Clauses in AT&T Contracts Have Always Provided for Limits on 'Unlimited' Data Plans

A number of customers have expressed outrage and disappointment at AT&T's various efforts at throttling users with older "unlimited" data plans. The most recent change slows unlimited data users to download speeds of 256 Kbps after using 3GB of data.

Several Twitter users felt that AT&T was violating their contract and wanted to cancel their contract or file a class action lawsuit against the company. Blogger Jeff Jarvis feels that throttling is "fraud", and tech writer Matt Buchanan had this to say:

I think it's fair to expect the contract you signed up for remains the contract you signed up for.

But is AT&T's throttling of unlimited data users a violation of its contract with users? TOSBack is a website that tracks changes to the terms of service of various services, including both Apple and AT&T.

The contract from June 26, 2007 -- just a few days before the original iPhone went on sale -- includes a number of stipulations governing exactly how and why the iPhone's unlimited data plan can be restricted, including banning some video downloading and streaming. Most importantly, for customers now experiencing throttling, is this passage:

AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny Service and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network.


Language similar to this continues in every draft of the contract through today's version. The current wireless customer agreement includes this language in section 6.2:

AT&T reserves the right to (i) deny, disconnect, modify and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network.

AT&T believes that it is well within its rights to throttle users on unlimited data plans, even as a Californian iPhone user won an $850 small claims judgement against the company over throttling. AT&T has promised to appeal. A class action suit might be the normal evolution of such a complaint, but AT&T's subscriber contract prohibits class action or jury trials, leaving arbitration and small claims as options for unhappy customers.

Not everyone agrees that AT&T is misbehaving by throttling. SplatF's Dan Frommer opines that users are not acknowledging reality when they complain about AT&T terminating unlimited data plans.

Here’s the big picture bottom line: If you use a lot of data, you are clearly getting some sort of value out of it. Value isn’t free. The world’s finite resources simply aren’t trending toward free. That isn’t logical. I predict most of you will be spending significantly more per month for wireless data in 5 and 10 years than you do today. You’ll be getting faster and better service, and more value out of it, but it won’t be cheaper.

Please get over your emotional battle — and extinguish any legal threats, that’s silly — and join us in reality. If you use a lot of mobile data, be happy about it, and be happy paying for it. It’s worth it. And consider trying the add-on tethering plan for the iPhone, it can be useful if you carry a laptop or iPad.

AT&T's current data plans offer 300MB/month for $20, 3GB/month for $30, or 5GB/month for $50 (including tethering), with each additional 1GB costing users $10 on the higher allocation plans.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
108 months ago

Who the hell still uses ATT?


It works where I need it too and Verizon doesn't, so why not? Why do people use Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and others? That was probably one of the stupidest comments I have ever read on here. :rolleyes:
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
108 months ago

AT&T reserves the right to (i) limit throughput or amount of data transferred, deny Service and/or terminate Service, without notice, to anyone it believes is using the Service in any manner prohibited above or whose usage adversely impacts its wireless network or service levels or hinders access to its wireless network.

This does not deal with the situation at hand since they can't claim that 3G "negatively impacts wireless network or service levels" while turning around and selling 5G/month service to others.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
108 months ago
The United States is in dire need of upgraded broadband.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
108 months ago
Maybe they shouldn't have offered "Unlimited Data" when they didn't have the means to keep it up.

I know they're people who 'abuse' the network, but don't invite people when you don't have enough seats at the table.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
108 months ago
It's clearly not keeping with the spirit or intent of an unlimited data plan to simply cap the data and the cost at the same as a paid data plan - by definition this is not "unlimited".

I understand that it's fair to reasonably draw the line at some point, but this can effectively be done on a case-by-case basis where someone is truly and egregiously exceeding the mean usage by several standard deviations.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
108 months ago
I'm not that up in arms over the "unlimited" thing, although it does seem like a misnomer. I think the precedent which seems illegal is this part:

A class action suit might be the normal evolution of such a complaint, but AT&T's subscriber contract prohibits class action or jury trials, leaving arbitration and small claims as options for unhappy customers.


Having language that restricts how one is able to take a company to court seems...very much not okay.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker Shares Details on 'iPhone 13' Camera [Updated]

Wednesday May 27, 2020 4:27 pm PDT by
The next-generation iPhone 12 lineup coming in fall 2020 isn't out yet, but Fudge (@choco_bit), a leaker who sometimes shares information on upcoming Apple devices, today offered up details on what Apple has in store for the 2021 iPhone 13's camera setup. A simple design drawing depicts a device with a four camera array, which Fudge claims will have the following features: 64-megapixel...

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished iPhone XR Models

Thursday May 28, 2020 9:50 pm PDT by
Apple today began selling certified refurbished iPhone XR models in select colors and capacities for the first time in the United States. Refurbished iPhone XR models are priced at a roughly 16 percent discount compared to current pricing on brand-new units, knocking $100–120 off of the regular price. In addition to the 64GB and 128GB capacities matching current brand-new iPhone XR models, ...

Powerbeats Pro Debut in Four New Colors: Spring Yellow, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Glacier Blue

Friday May 29, 2020 10:00 am PDT by
Following a couple of leaks in recent weeks, Beats today is officially announcing four new colors for its Powerbeats Pro wireless earphones: Spring Yellow, Cloud Pink, Lava Red, and Glacier Blue. The new earphones will go on sale June 9 and sell for the same $249.95 price as the existing color options. Aside from the colors, the new Powerbeats Pro models are otherwise identical to the...

Apple Making It Harder to Avoid Nagging macOS Update Notifications

Thursday May 28, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
With the release of macOS Catalina 10.15.5 and related security updates for macOS Mojave and High Sierra earlier this week, Apple is making it more difficult for users to ignore available software updates and remain on their current operating system versions. Included in the release notes for macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is the following:- Major new releases of macOS are no longer hidden when...

8 Mac Tips and Tricks You Might Not Know

Friday May 29, 2020 12:36 pm PDT by
There are tons of hidden features and shortcuts for Macs that Apple has built into macOS over the years, ranging from shortcuts to keyboard commands to other little hacks to make Mac usage just a bit simpler. In our latest YouTube video, we highlighted several of these tips and tricks, and some of them might just be new to you. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Tr...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

Top Stories: macOS 10.15.5, New Powerbeats Pro Colors, iPhone 12 and 13 Rumors, and More

Saturday May 30, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
This week saw an interesting mix of news and rumors on the Apple front, led by the release of macOS 10.15.5, which brings a new battery health feature to newer Mac notebooks, while we also saw the official announcement of new colors for the Powerbeats Pro earphones. On the rumor front, we heard a few tidbits about not just this year's iPhone 12 but also next year's iPhone, while we saw...

More Photos and Video of Apple's Redesigned Leather Loop Watch Band Surface

Thursday May 28, 2020 10:50 am PDT by
Images of a new version of the Leather Loop that Apple appears to have in development surfaced yesterday, and today, Vietnamese site Tinhte.vn has shared additional photos and videos that give us a clearer picture of what to expect from the new band. The bands come in colors that include red, hot pink, blue, black, and brown, with some of the bands featuring different colored accents at the...

Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box Gains HDR10+ and Dolby Vision Support, Plus Siri Voice Control

Thursday May 28, 2020 12:00 am PDT by
The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is receiving a major update today, introducing much-desired features like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support. Designed by Signify as part of the Philip Hue line of lights and accessories, the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box is designed to let Hue users sync their lights to their home entertainment systems. One of the major complaints about the Hue Play HDMI Sync Box ...

APFS Bug in macOS 10.15.5 Catalina Impacts the Creation of Bootable Backups

Thursday May 28, 2020 3:47 am PDT by
An Apple File System bug has been discovered in macOS 10.15.5 Catalina that can prevent users from making a bootable clone of their system drive, according to the creator of Carbon Copy Cloner. In a blog post on Wednesday, software developer Mike Bombich explained that the CCC team had uncovered the issue in the Apple File System, or APFS, when attempting to create a bootable backup in a...