would likely have a significant impact on the results if the survey were conducted again today.”

Late last year, UPS and FedEx competitor DHL announced it would end its U.S. domestic operations effective Jan. 30.