AT&T is finally facing the music with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for its "Unlimited Data" practices – to the tune of $60 million -- 8 years after it first fleeced customers. The problem lies in the fact that AT&T marketed its smartphone plans as having unlimited data, but instead began to throttle customer's connections after surpassing preset data thresholds during their monthly billing cycle.
According to the FTC, AT&T "misled" customers over throttling practices for unlimited data, and added that in many cases, customers found their cell service "difficult or nearly impossible to use" once the restrictions were put into place on their accounts. In some cases, customers on unlimited data plans were facing throttling after using just 2GB of data.
“AT&T promised unlimited data—without qualification—and failed to deliver on that promise,” explained Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised.”
Through October 2014, the FTC alleges that AT&T's policies harmed over 3.5 million customers. The remedy for its transgressions is for AT&T to pay $60 million to settle the case brought against it with the FTC. The money will be deposited into a fund which will be used to give "partial refunds" to customers that were harmed by the throttling practice.
This money will be dispersed to both current and former customers of AT&T that were affected. For those that are still AT&T customers and were hit with throttling restrictions in the past, you will receive a partial refund in the form of a bill credit. For those that have since left AT&T behind to switch to a different carrier, you will receive a check in the mail. In the latter case, if your address has changed since you left AT&T, it's quite possible that you might never receive that check.
The $60 million FTC settlement is in addition to the $100 million fine that the FCC levied against AT&T back in 2015 for similar practices.