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User Successfully Sues AT&T For Throttling iPhone Data 166

An anonymous reader writes "Matt Spaccarelli has won a judgement of $850 from AT&T for data throttling. From the article: 'Nadel's ruling could pave the way for others to follow suit. AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans that can be subject to throttling, representing just under half of the company's smartphone users. AT&T stopped signing up new customers for those plans in 2010, and warned last year that it would start slowing speeds for people who consume the most data. In the last few months, subscribers have been surprised by how little data use it takes for throttling to kick in —often less than AT&T provides to those on limited or "tiered" plans. Spaccarelli said his phone is being throttled after he's used 1.5 gigabytes to 2 gigabytes of data within a new billing cycle. Meanwhile, AT&T provides 3 gigabytes of data to subscribers on a tiered plan that costs the same — $30 per month.'"
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User Successfully Sues AT&T For Throttling iPhone Data

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:22PM (#39152849)

    It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up.

    I don't disagree with the sentiment, but the law of unintended consequences applies as well. Suppose the law changes, making it illegal to modify a contract without active two party consent (i.e. none of this 'if you used it after we change the contract, you implicitly agree to the new rules' crap). The logical conclusion of businesses trying to make money by providing a service would be to limit contract lengths. Now, you get to sign up for a year of service (more likely 6 months) at agreed upon rates, etc., but then you would have to sign up for a new contract every year. That new contract would not grandfather unlimited data plans, and it likely wouldn't lock in your current rates. In practice, it becomes nothing more than what you already have. Throw in the fact that they would likely stop paying for your new phone every few years and the end result is more money out of pocket for little to no gain.

    In the end, if you don't like being screwed by AT&T, let Verizon, Sprint, or one of the others doing the screwing for a while. Or don't participate. I know that means effectively joining a societal lepers colony, but laws are not going to make this problem better. That's been the problem all along: something must be done, I have done something, therefore something has been done. Whenever you or someone you know says "there should be a law against this", just remember that it is likely happening because at some time, someone wrote a law that caused exactly "this" to occur.

    Typical obvious laws against murder, etc. don't follow the same rules, so all you ./ lawyers just shut the hell up and go troll foursquare for a while.

  • A big oops for AT&T (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:31PM (#39153001)

    I have an unlimited plan on my phone and so far I have not been throttled. I also have a 2 gig plan for my iPad. Last week I subscribed to Clear, now I have a mobile wifi hotspot. In my area the coverage is pretty good and I can hook up to 8 devices up to it. As a result I am canceling my iPad data plan. In short, even though I wasn't directly affected, I am dropping their service.

    I wouldn't have even looked into Clear if they hadn't started messing with their customers.

  • by camperslo ( 704715 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @05:31PM (#39153003)

    They should innovate their way out of this. There are other ways to shift traffic, incentives to use or support a WiFi traffic path for others, and some advancing picking of video/music so it can be downloaded during traffic dips or via WiFi etc.
    It's simple, cheap to do, and customers can be compensated in some way for doing something. Then it's a win for all involved.

    If regulatory agencies wont help, some should sue AT&T over the continuing unjustified price bumps even for slower grade DSL. It looks like a conspiracy to make it less viable for customers to get video programming from other providers. And at the same time, the shift away from reliable copper phone services may leave some areas very vulnerable if an extended emergency hits. Boxes around town with batteries (powering optical to copper converters), and techs hundreds of miles away, can mean serious widespread downtime over a large area in an extended disaster.

  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @08:11PM (#39154617) Homepage

    We went through this same shit years ago in Australia.

    ISPs started selling Unlimited* data, and hiding what the asterisk meant in T&Cs under what they called an "Acceptable Use Policy". The Acceptable Use Policy usually said something like, "you can use unlimited data up to this particular limit at which point you will be charged X/throttled/something else".

    Our consumer watchdog group, the ACCC (which IMHO is a truly excellent example of well done government regulation that works for the people) took exception to this after user complaints. I can't remember the exact details (and am too lazy to search) but the gist of it was that this was not transparent enough and not clear enough for the end users.

    The end result is that every ISP was forced to stop selling these bullshit "unlimited*" plans and required to label them accurately and concisely.

    We have quite low monthly download quotas compared to the rest of the world (I work in broadband content and regularly talk to people that struggle on 12-20GB a month because it is all that is available for them), but the plans are clearly labelled and generally very transparent and easy to understand - and while many people are still pretty pissed about the low quotas and sometimes high overage charges (especially on mobile)... the problem of getting bullshitted into an "unlimited" plan only to find out that it is not at all unlimited has all but vanished.

    I am not sure what the US equivalent of our ACCC is (FTC?) but I find it staggering that this has not brought their attention yet. Does the FTC have no teeth (seems unlikely from previous readings) or is the government just completely in the pocket of these giant telcos, or is it just user apathy/ignorance...?

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer