AT&T fends off Class Action Lawsuit over Throttling

by Matt Klassen on March 16, 2016

judge-approves-iphone-class-action-suit-against-apple-at-t--ee036a7db7Under fire from all sides regarding its controversial practice of throttling the data speeds of those customers clinging to legacy unlimited plans, AT&T has gained some momentary reprieve after a California judge struck down a class action lawsuit that alleged the carrier misled customers about the realities of their unlimited contracts.

According to the fine print in AT&T’s original contract, the carrier reserves the right to resolve contract disputes through individual arbitration, that is, the company will handle each case separately, and Judge Edward Chen of US District Court in Northern California agreed, stating that customers will not be able to sue the company en masse over the alleged throttling complaints.

That doesn’t mean AT&T is free and clear though, as Ma Bell still faces regulatory pressure from both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, both of whom continue to pursue action against the carrier for various Net Neutrality and billing violations regarding legacy unlimited plans.

But consider this a win for AT&T, as winning the right to arbitrate each throttling complaint individually will undoubtedly mean the company will save money, as it’s much easier to screw over individuals one at a time then it is when they’re presenting a united front.

Although AT&T has managed to deflect the class action suit regarding alleged throttling of network speeds for legacy unlimited customers, the telecom giant still faces regulatory pressure from both the FCC and the FTC. As you may remember, the former levied a landmark $100 million fine against AT&T last year for misleading advertising regarding unlimited plans, a fine Ma Bell continues to fight in hopes of getting it reduced or eliminated altogether.

For its part, the FTC has been chasing AT&T since 2014, when it brought its own legal action against the carrier on behalf of millions of customers that allegedly had their unlimited data plans throttled, and it a separate suit more recently, went after AT&T for refunds for customers impacted by such throttling practices.

While we should note that AT&T has relaxed its throttling practices over this past year in response to these legal actions—now throttling speeds only when the network is congested—the company continues to deny any wrongdoing and so far has not admitted any wrongdoing nor settled with either of these regulatory agencies.

But that’s not to say that the civil suit would have had any more success than these ongoing attempts by the FCC and FTC respectively, for as we’ve seen before, even if AT&T is forced to pay out a lump sum, that can still leave very little in the way of reparations for the little guy. As one customer made public last year, he received a grand total of $0.54 as his payout in a different class action case regarding wrongful billing.

So having defeated the civil suit before it could even get started and having tied both the FCC and FTC in red tape appeals for the foreseeable future, the winners here seem to be both AT&T and whatever legal firm the carrier has on retainer, and the losers, as they always are, are the customers who continue to get screwed out of the unlimited data they contractually agreed to pay for.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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