AT&T may not offer an unlimited data plan anymore, but there are still customers who are grandfathered into the retired service agreement. AT&T has been throttling these customers’ data speeds for quite some time, and the government has taken notice. It’s gotten serious enough that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a $100 million fine for misleading customers. According to a report from The Hill, AT&T has responded in usual fashion, whining and complaining and asking the fine to be reduced or eliminated.
In a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture and Order filed in June by the FCC, the Commission alleges that AT&T failed to properly notify customers on the grandfathered plan that their speeds would be reduced after they used a certain amount of data. AT&T’s response was to insist it actually did notify customers of the terms of the plan, and take issue with the proposed punishments.
The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible. Its “moderate” forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.
AT&T thinks the fine should only be $16,000, not the $100 million proposed by the FCC. In a previous lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it was disclosed that the fines could have been as much as $16,000 per affected consumer. As 9to5Mac pointed out, that commission opted instead to levy a fine that it believed would be large enough to deter future violations. That fine was $105 million, according to a press release from the FTC.
In other terms of the Notice, the FCC proposed that AT&T be required to notify customers that the carrier had failed to properly disclose its network management practices, while giving them a way to leave their unlimited plans.
Last month, Apple stopped offering subsidies for AT&T and Verizon iPhones, moving instead to plans that see customers paying the full cost of their handsets on installment plans.