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posted by martyb on Wednesday October 29 2014, @02:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the as-much-as-YOU-want-but-as-slow-as-WE-want dept.

Federal officials on Tuesday sued AT&T, the nation’s second-largest cellular carrier, for allegedly deceiving millions of customers by selling them supposedly “unlimited” data plans that the company later “throttled” by slowing Internet speeds when customers surfed the Web too much.

The Federal Trade Commission said the practice, used by AT&T since 2011, resulted in slower speeds for customers on at least 25 million occasions – in some cases cutting user Internet speeds by 90 percent, to the point where they resembled dial-up services of old. The 3.5 million affected customers experienced these slowdowns an average of 12 days each month, said the FTC, which received thousands of complaints about the practice.

See also Ars Technica's coverage: US sues AT&T, alleges severe throttling of unlimited data customers which notes that customers were throttled by as much as 90% once they reached 3GB or 5GB of data.

The FTC has made available both a press release and the AT&T lawsuit (pdf).

Related Stories

Big Three Carriers Pay $10M to Settle Claims of False “Unlimited” Advertising 46 comments

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2024/05/big-three-carriers-pay-10m-to-settle-claims-of-false-unlimited-advertising/

T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T will pay a combined $10.2 million in a settlement with US states that alleged the carriers falsely advertised wireless plans as "unlimited" and phones as "free." The deal was announced yesterday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

"A multistate investigation found that the companies made false claims in advertisements in New York and across the nation, including misrepresentations about 'unlimited' data plans that were in fact limited and had reduced quality and speed after a certain limit was reached by the user," the announcement said.

T-Mobile and Verizon agreed to pay $4.1 million each while AT&T agreed to pay a little over $2 million. The settlement includes AT&T subsidiary Cricket Wireless and Verizon subsidiary TracFone.
[...]
The carriers denied any illegal conduct despite agreeing to the settlement. In addition to payments to each state, the carriers agreed to changes in their advertising practices. It's unclear whether consumers will get any refunds out of the settlement, however.
[...]
The three carriers agreed that all advertisements to consumers must be "truthful, accurate and non-misleading." They also agreed to the following changes, the NY attorney general's office said:

  • "Unlimited" mobile data plans can only be marketed if there are no limits on the quantity of data allowed during a billing cycle.
  • Offers to pay for consumers to switch to a different wireless carrier must clearly disclose how much a consumer will be paid, how consumers will be paid, when consumers can expect payment, and any additional requirements consumers have to meet to get paid.
  • Offers of "free" wireless devices or services must clearly state everything a consumer must do to receive the "free" devices or services.
  • Offers to lease wireless devices must clearly state that the consumer will be entering into a lease agreement.
  • All "savings" claims must have a reasonable basis. If a wireless carrier claims that consumers will save using its services compared to another wireless carrier, the claim must be based on similar goods or services or differences must be clearly explained to the consumer.

The advertising restrictions are to be in place for five years.

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  • (Score: 2) by Leebert on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:32PM

    by Leebert (3511) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:32PM (#111196)

    AT&T will, at worst, pay a token settlement.

    The FTC is, for all intents and purposes, useless.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:06PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:06PM (#111312)

      The real outcome is modification of AT&T's behavior in the future - based on past performance, I'm not impressed yet, but that's the hope - that all vendors will get the message that this kind of nonsense is unacceptable.

      My personal answer to AT&T has been "NO" for the past 20 years - they sucked then and haven't gotten any better compared to the competition. As a whole, telecom service has improved dramatically over that period, but as a service organization, with AT&T you service the provider.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:33PM

    by WizardFusion (498) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:33PM (#111197) Journal

    You guys have it bad over there. He in the UK, I have unlimited data, with no speed caps, no "fair use policy" and no restrictions - none that I have found yet.
    I am not a big downloaded, 300-400Gb/month, but I have hit over 700Gb one month. Not a word out of my ISP.

    But then, here we have actual competition in the market place, there are more ISPs in the UK than you can shake a stick at.

    It must suck to be in the "land of the free"

    • (Score: 1) by Entropy on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:36PM

      by Entropy (4228) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:36PM (#111199)

      In the US wireless providers are under the delusion that we'll play per GB of data forever. This is text messaging all over again, where they thought they'd get 0.10$/text message but no one ever really used it until there was a $10 for unlimited option.

      • (Score: 2) by datapharmer on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:17PM

        by datapharmer (2702) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:17PM (#111220)

        It is worse than that as it went backwards. It was originally unlimited until some bean counter thought "we should charge for this by usage!" and away we went back to the 90s... you know just like all the "cloud" keep renting forever nonsense.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:52PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:52PM (#111245)

        In the US wireless providers are under the delusion that we'll play per GB of data forever. This is text messaging all over again, where they thought they'd get 0.10$/text message but no one ever really used it until there was a $10 for unlimited option.

        Speaking of text messaging, I happened to find out just today that I have been getting text messages from 900 numbers which somehow prompts my phone to auto-respond with my phone number. I am not even sure how they are doing this. Has anyone else seen this? I am gobsmacked that Verizon would even allow this egregious and outrageous sort of thing to happen. This has to be a new low for them.

    • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:57PM

      by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @03:57PM (#111210) Journal

      You're not with BT then.

      • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:01PM

        by WizardFusion (498) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:01PM (#111214) Journal

        No, plusnet (http://www.plus.net/)

        • (Score: 2) by GreatAuntAnesthesia on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:32PM

          by GreatAuntAnesthesia (3275) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:32PM (#111231) Journal

          Really? I left them when I got sick of them throttling bittorrent. Was a few years ago now, maybe they've changed.

          Also, PlusNet are owned by BT.

          • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Thursday October 30 2014, @12:41PM

            by WizardFusion (498) on Thursday October 30 2014, @12:41PM (#111492) Journal

            I have been with them for years, never had an issue with throttling.
            I knew they were part of BT, but because they are a smaller player in the market, they are not held to he higher "semi-legal" standard (blocking sites, etc)

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:12PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:12PM (#111217)

      "Where is the profit in that?!"

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 1) by SrLnclt on Wednesday October 29 2014, @05:32PM

        by SrLnclt (1473) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @05:32PM (#111270)

        Rule #10 - Greed is eternal.

        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:18PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:18PM (#111316)

          Rule #34 - War is good for business.

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:24PM

            by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:24PM (#111319)

            Yes, but Rule 35: Peace is good for business.

            --
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:45PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @04:45PM (#111238) Journal

      Land of the uninformed and the home of the imaginary carrot ;-)

      (you can chase the carrot all you want. But you can't get it..)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29 2014, @05:02PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29 2014, @05:02PM (#111253)

      It must suck to be in the "land of the free"

      Yeah, don't rub it in. I currently pay over USD100 for the privilege of getting my data capped at 5GB/mo. But then, I have download speeds which are typically measured at tens of kbps. So it's not like I could ever actually take advantage of promises of unlimited data anyway. Land of the free, indeed.

      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:30PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:30PM (#111321)

        Wouldn't making the ISPs common carriers solve the "up to" problem? Instead of "up to X gigs" translating to "We'll tell you a big number, lying right to your face, and then laugh when you can't do anything to force us to provide you with the actual service we're selling you."

        Come to think of it, I wonder if part of the reason they all want to throttle or block bittorrent is because that's one of the easiest ways to max out your bandwidth since you're connecting to a bunch of different peers at once.

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday October 29 2014, @06:43PM

      by frojack (1554) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @06:43PM (#111300) Journal

      I am not a big downloaded, 300-400Gb/month, but I have hit over 700Gb one month. Not a word out of my ISP.

      ISP?
      You do realize this is about Mobile (cellular) data plans right? For Cell phones? Mobiles in UK parlance?

      How does one consume 700GB of data on a mobile phone, which might have 32gig of storage?
      Even when using it tethered to a computer, 700GB is an amazing amount of porn to consume in one month.
      Seek help son.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by tibman on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:09PM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:09PM (#111313)

        I was thinking the same. It's like watching over 500 1080p tv episodes in one month... except on a cell phone. You'd have to watch over 16 episodes a day for 30 days straight. Video is probably the most demanding thing bandwidth-wise. Averaging 250KB/s 24/7 for a month is very doable.. but wtf are you doing? The phone's battery wouldn't last very long.

        --
        SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
    • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:44PM

      by Wootery (2341) on Wednesday October 29 2014, @07:44PM (#111327)

      I am not a big downloaded, 300-400Gb/month

      Uh... that's huge .

      I'd be surprised if my average use was over 20GB.

      (I'm not a subscriber to any video streaming services, nor am I a pirate. My biggest data-hogs are probably YouTube and the occasional Steam download.)

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @04:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30 2014, @04:37AM (#111439)

      Just like several other people reading this comment, I was bitter until:

      "300-400GB/month"

      ... whaaaa?

      (Insert drooling here).