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

My mobile phone goes through ATT microcel for service in our area, wow provider kept checking why my phone had problems, lol thank you for finally letting me know why I had all the issues with my service.

Att started out good but became a lying cheating company who didn’t care about customers. I had AT&T for ten years. I had 3 lines of unlimited. What will I get? Ten dollars? I paid att in the thousands of dollars! I am so glad I switched. The FTC has done very little to help.

That’s great news as I have been a faithful AT & T customer since my first purchase of any cell phone, over 20 years ago.
I have constantly had to question charges which had been placed on my statement for no apparent reason! I also would receive text message updates letting me know that regardless of my unlimited plan my daughter & I had used up our GB for the month as a result they would be giving us 1 more at a charge of $15. The problem was it would only be about half way through our billing cycle therefore by the end of the month I received roughly a text such as mentioned above just about every other day, totaling usually around and extra $100/mo. It was ridiculous! I
Regardless of all of this I am disappointed to read that however again the punishment is being left up to the criminal to carry out in good faith! Seriously? It has been the same for so many supposed governmental suits regarding certain companies, corporations, banking institutions! I was harmed in numerous ways, and numerous times by JPMC, who we all know have had more lawsuits filed against them Probably than any one business has.....Yes, they lost as well, were ordered to always pay millions if not billions to the customers harmed, however like AT & T the compensation they were ordered to make was also left up to the accused, the perpetrators, the guilty to rectify with the customers involved. To find guilt from these entities for the committing of these violations, & down right crimes in some circumstances, yet allow them The responsibility to admit to each customer and then pay them compensation deserved for what they had done is just outrageous in my view! It would be equal to a criminal receiving a guiltY verdict in a child molestation case and for his punishment he’s told he now has to work at a daycare caring for children, given a slap on the wrist, and told to never do it again.
It’s either that being the case or another entity , such as whoever Is bringing the case forward supposedly on “behalf” of the harmed receives restitution made, the funds, yet for whatever reason never seem to make it to the consumer.
There is no help out there against these predators on society! They will tell you to file a complaint with the CFPA, to which I now respond been there done that! They are nothing but a venting system! They allow you to write out your complaint, they will get it to whom is being complained about, then will notify you of a response to your complaint, other than that, they do nothing else!
In fact before you even get the chance to go back to their website to read the response, they already have your complaint file “CLOSED”, regardless of what the response may be....I am convinced you could receive a response of an admission of murder in a written response yet your complaint would still state closed! In my view, the CFPB needs to change their name! It is false advertising, gives a false sense of security, they state they are their for a reason that is untrue, and they are duping the consumer! WHAT PROTECTION? Example please: can anyone please post if you have found protection from the above, please?

Christine MacKenzie

Another thing att does if not an unlimited customer with a low data and minutes plans.

30% of your incoming calls are TELEMARKETING, PHISHING, ETC TYPE CALLS

THIS IS WHILE ON DO NOT CALL REGISTRY B4 THE REGISYRY 50% OF CALLS FROM TELEMARKETING

EATS YOUR MINUTES AND DATA UP every month.
Unlimited plan calls reduced to about 15%

AT&T be falsely advertising just to do a credit check then lie and say they can't put internet or Wi-Fi in my area. Just liars and scammers.

You are so correct about at&t. I actually called them about this issue and was told that they do charge over a certain amount of gigabytes. Also told that dialing out remotely to a office with the same phone service that they charge for that as well. I'm trying to get my thousands of dollars they have overcharged me on my phone service through them. I was told to get my bill lowered that I need to purchase a wireless device through them and use a hot spot and I would save money on dialing back into my office from home.

I bought an ATT prepaid "go phone"; the phone stopped working and I wasn't getting calls or texts. I called and (of course) waiting over 30 minutes but they wouldn't refund anything. I'm never using ATT again for anything

How do I submit a claim because I had so so many issues and went back and forth for over 20 years dealing with AT&T. Please provide information on how to submit a claim.

The refund process will be automatic. Applications will not be accepted. Current AT&T customers will get a credit on their bill.  Former customers will get checks for their part of the settlement.

How will I know If my mailing address is correct if I am a former customer ?

In general, refund programs that use the mail update addresses with the US Postal Service National Change of Address Database before they start the mailing. Also, refund programs usually have a customer service phone number or email address that you can contact if you have questions.  The AT&T settlement was announced one week ago, on November 5. You can check with AT&T and the FTC for more information in the coming weeks.

What if I been with ATT for 16 years and last year they put me down as a new customer. This has been a battle for years and during Christmas time they alway slow my data down so much I thought my phone was broke. I have been overcharged to the point I was paying over 700 dollars a month for 4 phones.

I have actually called and complained about this exact thing. I got unlimited data because I share my plan with my son. They also said I would get free HBO for signing up. That never happened. I was told I had to get direct TV for that deal, but wasn't told until after I already signed my life away.

this is funny this just occurred on the news because they just switched me not even 2 months prior to this being out in the open funny how I was wondering somebody was hacking my phone even bought a new phone and got them same services and they have me now on a $50 plan and I've noticed my dad has lasted way longer than it did before so glad that somebody observe this

now I'm not sure how you stake a claim on this being the fact that they've done it to me and so many other people

Will customers like myself who is still a customer and has been for at least 15 years get a letter letting us know the amount of our refund or are we required to just look at our bill to see it "show up" on there? It would be nice to have a letter regarding the amount to expect to make sure we are getting what we are due. Also, how long before refunds are distributed? Thanks!

Current customers will get a text message about the refund before it goes on your bill, and people who get a paper bill will get an insert in the bill that includes the refund.

Is there an approximate timeline on when the checks to former AT&T customers might arrive? It is good for saftey reasons to know this information.

The checks should be going out within the next 90 days.

Dec 2019 still have services issues.. They also were deceptive with the "bogo" during the time period of the 2017. There deceptive in regards to updates causing phones to crash.

When do I get my $$ owed me from ATT and how much . I got taken advantage of by ATT over charges and slowdown , Had unlimited Plan and they canceled that for no reason . I had a locked in plan . Still with ATT Have been sense the first iPhone decades ago. I am looking for another company for services Now . Not sure who to go with .

How will att send a check to me if I no longer have att account and the business location has been closed for over a year?

AT&T will send checks by first-class mail, postage prepaid, address correction service requested with forwarding and return postage guaranteed, to the former customer's current or last known address. Before it mails the checks, AT&T will update each address through the Postal Service's National Change of Address database.

is the postal database work if I have moved 2 times since leaving ATT as a customer? in 3 years

The Postal National Change of Address database contains information people submit when they change addresses.  If you filled out a permanent change-of-address record when you moved and gave it to your local post office, your new address is in the National Change of Address database. If people don't cash or deposit the AT&T checks within 90 days, AT&T has to do an address trace. If they can find you with the address trace, they will send a new check.

AT&T is supposed to set up a phone number and email address so people can ask questions about the refunds.

Any updates? 12/13/19 or links I can check my refunds?
Thank you!

What if you don’t want the credit can you receive the check instead????

The settlement is designed to give current customers a bill credit.

How can I confirm with ATT my address they will mail my settlement check? is there ATT legal contact >. I am a former customer with 2 lines unlimited data that was impacted by this policy and throttling of data service

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.

Why can't current customers get a check?

The settlement is designed to give current customers a bill credit.

How do find out if you are recieving part of this settlement? I've been with AT&T since they were Cingular. Even had one of the first iPhone's and always had unlimited data since it was offered. My data always seemed to bog down at certain points and was told I had to do battery pulls when I had a Blackberry, they always blamed the phone I was using. I haven't heard a word and am still an AT&T user just went Prepaid now.

Current customers who are going to get a refund should get a text message telling them a refund is coming. They should get the text message about 10 days before they get the refund on their bill. You should be able to see a general notice about refunds on your online account, on the first page after you log in to your account.

$12.86 refund. Quick math two lines unlimited when throttling began 2 x $30 = $60 month back in 2011. Changed plan to avoid throttling. Past nine year average was $80/month for two lines. AT&T received $2160 more than if I'd paid $60/month. $12.86 does not seem fair.

$12 is it??!! I got a text from ATT indicating I would get a credit on next bill - Feb. 3 - but the rep couldn't tell me amount. The rep didn't even know about the settlement and I had to explain to him - pathetic customer service.

Who do we call for the refund amount because AT&T will not get me that yet

Hi FTC, do you have a number of how many AT&T customers were affected by this fraud? Is the $60M settlement cut by lawyer fees, etc. or are they paying out $60M actual dollars. I received the text message however when I called AT&T they were unable to locate the "credit" amount I am due. Thank you.

How much per customer?

Is everyone getting the same amount refunded or does it depend ?

I received $33.07 for 2 lines. Looks right if the numbers are correct. 60M divided by roughly 3.5M.

Wow, a 12.86 credit on my bill! What a joke.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

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