FTC settlement returns $60 million to consumers affected by AT&T’s throttling practices

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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.
 


 

Comments

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.

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.

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.

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

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...

How much of a credit will current AT&T customers receive?

What, 10 bucks fo years of lies?

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!

With all the people they’ve taken unlimited away From why is this throttling still an issue for us who are grandfathered in?

My son complained repeatedly to them about it and got nowhere at the tome! Thank you FTC!

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...

MY BILL GET PAID VIA AUTO PAY, I WANT A CHECK SO I CAN BUY GROCERIES!!!

I got a 12.86 credit from 2 lines...

How much will each customer get and when? Who oversees if ATT even does this??

I'll really enjoy my 1.35...

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?

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.

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