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Unlimited means unlimited!

AT&T in hot water with the FTC

Created date

November 25th, 2014
AT&T bill
AT&T bill

It’s been a rather bad year for the nation’s second largest cellular carrier, AT&T, and 2015 doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better. In October, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued the communications behemoth for offering smartphone customers unlimited data plans and then deceptively slowing their bandwidth. 

The case alleges that once some AT&T customers reached a certain level of data usage, their bandwidth was purposely slowed. Known as “data throttling,” it makes it tedious if not downright impossible to do things the phones are supposed to do. It’s not necessarily against the law to data throttle, but it is against the law to do it deceptively.  

The FTC alleges that AT&T throttled data speeds by as much as 90% in some cases. As many as 3.5 million unique customers may have been impacted a total of 25 million times.

“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” says FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”

We will keep you posted on how this case turns out. 

‘Cramming’ customers

In another case brought against AT&T, the FTC alleges that the company billed its customers millions of dollars in charges originating from other companies. Called “cramming,” customers were allegedly billed $9.99 per month for subscriptions for ringtones and text messages containing love tips, horoscopes and fun facts. In its complaint, the FTC alleges that AT&T kept at least 35% of the subscription charges it imposed on its customers. 

Compounding the problem is the confusing design of the AT&T bill. Even those who carefully scrutinize their bills often missed the fact that they were paying for something they didn’t authorize. In this case, AT&T has agreed to a settlement that includes refunding money to customers who were impacted.

“I am very pleased that this settlement will put tens of millions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers harmed by AT&T’s cramming of its mobile customers,” says Ramirez. “This case underscores the important fact that basic consumer protections—including that consumers should not be billed for charges they did not authorize—are fully applicable in the mobile environment.”

If you believe AT&T charged you for unauthorized subscriptions, you may be entitled to a refund. Visit the claims website ftc.gov/att for more information about refund eligibility and how to submit a claim. You can also contact the settlement administrator at 1-877-819-9692 for more information.

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