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
103 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
103 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
103 months ago
This has made my day. Thank you!
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
drober30 Avatar
103 months ago
Cant wait for my $3.00 dollar check four years from now!
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
penajmz Avatar
103 months ago
If they removed the unlimited plan for me I would switch carriers SO quick.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
CBJammin103 Avatar
103 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

iOS 16

Apple Releases iOS 16.0.2 With Bug Fixes for iPhone 14 Pro Camera Vibration, Copy/Paste Issue and More

Thursday September 22, 2022 1:04 pm PDT by
Apple today released iOS 16.0.2, addressing a number of bugs that iPhone 14 owners have been experiencing since the new devices launched. iOS 16.0.2 comes two weeks after the launch of iOS 16, and it follows iOS 16.0.1, an update made available to iPhone 14 owners on launch day. The update is available for all iPhones that are capable of running iOS 16. The iOS 16.0.2 update can be...
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors yellowbg

Don't Want the Apple Watch Ultra or Series 8? Amazon Has Record Low Prices on Series 7 Models This Week

Friday September 23, 2022 6:56 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra are now available to purchase, but if you aren't interested in these updates you can save a lot of money on Series 7 models right now on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. The best deals are on cellular...
Dynamic Island For Android Users Feature

Android App Copying iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island Released on Play Store

Thursday September 22, 2022 7:57 am PDT by
A copycat version of the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island has arrived on Android's Google Play Store in the form of an app called "dynamicSpot." The app, still in beta, offers customers several different experiences at the top of their smartphones. In its current form, dynamicSpot offers playback control for songs, timers, battery status, and more features coming soon, according to the app's...
maxresdefault

Video Review: Four Days With the iPhone 14 Pro Max

Wednesday September 21, 2022 7:49 am PDT by
Apple on Friday released the new iPhone 14 models, and MacRumors videographer Dan picked one up on launch day. He's been using the iPhone 14 Pro Max non-stop since it came out, and over on the MacRumors YouTube channel, has shared his initial thoughts on the day-to-day experience with the latest iPhone. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Dan's mini review highlights...
14 vs 16 inch mbp m2 pro and max feature 1

New 14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pros Reportedly Launching Later This Year

Friday September 23, 2022 7:08 am PDT by
Apple plans to release new MacBook Pro models in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report does not mention specific models, but it very likely refers to the next-generation 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros given that the 13-inch model was already updated earlier this year. There has been uncertainty surrounding the timing of new 14-inch and...
facebook meta

Meta Sued Over Tracking iPhone Users Despite Apple's Privacy Features

Thursday September 22, 2022 5:12 am PDT by
Meta is facing a new proposed class action lawsuit that accuses it of tracking and collecting the personal data of iPhone users, despite features and policies made by Apple which are meant to stop that same type of tracking. In August, it was revealed that with the Facebook and Instagram apps, Meta can track all of a user's key taps, keyboard inputs, and more, when using the in-app browser....
AirPods Max 2022 Colors

Ten Things AirPods Pro 2 Tell Us About AirPods Max 2

Saturday September 24, 2022 1:00 am PDT by
Upon the release of the second-generation AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max became the oldest current-generation AirPods product still in Apple's lineup. Introducing several new features like Adaptive Transparency and the H2 chip, the second-generation AirPods Pro may provide some of the best indications yet of what to expect from the second-generation AirPods Max. Almost two years later, rumors...
new airpods pro ear tips

Apple Explains Why Second-Generation AirPods Pro Ear Tips Are Incompatible With Original AirPods Pro

Thursday September 22, 2022 3:12 pm PDT by
Apple today explained why the new silicone ear tips for the second-generation AirPods Pro are not officially compatible with the original AirPods Pro. In an updated support document, Apple said the original AirPods Pro ear tips have "noticeably denser mesh" than the second-generation ear tips. Apple did not provide any additional details, but the mesh density could result in acoustical...
AirPods Pro Second Generation 2 Pairing Feature 1

AirPods Pro 2 Engravings Appear in iOS During Pairing and Connecting

Friday September 23, 2022 9:40 am PDT by
Customers who personalize their second-generation AirPods Pro charging case with an engraving will now have that engraving reflected directly on iOS as they pair and connect their AirPods Pro. Apple allows customers to personalize their AirPods Pro charging case with a special engraving that can include select emojis and Memojis. Unlike before, starting with the second-generation AirPods...