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Sometimes FTC cases affirm important legal principles in the courtroom. In other cases, we’re able to get money back for consumers injured by a company’s illegal conduct. The FTC’s action against AT&T for allegedly deceptive and unfair practices related to AT&T’s promises of “unlimited data” resulted in a key ruling last year about the FTC’s jurisdiction and will return $60 million to affected consumers.

In 2014 the FTC sued AT&T Mobility, LLC, for failing to adequately disclose to customers on unlimited data plans that if they used a certain amount of data in a billing cycle, AT&T would slow down or throttle their data speeds to the point that many everyday smartphone functions (for example, web browsing and video streaming) became nearly impossible. According to the complaint, despite its unequivocal promises of unlimited data, in 2011 AT&T began throttling data speeds for its “unlimited” customers who used a little as 2 gigabytes in a billing period.

In the course of that lawsuit, AT&T maintained that its status as a “common carrier” shielded it from the FTC’s action. Last year, a unanimous en banc decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected AT&T’s argument and held that “the FTC may regulate common carriers’ non-common-carriage activities.” It was an important legal precedent about how established consumer protection principles apply in the digital marketplace, and paved the way for the FTC to get money back for consumers impacted by AT&T’s throttling practices.

The just-announced settlement prohibits AT&T from making any claim about the speed or amount of its mobile data – including describing it as “unlimited” – unless it clearly discloses in close proximity to the claim any material restriction on the speed or amount of data. For example, let’s say AT&T says on its site that a certain plan is unlimited. But what if the company wants to slow things down after consumers reach a certain data cap? Under the terms of the proposed order, AT&T must disclose those restrictions clearly and conspicuously and in close proximity to the claim. The order details how that must be done. For example, if AT&T makes the claim on a webpage, any restrictions on the amount or speed of mobile data must be “proximate to the triggering representation.” Using a hyperlink, pop-up, or interstitial won’t suffice.

The $60 million paid by AT&T will be used to provide partial refunds to current and former customers who signed up for unlimited plans, but were throttled by AT&T. The refund process will be automatic and no applications will be accepted. Current AT&T customers will get a credit on their bill and former customers will get checks for their portion of the settlement.

The take-away tip for businesses extends well beyond the wireless marketplace. If you advertise a service without qualification as unlimited, consumers have a right to expect you to deliver on that promise.
 


 

94 Comments

Guest
January 09, 2020
How much per customer?
Guest
January 10, 2020
Is everyone getting the same amount refunded or does it depend ?
AT&T Customer
January 11, 2020
I received $33.07 for 2 lines. Looks right if the numbers are correct. 60M divided by roughly 3.5M.
Joker
March 02, 2020

In reply to by AT&T Customer

It’s funny how they’ll give you credit over a check. All those credited money on your next bill goes right back into their pocket. Don’t be fool by this tactic n law suit. You’re not getting 30% of you next billing paid
A long time AT…
January 13, 2020
Wow, a 12.86 credit on my bill! What a joke.
ATT Customer
January 24, 2020

In reply to by A long time AT…

$12.86 is complete garbage... what a pathetic settlement. I have been subject to this throttling for years with my bill over $100 every month and yet I get throttled. I have never changed my plan since they changed their policy and the FTC thinks $12.86 is a fair settlement. So very disheartened by the state of our government these days. Put a dime in my hand so you can declare I have been paid then brush the victims under the rug. I am ashamed of the FTC.
Christopher
February 25, 2020

In reply to by A long time AT…

I received 12.86 and have 7 lines with them
Guest
January 13, 2020
Very disappointed that there was no details about the refund it just appears. No details about which months were throttled or how many even. And $12.68? I know I kept tract and contacted att at least 6-8 times over the first year they started doing this. Such a waste of time and energy. Should have sued in small claims court like that truck driver did.
Guest
January 14, 2020
AT&T’s AT&T THANKS app should be next. Has anyone EVER actually cashed in on any of those promotions? It never works for me, EVER. This is a start anyway.
Customer 10,000
January 14, 2020
AT&T notified me today that I would receive a credit on my next statement due to a settlement with the FTC. I asked them where could I read about the settlement, I was given the ftc.gov site instead of the link to the settlement. It should be required that AT&T provide direct and accurate information to customers about such settlements. I should not have to search for this information. In the future the FTC must make sure a bulk of the restitution goes to the actual harmed customer.
Guest
January 14, 2020
This is the crucial and asked and reasked question, How is the refund figured per effected person/per year of service. I have had this specific unlimited plan for over a decade and was throttled regularly over the years.
WEGJ
January 15, 2020
Going forward, after this settlement agreement, can AT&T continue the practice of throttling the service of current customers receiving the credit whom plan was impacted by their actions or will they be still in violation if found to be doing so?
FTC Staff
January 16, 2020

In reply to by WEGJ

The settlement prohibits AT&T from making any claim about the speed or amount of its mobile data, including describing it as “unlimited,” unless it clearly discloses any material restriction on the speed or amount of data.The disclosure has to be in close proximity to the claim.

Mathes
January 15, 2020
So i basically got 13 dollars back after being cheated by them for years. it seems like the should have at least had to pay one full bill after taking my money for a service they didn't provide for that long.
Dee
January 22, 2020

In reply to by Mathes

I think $12 is very less compared to the # of years I've been a customer and the # of months they throttled or reduced speed for unlimited plan customers. I remember receiving those text messages from ATT says you have reached your max and speed will be reduced. That drove me crazy learning I was offered an unlimited plan in the first place.
Guest
January 15, 2020
Can you please tell me who to contact or how can I go on a site to get in on getting some money back on that 60 million that they're paying people I think my family deserves it as many high bills as we have paid in the years we've been using AT&T thank you
Timothy kelly
January 17, 2020
Thank you - they have been doing this for years!! They forced me out of my grandfathered plan of unlimited services by not allowing me to have access to new services on the plan I had...
Guest
January 17, 2020
How much of a credit will current AT&T customers receive?
Hdkurtis
January 19, 2020
What, 10 bucks fo years of lies?
Guest
January 22, 2020
I recently received a text message stating I would receive a credit on my next months bill due to the settlement.. I recently checked my bill and the amount has changed.. I have been a loyal customer with AT& T for over 9 years. Even though the credit amount is rather low as others have stated & no where near the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent every little bit helps and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I can only hope you guys will be more fair in the future!
Guest
January 22, 2020
With all the people they’ve taken unlimited away From why is this throttling still an issue for us who are grandfathered in?
John Lennon
January 22, 2020
How sad that the government does this "for us" and without even a choice in the matter. What rank paternalism. I do not want this refund you have extorted in my name as I was not defrauded. It was obvious there would be throttling.
Guest
January 22, 2020
My son complained repeatedly to them about it and got nowhere at the tome! Thank you FTC!
Guest
January 22, 2020
I’m confused because they are still throttling our data speed! I just received a txt on 1/12/20 that there were going to reduce my speed...
Guest
January 24, 2020
MY BILL GET PAID VIA AUTO PAY, I WANT A CHECK SO I CAN BUY GROCERIES!!!
Guest
January 26, 2020
How much will each customer get and when? Who oversees if ATT even does this??
sq1620
January 31, 2020
I'll really enjoy my 1.35...
Stacie
January 31, 2020
I’ve been a active unlimited user for 20 plus years 3 lines. I received a message today stating a credit will be getting issued next month. My question is for what time period and since this was going on do we have a option to break our contract with att?
FTC Staff
February 03, 2020

In reply to by Stacie

The $60 million paid by AT&T as part of the settlement was deposited into a fund that the company used to provide partial refunds to current and former customers who had originally signed up for unlimited plans prior to 2011, but were throttled by AT&T.

Mlpo
February 19, 2020

In reply to by FTC Staff

I have moved since I was an AT&T customer and no longer have mail forwarding. Have the checks gone out to former customers like me yet?
Consumer
February 03, 2020
What about pre paid customers.
Guest
February 18, 2020
$12? Whoopee! Considering how frustrating the data slow was and how they denied to be doing it when I contacted them, I would expect more. How was this amount decided and how does the FTC know they are adhering to the verdict?
Guest
February 19, 2020
I am concerned of the degree of difficulty finding how much an app cost when loading on to our cell phones. customers have to dig around to find out if it cost money or if it is a monthly charge. please look into this. at this point i have to look at my phone subscriptios screen for myself and all my children to see if I am being charged
Guest
February 25, 2020
Cannot even tell you how long I have been an ATT customer. Just received my check today 12.06...funny former ATT customers receive a check, current ones receive a credit on their bill along with a text message. I am still a customer... WTH. ATT still up to shenanigans!
Guest
February 27, 2020
Refund for $12.09. At&t 2018 income $170.8 billion, 2017 $160 billion. about .att. com/ story / 2019/ att_ fourth_ quarter_ earnings_ 2018. html. who is fighting on our behalf ??? what is this settlement 60 million for many years of stolen money by a company that made billions every year??? How to fix this injustice!!! I am not going to check this ridiculous check.
Guest
February 29, 2020
I want to know about this suit. At&t don't honor there contractI never have data my bill is 700 right now I paid 900 2 months ago .I have everything with them TV,internet and cell phones this ridiculous and it needs to stop
Guest
February 29, 2020
Definitely had decrease speed with increased use of data
Guest
February 29, 2020
I just got a prepaid debit card for $146.24, gonna try and use it tomorrow and see if it works.
Guest
December 28, 2020

In reply to by Guest

Did it work? I just received one Saturday for $309.63 and thought it was a scam. I had no clue about the settlement until I just googled it.
Guest
March 04, 2020
I have had At&t for over 20 years. I had the unlimited data, yet no one can tell me when and how much my refund is. How do I find out? Some friends have already got theirs..
E. Cain
March 10, 2020

In reply to by Guest

I had AT&T, however, no one has contacted me regarding a refund. I got so fed up with them that I changed to a different company that they later acquired and ended up having the same slowing problem. Once AT&T takes over in a monopoly type acquisition, regardless of what they call it, the same thing will happen time and time again!!!
s
March 11, 2020
is there any update about this settlement ? i am a former customer who was scammed for many years and many dollars is there a list to sign up to be included for repayment?
Hello
April 03, 2020

In reply to by s

Go to "www .attmsettlement. com", just received my disappointingly small settlement check.

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