AT&T, the second-biggest wireless carrier in the United States, has been in a legal battle with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for quite some time, but that has finally come to an end. And AT&T is going to be paying quite a bit of money as a result.
AT&T has ultimately settled with the FTC, ending the latter’s litigation against the former. To get there, AT&T will pay out $60 million to customers that the FTC says it misled over claims of “unlimited data”. The FTC has been arguing that selling, and charging customers for, unlimited data but ultimately throttling them (or slowing down their speeds) is not a healthy business practice.
The FTC actually filed this complaint back in 2014. That’s how long this has been going on. At the time the FTC argued that AT&T had not done enough to make it perfectly clear to unlimited customers that, upon reaching a certain amount of downloaded data in a monthly bill cycle, their speeds could be drastically reduced. In those cases, the FTC alleges that many use cases for smartphones and other mobile devices were basically reduced to none, as apps and even browsing the web was essentially useless.
AT&T promised unlimited data—without qualification—and failed to deliver on that promise,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised.
As far as AT&T is concerned, the wireless network says that it notified its subscribers that they were going to be throttled due to overuse of network allowance via text messages.
As far as that $60 million is concerned, it will be doled out in a similar fashion to all of these giant settlements. That means that the total will be relocated into a single fund, and then partial refunds will be doled out to individual customers impacted by the litigation settlement. The “partial refunds to both current and former customers” will cover those who also signed up for unlimited data plans prior to 2011 and had their wireless network speeds slowed by the carrier.
The settlement amount will be shelled out to current customers and prior customers in different ways. Current AT&T customers can expect to see a bill credit applied to their account. Former customers, however, will get a check in the mail with the partial refund.
If you are or have been an AT&T customer with an unlimited plan you may be entitled to a partial refund, so keep an eye out for it.
This is basically a slap on the wrist for AT&T, but at least it’s seen some kind of repercussions for the tactic. Then again, throttling customers for reaching a certain amount of downloaded data during a monthly billing period is not new by any means, and networks still undergo the practice. Of course, that allowance is more prominently showcased these days, so there’s that.