FTC sues AT&T for limiting “unlimited data”

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“Unlimited data” sounds great, right? Browse the Internet, stream videos, use GPS, even make video calls – all to your heart’s content. But what if you bought an unlimited data plan and then weren’t able to do all those things? That’s what happened to some AT&T customers.

From 2007 until 2010, AT&T offered unlimited data plans for smartphones. Even after it stopped offering unlimited data, AT&T allowed customers who already had unlimited plans to renew them. 

But here’s the catch: AT&T then began slowing the data speed for “unlimited” customers who used large amounts of data. As a result, those  customers with “unlimited” plans no longer had the bandwidth to do everything they wanted to do on their phones. That’s called data throttling. 

Data throttling isn’t always illegal, but when it’s done in a way that’s deceptive or unfair, it most certainly is.    

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued AT&T Mobility LLC for deceptive and unfair data throttling. The FTC’s complaint says that AT&T’s data throttling is deceptive because the company promised unlimited data, and then reduced the data speed without telling consumers. The FTC also says that AT&T’s data throttling is unfair because it kept people from using data they paid for, and then made them pay early termination fees if they tried to leave AT&T.

The FTC’s case, filed in the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks to stop AT&T from using data throttling on customers who have been promised unlimited data plans. It also asks for refunds for people who paid early termination fees when they cancelled their unlimited data plans after their data was throttled.

The lesson to mobile companies: if you promise unlimited data, you’re on the hook to deliver.

The FTC’s website has information on a variety of mobile technology and consumer issues.

Tagged with: billing error, mobile, phone
Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit

Comments

FTC/FCC do something right

Finally, I am still on unlimited data and has been limited to about .3MB Download while other people on the same network on the same sport got 10MB download.

Below is a T Mobile representative responding to a customer about her data slowing down.
5. Re: why is my unlimited data being limited?
tmo_maxwell Jan 16, 2014 7:52 AM (in response to greens_bean)All good advice here green_bean. While it can be annoying to experience the slowdown, it's surely better than the overage charges, like richmonddan was saying. If you're finding that you are hitting that 5gb cap regularly, reach out to us over the phone or live chat and we can look into getting you on a truly unlimited data plan (no high-speed cap). Maxwell (tmo_maxwell)T-Force Specialist T-Mobile Support is also on:

Someone from AT&T called me about two years ago telling me that they were going to be slowing my data services because I was an unlimited data user.

STRAIGHTTALK doing the same thing. I called them when my phone would not upload pictures to FB.
He told me I had used up my data for the month and at the time my month ended it would renew back to full speed. I said, " I thought I had unlimited", he said, "Mam, there is no such thing as unlimited."
So they are doing the very same thing that AT&T did.

T-mobile has unlimited data Is used over 20 gb of data and never slows down

I have an unlimited plan with T Mobile and my data has slowed down drastically. When I asked them about it I was advised to purchase a No Limit data plan for $20 a month. T Mobile says unlimited data does'to mean unlimited speed.

I'm having the same problem. They have taken to even limiting me in the future. While alredy limiting me for the month, with a couple days left, they inform me that I'm nearing my 3G limit. Lo and behold 3 or 4 days into the next month, they tell me I've reached my 3G limit. WHAT?? The month has just started...but they have the handle.
So I reluctantly decided to upgrade to 5G for $5 more per month. But when I go to pay it turns into $10. That's Walmart family mobile through Tmobile...low very low.

Which is a lie. If you reduce the speed to lower than the standard for other uses, you reduce the data use. That is how unlimited becomes no longer unlimited. The word unlimited is by its own definition meaning "without limit."

Finally, I am still on unlimited data and has been limited to about .1MB Download. I cannot even sent emails or text out.

I have unlimited net10 thru page plus, carrier is ATT. And yes...every month my internet slows way down. And ive complained. Girl says ATT. Thelma Donovan. I feel riped off.

I feel cheated by AT&T. I have a few unlimited plans, international data that gets throttled on every trip making devise almost unusable, unlimited on domestic data that got throttled for the first time after moving from galaxy note 3 to iphone 6 plus. It was so severe that I moved back to galaxy 4 because the data issues. Also. regarding the throttle on domestic, never had the problem before with going over and being throttled, Notified after the fact and we had been on vacation internationally so data was off for 2 weeks and still went over, I am wondering if the default settings on the iphone 6 plus are set to consume a lot of data. Net effect was that I went over in about 2 weeks of billing cycle. That had never happened before and I am not happy about it.

Now, can we see how the other providers are treating mobile signal in the same fashion. Sprint may be a candidate for this, as my download speed has been obsolesant recently, while I pay for unlimited data and roaming, and it indiates hi-speed wireless signal.

You have to read the fine print, I can only find one mobile unlimited data provider its metropcs all the others are limited unlimited...

I am also one who got in early on the unlimited data when the iphone first came out. I was happy when I was told that I would be grandfathered into future phone upgrades but able to keep the unlimited data, but when my phone went to a grinding halt after 5 gb of data in a month. It would take more than 25 mins to see a 2 - 3 minute clip from you tube (with a full LTE signal, 5 Bars/dots!! less than 30 seconds of video then minutes! of buffering when i called to complain the first time a representative gave me a discount but the next time (month) and others times they said there was nothing they could do, that I should upgrade to a new plan with limited (but more than 5 gb) of data of course that would cost me more money per month. I just went to rationing my unlimited data up to 4.5 gb then would wait until the day of the month when my data usage would reset to zero. If you remember the first network called (EDGE) before the G's and LTE. I got better speed with that. I definitely felt like ATT had went back on their promise, So I hope that you get the executives who came up with this loop pole arrested for fraud and fined, imprisoned and have them give classes to others on what will happen to those who LIE, CHEAT, and Steal from the American public......... WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE POLITICIANS!!!

Thanks for your comment. The FTC lawsuit against AT&T for allegedly failing to disclose to its customers adequately on unlimited data plans is ongoing, but you can always file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report your experience at ftc.gov/complaint.

A T T bogus made up bogus charges then shut off phones.. they bogus place my service in collection .Att says owe then 1400.00

That's like Verizon's $45 dollar unlimited yet once you go over 500mb you have to buy what they call bridge data that is $5 for an extra 500 mb of data if you dont by the extra data then your out of luck using internet for the rest of the month because they shut your data off when you go over 500mb unless you keep paying $5 each time you reach the 500mb mark I would be more than happy if they just throttled down the speed when you go over instead of taking it away from you altogether they treat us like prisoners or slaves so they can fill their pockets and make a mockery of the everyday working class man striving to make ends meet in this world the only way the will change what they are doing is if everyone stood up and protest and not use their services for a good amount of time so they make no money that is when they will come begging back for the people to trust them again and make things right same with the video game consoles not providing backwards compatibility to their systems making all the money people spent on their products useless and outsourced instead of allowing them to continue using them so they keep growing their collections instead of filling landfills with games that everyone still wants to play but can't because of greedy corporate executives who only look to their pockets and not the people

I also stuck with AT&T with the unlimited data but when the throttling started I was not notified prior to it and was very upset as I was suppose to get unlimited. No YouTube video without taking many minutes to see it! They are a fraud and hope they get fined and forced to deliver what they promised!

Recently my laptop REALLY slowed down so I did all the usual things like a defrag and ran CCleaner a couple times but it didn't help. I started looking into data throttling and sure enough, Cricket has taken my "unlimited" data and slowed it down. How can I sue Cricket over this matter? Should I just find another carrier? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

amen

I was just told by AT&T representative that Unlimited plan users have a cap placed on their LTE streaming at 5 Gigabytes. If you go to a mobile shared plan that offers 30 Gigabytes a month, you would not have that cap and would be able to use your full 30 a month. That is illegal and morally wrong for AT&T to do that. But that is big corporate business for you. Always trying to screw the average customer.

I have been holding onto my AT&T unlimited data plan in hopes of this lawsuit being filed on behalf of all those who feel cheated by this unethical buisness practice. I recently renewed my 2-yr contract to grt the iphone 6 plus and I was being pressured like never before to give up my unlimited data package and to switch to the shared plan that offered 30gb for the price of 15gb. Apparently those who are on this plan are allowed to use wifi hotspot and they don't have a cap on their montly data usage. Sounds to me like AT&T is using sales schemes to lure you out of your unlimited data. Can't wait till they lost this lawsuit and I get my True unlimited data plan back.

I wanted to upgrade to a new iPhone (have the 4G now) but on the Att website, I was told that in order to upgrade my iPhone, I would have to get a new data plan because the new phone did not support my old (grandfathered/unlimited) plan.
It seems they will not let me get a new iPhone without giving up my unlimited plan. This is not fair at all!

I have had unlimited since the iPhone 3G, I have the 3Gs, 4s, 5. I have kept my Unlimited data at each upgrade. If the tell you NO then they are lying, go through Apple and they will keep your exact plan on every upgrade. Beware if you add anyone to your line, AT&T screwed me by not adding a msg plan to my Mom's phone was charged $20 extra, because they original sales person was too busy trying to switch me off my Unlimited plan. Told him I was keeping my plan about 10-15 times. End up screwing up my Mom's plan because he wasn't listening. HINT: ATT LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS.

AT&T actually shuts me down several days a week for entire days. I have had "unlimited Gigs plan" for many years. I run an online business and rely on day to day internet access. SHAME ON AT&T. AT&T rep. told me on one occasion that Durango CO is too small a town for them to concern themselves. OH NO!!

don't let att win with their throttling bs. Don't ration your data. Use as much as possible. Since I learned about throttling I have started playing videos all night while I sleep out of spite. I currently average about 50 gigs a cycle. Before throttling I used around 3 gigs. Eat it att! Fight the power!

While I applaud your veracity to get what you pay for , you must also consider that this behavior does actually contribute to the problem of excessive data consumption that merits slowing the rest of us down. Completely unnecessaly.

When i signed up in 2007 ONLY BECAUSE CRICKET WAS TRULY 'UNLIMITED' I expected to receive u n l i m i t e d service. I should be grandfathered in as I've been a very very loyal customer for this long without ONE complaint. i was patient as they build new towers, widened their coverage, improved their facilities and started to get better service..only to be screwed in the end.

I truly hope there is a class action suit for customers like myself.

Apparently i went over for the month this month last night and i was shocked at the slow speed i received last night. What got me angry was when i was trying to watch a 240p Green Eggs and Ham video on youtube before my daughter was to fall asleep and it refused to load!

FCC … do something about this and reinstate my 'unlimited' service to what I originally signed up for!

I've had a big problem with the whole cell phone tower problem ok I remember 3g tower s were over usage limits so they put up 4g towers I know cause I had 4g wimax it was fast as landline from Comcast it was USB mobile then without any explanation given 4g lte is what we are forced to use why 4g towers I thought were the solution to 3g but we never even had much of 4g before lte which I expect is short for light well its not fair.... I currently have cricket (over10 years) (now at&t)and found out recently my new windows 4g phone only gets 4g when I have data 5 gigs then after that it is only 3g which is bs how is that a unlimited 4g plan its fraud.......

My ATT unlimited is so slow now that It took me 30 minutes to download a Facebook messenger app. I can't even watch a 1 minute video clip online without to press play 20 times. Hope fcc can do something for us. Feel like want to switch to sprint, at least they don't throttle my speed.

Because people were running massive amounts of data from their phone and offering shared services and getting paid for it. Not att fault

you must work for at&t. AT&T sold me the service they said I would be getting 10 gigs of high-speed dated before I will get throttle my speed slowed way way way down point to point 03 weird stuff like that can't watch a video can't do anythingI have got no hi spead Dats this month and I paid extra for high speed data

Just got throttled today. 0.10 Mbps download. I can't even browse a web page.

Keep in mind that if every company offered unlimited data it would be more hazardous than second hand smoke will ever be. My wife died of brain cancer and my brother is in stage 3. I wish someone would sue Sprint for starting this unlimited crap. When the tower is on the right side of your head and the phone is on the right, that beam is passing through your noggin.

There is absolutely no proof of that....people just say random sh$! these days I suppose

That's totally unrelated, the amount of radiation your phone gives is so small, that you couldn't die if it was by you for 200 years.

all AT&T employees should be fired and or sent to jail. They all knew what was going on.

This is shameful. I hope someone can do something to stop this illegal practice. I barely use my phone. I've only streamed one half of soccer match now it's crawling slow. I've had unlimited since day one they started offering it and lately I've been throttled without warning. It's funny they want you to pay for something they don't provide. I HOPE AND PRAY THAT SOMEONE CAN STOP THEM!

The only reason I got rid of my Unlimited plan last year was due to the slow speeds compared to my wifes phone. I figured it was due to throttling!!!

Could you imagine going to an all you can eat buffet and the staff saying "Wait a minute, you need to slow down. You are eating to much." That is EXACTLY what AT&T is doing. The whole reason I got the unlinited plan, which was the top tier plan was so I could enjoy all of the things they advertise without worrying about going over a limit and I paid/pay a premium for that. A premium AT&T was happy to accept. Now, I'm lucky to get .3 Mbps once they throttle me and sometimes that is three days into a cycle. That is only a couple of videos and some streaming music. Then, for 25+ days I can't do anything with my phone. No streaming video, GPS is problematic, web pages never load... Basicaly a worthless device at this point. I am a business man and I rely on this device as a business tool and it is essentially non functional. They lied about users being throttled when they are in the highest percentage because it happens at the same amount of data threshold each month. Please set this company right!!!

I have been an ATT unlimited data user since 2010. Have paid the fees. I just received a message that my speed will be slowing down-- at 5GB well this is not unlimited data. If ATT wants to change the definition of unlimited then they should reimburse me for 5 years of payments and replace my phones to a career of my choice. This is totally deceptive and I am very upset with ATT

Last time I renewed my contract and they tried to get me to drop my unlimited plan I told them "if I lost all my money and became homeless....I would live in a cardboard box under an interstate bridge collected cans and selling my plasma before I give up my unlimited data plan." The statement made a visual impression on the recipient.

Now since they talked me out of my grandfathered in plan of unlimited data last year and I had unlimited data since 2009 since they said the unlimited has too many that's why it's slow.. oookk Now we got on a 10gb shared plan for 10 months no problem. Now since in June 2015 att got slapped with 100 million dollar fine I have started to go over that 10gb anf got charged in june for 60.00 in overages. Now in July again 10 to 12 days left in billing cycle I started to go over again. 15.00 added for every 1 gb they add. This is even after we raised our data to 30gb had a rollover of 17 which made it to 48 gb of data now we over that? Something is wrong and wirh all of us who got talked out of unlimited plans cause of the slowing speeds on their part. I feel they need to return it back to us who was actually grandfathered in. This getting g ridiculous.

At&t not only promised unlimited internet plans to wireless users, but to home internet plans also. At&t changed my plan from a unlimited home internet plan to a 300mb plan per month without notifying me of any changes. Then when I called about it I was told that I never had unlimited internet because they never offered an unlimited plan. Then they asked if I wanted to change my current plan from 300mb to 600mb for a price increase of course. I told them no because I never changed my unlimited plan, but if I agreed to change what they forced on me then they could say it was my choice to change plans. They even reduced the internet speed I'm suppose to have to 6mbps (but when I ran my own speed test it was at 3.5-4.5mbps). My original unlimited home internet plan was at the highest speed for my area at that time which I think was 12 or 18mbps(most likely 12mbps). At&t has gotten horrible with their service. I have been with them for years because the area I live doesn't have much choice. It took me almost 2 hours 10 days ago to type and send 1 email because my home connection kept dropping, I had to use my phone to send it eventually. I have had to change multiple routers because AT&T always says that is the issue in the end, after they have kept me on the phone no less than 45 minutes running all their tests. Well I do hope someone will see and read this because the problems are not only with the cellular service customers it is with the home service customers as well. Thank you for your time.

Now only if the FTC would do something about them charging extra for when you decided to tether your mobile data connection to another device, such as a computer. Data is data. I was forced off of my unlimited data plan in 2011 and onto a more expensive plan with just a little bit of data because of it, without receiving any prior warnings. Cost way more in the long run.

NO KIDDING
THEY HARASSED ME ABOUT IT! That I hung up on them thinking it was a prank but their rep called me right back and said I shouldn't hang up on them and that they'll switch me to a 'regular' data plan without warning just a big-ass bill.

Funny... AT&T has repeadiatly calls me telling me tht I used my phone to feather to another device!! Since I haven't a clue as to what the flip that is, ( I was told it is basically using my phone as a hotspot) I told them I never have ! He proceeded to tell me that I will be charged extra for the data usage ( I am unlimited from many years ago) , and my next Bill would reflect a Change in my plan services. I said he can't change my plan without my permission ( this is ileagle ) and I refuse to give such permission. How is it that , I pay for unlimited data ( which I bought to use , eventually with my Laptop ) and my phone is designed for usage as a hotspot, yet I am prevented to use this as intended. Which is why, I paid for this in the first place!

I was too!! I am paying extremely too much money now. They refused to let me keep my unlimited plan... Why ?!

I have an unlimited data plan from 2008 and I flatly refuse to give up that plan just to be able to use my smartphone as a hot spot. So, have my smartphone data plan with AT&T and my iPad data plan with Verizon.

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