FTC Sues AT&T Over 'Misleading' Unlimited Data Throttling Practices [Updated]

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of the United States today filed a federal court complaint against AT&T, accusing the carrier of misleading its smartphone customers by charging them for unlimited data while reducing their data speeds by up to 90 percent.

According to the FTC, AT&T did not adequately explain to customers with unlimited data plans that they would be throttled if they reached a certain amount of data during a billing cycle. AT&T also did not inform customers of the throttling when they renewed their unlimited contracts.

attlogo375wide.jpg

"AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. "The issue here is simple: 'unlimited' means unlimited."

AT&T ceased offering unlimited data plans to customers several years ago, but has allowed Grandfathered customers to retain those plans. AT&T implemented throttling shortly after eliminating its unlimited data plans, initially restricting throttling to only its highest usage customers but later capping data for everyone on an unlimited plan. Currently, customers on unlimited plans are able to use 5GB of LTE data or 3GB of 3G data, after which AT&T throttles their data speeds.

The FTC alleges that AT&T throttled customers who had used as little as 2GB of data beginning in 2011, and that the throttling is severe, "resulting in speed reductions of 80 to 90 percent for affected users." AT&T is said to have throttled 3.5 million customers more than 25 million times, violating the FTC Act in the process.

Update 11:15 AM PT: AT&T has given a statement to MacRumors in response to the FTC's "baffling" complaint, stating that the allegations are "baseless" and that it has been "completely transparent" with customers.

"The FTC's allegations are baseless and have nothing to do with the substance of our network management program. It's baffling as to why the FTC would choose to take this action against a company that, like all major wireless providers, manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers, and does it in a way that is fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts.

"We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning. We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented. In addition, this program has affected only about 3% of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message."

Top Rated Comments

nepalisherpa Avatar
99 months ago
Good going! AT&T deserved this! I couldn't be happier today.

AT&T = Always Tricky & Treacherous
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JayLenochiniMac Avatar
99 months ago
Be careful what you ask for. They'll just stop offering unlimited to grandfathered customers the next time they upgrade.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cmChimera Avatar
99 months ago
This has made my day. Thank you!
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
drober30 Avatar
99 months ago
Cant wait for my $3.00 dollar check four years from now!
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
penajmz Avatar
99 months ago
If they removed the unlimited plan for me I would switch carriers SO quick.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CBJammin103 Avatar
99 months ago
Could someone explain why AT&T grandfathers some plans? Are they legally obligated to do so? What is preventing them from simply forcing anyone who upgrades a phone to use one of the new data plans?

I, for one, would probably switch carriers if they booted me off of the unlimited plan. My guess is that they feel many others would do the same.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
sony headphones 1

Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Friday May 20, 2022 12:18 pm PDT by
Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 AirPods Max. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. First of all, the AirPods Max win out when it comes ...
iPhone 14 Purple Lineup Feature

Will the iPhone 14 Be a Disappointment?

Saturday May 21, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
With around four months to go before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 14 lineup, the overwhelming majority of rumors related to the new devices so far have focused on the iPhone 14 Pro, rather than the standard iPhone 14 – leading to questions about how different the iPhone 14 will actually be from its predecessor, the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected...
apple ar headset concept 2

Apple's AR/VR Headset Nearing Completion as Board Gets Demo

Thursday May 19, 2022 9:52 am PDT by
Apple last week demonstrated its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple board members, indicating that the device is in an advanced stage of development and could see a debut in the not too distant future, reports Bloomberg. Apple has also ramped up development of the software that runs on the headset, with that software expected to be called "RealityOS," or rOS for short. Render via designer Ian ...