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User Successfully Sues AT&T For Throttling iPhone Data

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the jig-is-up dept.

AT&T 166

An anonymous reader writes "Matt Spaccarelli has won a judgement of $850 from AT&T for data throttling. From the article: 'Nadel's ruling could pave the way for others to follow suit. AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans that can be subject to throttling, representing just under half of the company's smartphone users. AT&T stopped signing up new customers for those plans in 2010, and warned last year that it would start slowing speeds for people who consume the most data. In the last few months, subscribers have been surprised by how little data use it takes for throttling to kick in —often less than AT&T provides to those on limited or "tiered" plans. Spaccarelli said his phone is being throttled after he's used 1.5 gigabytes to 2 gigabytes of data within a new billing cycle. Meanwhile, AT&T provides 3 gigabytes of data to subscribers on a tiered plan that costs the same — $30 per month.'"

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166 comments

"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152401)

It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up. It would also be nice to think we may live in a country some day where consumer protection laws will actually be geared towards protecting *consumers* and not just the corporations who write all our the laws in the U.S., making these kind of rulings unnecessary in the first place.

Of course, while I'm dreaming, I had may as well wish for a threeway with Katee Sackhoff and Natalie Portman in my new Ferrari.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (5, Funny)

Huge_UID (1089143) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152573)

Don't hurt your back. And watch out for the gearshift.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152661)

Can you be more clear why should I watch out for the paddle shifters?

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152725)

"the gearshift" is .. okay, look, we'll have this conversation when you're older.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (5, Insightful)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152691)

If that's the case, perhaps there should be an "opt-out", where in the event the contract does change the consumer has the right to terminate the contract without fees if they so choose.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152795)

In the UK (and probably the rest of the EU) that is exactly how it works. Are you saying that in the freedom loving USA, one party to a contract can change it and the other party hsa no say in the matter?

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152857)

If they change the terms of the contract, you have the right to reject it and cancel your service with out paying the ETF

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (4, Informative)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153011)

They don't change the contract. t-mobile and AT&T just redefine "unlimited data" to mean "all the data you can get, but at 5% of the maximum speed that your 4G device can deliver it".

Which may keep them in the letter of the law and contract, but absolutely not in the spirit. Especially if you take into account the inherent and explicit promises of their advertisements.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154157)

Every data plan contract I've seen includes the words 'up to', as in 'We guarantee connectivity up to 4G speed'. If they throttle down to 5%, they're still inside their advertising claims per the letter of the law. By the spirit of the law, not even close. It's like saying 'You are paying for X bandwidth, but we'll make sure you never get more than Y bandwidth', they just don't come out and say that directly.

There's a reason why I don't get a smart phone. Data plan ripoffs is a big part of it.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152861)

If that's the case, perhaps there should be an "opt-out", where in the event the contract does change the consumer has the right to terminate the contract without fees if they so choose.

If you have the 'Unlimited' data plan your initial contract has already 'expired', but you'll lose the 'unlimited' part of it if you opt-out of your existing contract. O think it's better that AT&T have to be worried about these small, annoying lawsuits. It probably cost them more than the $850 settlement in legal fees.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153025)

The deal with the old Cingular clients that came over was that they could keep unlimited data virtually forever. The trick is that you can never modify your plan with AT&T, or they'll stop you and say, "then you'll have to choose another plan". You can't add or remove tethering, etc.

As for the legal fees, I'm sure they use so many legal services for small things like this that they'd barely feel it unless a million people hit them... in which case you'd end up with a class action.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (4, Informative)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152993)

That already exists (at least in the US). Any time your provider changes the contract, read the fine print of the contract. You'll find you have a certain time period (usually 14 or 30 days) in which you can discontinue your service without any early termination fee. The person you talk to to try to end the service will generally lie and say that the clause doesn't apply to you, but ultimately the company is bound by the terms of the original contract until such time as you agree to the new contract by paying your next payment.

Re:"We can change this anytime" and Sprint DOES! (3, Informative)

neurocutie (677249) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154079)

VERY naive... witness what Sprint has done this past year... MULTIPLE changes that affect the bottomline, i.e. what the customer actually has to pay or what the customer actually gets in the way of services, discounts or equipment upgrades. HOWEVER, Sprint merely says "these changes are not "material"". They are not changes to the contract, and therefore not grounds for leaving ETF-free. Furthermore Sprint says, "if you disagree, tough. You CANNOT sue us as a class action. Your ONLY recourse is arbitration or small claims court." and the kicker "We INVITE litigation". Oh and about arbitration, Sprint change the rules as to how the arbiter is chosen: Sprint gets to choose and it chose a pro-corporate arbiter that it pays (can we say "conflict of interest")...

Re:"We can change this anytime" and Sprint DOES! (1)

Digicaf (48857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154299)

IANAL. That being said, they may claim the changes are not material but that doesn't mean anything. Any change to the service agreed upon in the contract that results in an increased cost or decreased service would be "an important part of the instrument" and therefore constitutes a material change.

In other words, they can say whatever the heck they want, but if you take them to court (small claims or otherwise) they will lose.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Material+Changes
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/instrument

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (4, Informative)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153023)

This has been successfully done many times. The law states if one party changes a contract the other party does not have to agree to the terms and may chose to cancel the original contract. Of course with cell phones that means you may not get to keep your original number which can be a deal breaker for some.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (0)

athlon02 (201713) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153373)

For Verizon at least, they have a clause for "materially adverse effect". If they change the contract in any way, that you find to be "materially adverse", and it can be reasonably shown to be so, you get out free and clear.

http://consumerist.com/2011/06/new-fee-lets-you-break-verizon-contract-without-early-termination-fee.html

Believe me, if I had seen that article prior to the change, I'd probably be free of them now. I'm almost counting the months until my latest contract renewal is up.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (3, Informative)

HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153715)

I don't like this either, actually. It would be a better solution than being stuck in the contract, surely, but I'm still inconvenienced by the changed contract. In other contractual situations (divorce, building a home, buying a car, whatever) a party that changes the contract is typically responsible for providing a damn good reason for why the change is happening in the first place, and in cases where the contract is no longer tenable, the offending party pays up. As in:

"If either party fails, without reasonable cause, to comply with the terms of this Agreement, then the other party may give written notice requiring the default to be ended. If the default continues for 7 days after receipt of the notice then the employment of the Building Contractor may be terminated upon receipt by the defaulting party of a further written notice stating that the employment of the Building Contractor is terminated forthwith. The Building Contractor will then be entitled to payment for work carried out that is reasonable in all the circumstances of the determination, provided that the Householder may deduct reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining a new Contractor if the Building Contractor was the only defaulting party."

Note that last line? In legalese, the "Householder" gets to take the money for a new contractor right outta the original contractor's pocket (within reason, of course).

These "contracts" we all sign for our phones aren't really contracts, at all; that would mean that a thing of mutual benefit or interest to 2 or more parties is being officially agreed upon. If they were, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or whoever would owe ME money for every dropped call, EULA change, or asshole customer service rep, the fucks. But I guess there's no real reason to supply a reasonably reliable service at an agreed upon rate with a friendly smile these days. Bah.

On the other hand, I wonder if I can start charging my print shop's customers for the bandwidth I use to send their images to my printers. It's just ripe for the picking. Hmm.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

bobcat7677 (561727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153749)

How about we keep contracts contracts and hold them to the contract you signed up under. If they want to do something else, then they can do that for new contracts, but the existing contracts have to stay intact until terminated. If they breach the contract with stuff like intentionally not delivering the service they are contractually bound to deliver, then you sue their pants off but the contract is breached and done with. No more of this insane "sign here but we can change it on you at any time just because we want to" shite.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

RoknrolZombie (2504888) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154095)

oh AT&T would absolutely love it if those of us on "Unlimited" plans cancelled our contracts. That doesn't help anyone but AT&T.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152783)

It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up.

The contract can say anything that isn't illegal.

But you can't market your service as "unlimited" when it clearly isn't - that is FRAUD.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152927)

It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up.

The contract can say anything that isn't illegal.

But you can't market your service as "unlimited" when it clearly isn't - that is FRAUD.

No, that's deception.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152849)

It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up.

I don't disagree with the sentiment, but the law of unintended consequences applies as well. Suppose the law changes, making it illegal to modify a contract without active two party consent (i.e. none of this 'if you used it after we change the contract, you implicitly agree to the new rules' crap). The logical conclusion of businesses trying to make money by providing a service would be to limit contract lengths. Now, you get to sign up for a year of service (more likely 6 months) at agreed upon rates, etc., but then you would have to sign up for a new contract every year. That new contract would not grandfather unlimited data plans, and it likely wouldn't lock in your current rates. In practice, it becomes nothing more than what you already have. Throw in the fact that they would likely stop paying for your new phone every few years and the end result is more money out of pocket for little to no gain.

In the end, if you don't like being screwed by AT&T, let Verizon, Sprint, or one of the others doing the screwing for a while. Or don't participate. I know that means effectively joining a societal lepers colony, but laws are not going to make this problem better. That's been the problem all along: something must be done, I have done something, therefore something has been done. Whenever you or someone you know says "there should be a law against this", just remember that it is likely happening because at some time, someone wrote a law that caused exactly "this" to occur.

Typical obvious laws against murder, etc. don't follow the same rules, so all you ./ lawyers just shut the hell up and go troll foursquare for a while.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (2)

fred911 (83970) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152871)

Additionally suprising is how this user got a court to hear the case. Most EULAs have a clause that forces a litigant to binding arbitration.

It will be a long time and real costly before he sees a dime from this judgement, if ever.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153523)

I hate this sort of rubbish. People always think "binding arbitration" clause, with disregard that it's illegal to have "binding arbitration" as it circumvents several laws.

Arbitration is NEVER binding. You ALWAYS have the right say you disagree with the arbitration. You will be required to go through the motions of arbitration, but that doesn't mean you have to live with the outcome. With a house I'd contracted to be built, the company declared bankruptcy while building it, I felt this was breech of contract and wanted my deposit back feeling how can I trust the build quality on a company which knows damn well won't have to honor any warranties, there was an arbitration clause, I went through arbitration, it went against me, I disagreed with said arbitration, got a lawyer and prepared to sue. The builder heard, realized they had no prayer in court, and suddenly, literally within 1 week, I had a check for my deposit.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153977)

You ALWAYS have the right say you disagree with the arbitration. You will be required to go through the motions of arbitration, but that doesn't mean you have to live with the outcome.

Right - Hire a lawyer, take a dozen man-hours off of work, travel to wherever the "motions" are taking place, listen to non-sense, and then hope that you get your $850 back to recover part of your costs. It's noble, but only makes sense for the big game, not for the small rip-offs where the fat cats make their money.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (1)

uigrad_2000 (398500) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153111)

It would be nice to think that rulings like this might have some effect on the traditional corporate practice of making new users sign "contracts" that basically give one party the right to change the terms any damn time they want and in any damn way they want, while giving the other party the right to pay their money and shut up.

I'm thinking that even if you made your own cell carrier, that you'd still be upset with the service you provided yourself.

Guaranteeing "unlimited use" forever, in spite of how the market and usage patterns change, is just impossible. It's like your Natalie Portman dream plus hot grits. If you want to argue that AT&T should have never made such bogus claims in the first place, then I could agree with you. If you think you are justified to take 30% of the bandwidth of your tower just so you can run a Natalie Portman fansite off your phone, then you and I come from different planets.

AT&T should just admit that they goofed. Tell all of us that our unlimited contracts will not be continued past the end of the year, and offer us some token discount on our next phone. Sure, some people will have hissy fits, but for customers like me, I'll just be pleased that for once they aren't trying to lie to me.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153883)

No, it' not impossible. There exist natural limits on the connection unrelated to any imposed limitation. An honest company wishing to offer 'unlimited' service will make sure their offer is profitable at that natural limit. Meanwhile, provision is getting cheaper over time, not more expensive.

They offered 'unlimited' with secret limits so they could take customers away from providers offering what was actually a better deal but were honest about the actual limits. They had no interest in that honesty thing.

At this point, they should just fess up and take their lumps, but they're trying to avoid even that by driving their customers (who did nothing wrong) to 'voluntarily' abandon the unlimited plan.

Re:"We can change this anytime" EULA didn't work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39154007)

No hot grits?

Noob.....

Can't change contract without compensation (4, Informative)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152587)

They claimed they needed to limit usage on their network, so they throttled users. What they forgot was the part where they're supposed to compensate the affected users for this.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (5, Insightful)

slapout (93640) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152617)

If the network is so limited, they should be trying to upgrade the network.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152785)

Upgrading the network doesn't happen overnight. Throttling is their way of delaying the upgrade, which is acceptable if only they hadn't screwed over their customers. They should have sent out an email stating that they were throttling the connections, and they'd also have to suspend any early termination fees. To keep customers at that point they'd probably have had to reduce rates as well. I'm not saying that throttling is ok with me, just that they could have held up in court if they hadn't been greedy dicks.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152903)

when was the first iphone released?

how long has att been claiming they need to do this?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39154053)

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/06/23/why-verizon-dropped-its-unlimited-data-plan/ [time.com] - it seems AT&T spent 19 billion dollars upgrading their network over the last couple of years. Verizon spent 17 billion. I sincerely doubt either company could sustain higher levels of investment in their networks without significantly raising prices. Is that what you'd prefer?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153045)

In addition, they could also have published clear specifications on when this throttling would occur and relaxed just how limited it was.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153473)

natural throttling happens on the network without extra effort when it's transferring near it's limits.

at&t's throttling is throttling just for the sake of being dicks, regardless of the network congestion. it's not qossing, it's just making it unfeasible for you to actually use the network to create data transfer bills for them.. you know, running torrents during the night or whatever it is that normal internet connections are used for.

it should be noted that at&t has plenty of moolah in bank to upgrade the network, but why bother when american sheeple are happy with paying for more?(and they can use not upgrading the backbone as an excuse for mergers to get more air bandwidth).

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153733)

Neither does a study in future usage projections, but they should have done that 10 years ago, too.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152809)

Why would they upgrade their network when they can just charge oligopoly prices, and return the profits to the CEO^D^D^D shareholders?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152819)

Uh, that's what the whole T-Mobile purchase was about. They were trying to buy T-Mobile's bandwidth. You didn't think they were just after the cute girl in the pink dress, did you?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152863)

Uh, you think that's what the proposed T-Mobile purchase was about? They were trying to reduce competition, not increase capacity.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

LordArgon (1683588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152953)

Whoa! Hold on, guys... Can't it be both?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154009)

Analysis shows they could have done the needed upgrades cheaper than the cost of buying T-Mobile. Since they have been told NO, I notice they didn't take the money they had at the ready and start upgrading their network.

Essentially, YES, they just wanted the cute girl in the pink dress to quit telling people how crappy they are.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (5, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152937)

If the network is so limited, they should stop selling "unlimited data" and then saying that bandwidth is not the same as data (which is their core argument).

t-mobile does the same thing, and it is absolutely false advertising. The level of deceit is amazing - they have showboat aps on their front webpage for streaming video and TV, they show ads with people watching the game in a restaurant, but if you do these things, you're going to get throttled to the point that your smartphone becomes useless.

It's like going to an all you can eat buffet, and getting your first plate of food with no problem, but each subsequent bite of food has to be acquired spoonful by spoonful after waiting in line each time.

Maybe instead of spending all their money on tricking customers and attempted mergers, they should, oh, I don't know, build out their infrastructure to meet the level of use that is to be expected with the products they sell?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153015)

How is it false advertising? TMobile never guarantees a minimum bandwidth. They only guarantee a constant connection.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (2)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153097)

Sure they do. When you buy a 3G or 4G device, you are buying bandwidth capability. Plain and simple.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (5, Insightful)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153209)

False advertising--and indeed most law--involves what a reasonable person would expect. A reasonable person seeing particular speeds advertised right next to an unlimited plan does not expect the unlimited plan to be throttled. A reasonable person who signed up for an unlimited plan at a certain speed isn't going to expect that speed to suddenly decrease while other people with a limited plan are seeing the original speeds.

Most of meatspace isn't highly technical or bound by discrete laws, and judges (particularly in small claims court) tend to favor the little guy who doesn't get paid to know the law inside-and-out. They rule based upon common when there's any wriggle room. Contract law also favors the weaker party any time there is lack of specificity.

This is honestly not that surprising.

That said, AT&T can almost certainly cancel this guy's service, and should do so. You don't want customers who are going to sue you.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

imuffin (196159) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153947)

That said, AT&T can almost certainly cancel this guy's service, and should do so. You don't want customers who are going to sue you.

If AT&T cancels the service of a customer who is under contract, does AT&T owe that customer an early termination fee?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

Sancho (17056) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154039)

Generally, no. They have clauses that let them cancel for any reason.

But AT&T killed their unlimited plan slightly less than two years ago. It's pretty unlikely that this guy is under contract anymore. Possible, but unlikely.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

flowwolf (1824892) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153251)

They did stop selling unlimited data. RTFA much? This concerns people who contracted into the unlimited data plan while they were selling it.

Also, unlimited data does not mean unlimited bandwidth. The only way you could consider it false advertising is if you decide to be complacent about consumers not educating themselves about the issues at hand. If you bothered to educate yourself about what unlimited data meant, then you wouldn't have made the wrong conclusions and come out of the deal feeling tricked.

I understand that they probably are overselling network capacity. I also understand that perhaps they are not. Maybe they're just maintaining a normal load across the network. Who knows? The point is, you can't blame the corporation entirely. You, the consumer, are jumping into their 3 year contracts with as much enthusiasm as the sales guy has signing you up. Maybe even more.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153383)

So, bandwidth is data divided by time (by definition).

If they are reducing bandwidth there are two possibilities. They are either decreasing the amount of data involved (meaning that data is not unlimited) or increasing time (in which case, they're God and I'm in a world of hurt for criticizing).

I understand that they can't support some of the usage. And while I do think that they should be putting more into infrastructure than they are, I also realize that you can't build the level of systems that they run overnight. It's the deception that bothers me. Especially for those of us who had a pre-throttle unlimited plan and didn't get any sort of grandfathering. It's deceitful and it's unethical.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153723)

This concerns people who contracted into the unlimited data plan while they were selling it.

Then why do they let people keep it?

I had an iPhone 3GS with AT&T's Unlimited plan for about two-and-a-quarter years. When I decided to upgrade to the iPhone 4S, I figured I'd have to forgo my Unlimited plan. "Nope," according to the AT&T person--they were quite happy to give me my old plan with the new phone.

If they're trying to get people off these plans, why are they still offering them to holdover people?

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

randallman (605329) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153785)

It's like going to an all you can eat buffet, and getting your first plate of food with no problem, but each subsequent bite of food has to be acquired spoonful by spoonful after waiting in line each time.

The perfect slashdoter analogy.

Much better than car analogies. Long live restaurant buffet analogies!

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154109)

The perfect slashdoter analogy.

Much better than car analogies. Long live restaurant buffet analogies!

Agreed - This sounds exactly like a chain-restaurant all-you-can-eat crab night. "You'd like more? I'll be back in 30 minutes w/ 2 more legs and 30 minutes after that to ask you if you'd like another 2."

Let's try cars: How about "A full tank of gas for as long as you can drive - With a free sheet to use as a sail for any miles after that!"

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (4, Interesting)

camperslo (704715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153003)

They should innovate their way out of this. There are other ways to shift traffic, incentives to use or support a WiFi traffic path for others, and some advancing picking of video/music so it can be downloaded during traffic dips or via WiFi etc.
It's simple, cheap to do, and customers can be compensated in some way for doing something. Then it's a win for all involved.

If regulatory agencies wont help, some should sue AT&T over the continuing unjustified price bumps even for slower grade DSL. It looks like a conspiracy to make it less viable for customers to get video programming from other providers. And at the same time, the shift away from reliable copper phone services may leave some areas very vulnerable if an extended emergency hits. Boxes around town with batteries (powering optical to copper converters), and techs hundreds of miles away, can mean serious widespread downtime over a large area in an extended disaster.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153157)

It depends on whether it's the network or the spectrum space they have.
They may just not have enough over-the-air bandwidth to cover the number of users in some areas.
And their attempt to expand their spectrum (T-Mobile purchase) was shot down.

Ugh, I just defended AT&T, I feel dirty now.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153725)

If the network is so limited, they should be trying to upgrade the network.

Building your infrastructure does nothing good for short-term profit, which is what Wall Street and Electronic Trading are all about.

Great for long-term, but it's all about leaving that for the next CEO to wheedle out of banks and assauge fears of robo-investors to raise capital for investment. Us landlubbers are mostly still on copper because it costs money to upgrade to glass. And why upgrade when you can make the same money on the same old crap?

Now, if there were real competition in the market, AT&T would be going at it hammer and tongs. Thanks government oversight, for letting the pieces of the T-1000 come back together...

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154237)

Far easier and cheaper to just throttle everybody. Every data network in the US is oversold for capacity. If everybody used the full capacity 24/7 that 'they pay for', they'd need hundreds of times the network that they have in place right now.

Re:Can't change contract without compensation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153203)

Users are fagets. They should be happy that they have smartphones at all instead of whining about throttling like a bunch of pissing moaning whiny fagets.

Fucking fagets. In other countries, people are starving and don't even have a fucking telephone. At least you fagets get to fill up on semen so you don't go hungry.

Fagets.

Finally, unlimited =/= limited? (1)

Mithent (2515236) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152599)

I wish they couldn't get away with this in the UK... at least as far as advertising standards goes, "unlimited" can mean anything as long as the company can claim that the majority of users don't run into the limit, it seems.

AT&T LLC? (2)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152767)

FTFA

Companies with as many potentially aggrieved customers as AT&T usually brace themselves for a class-action lawsuit. But in its subscriber contract, the Dallas-based company prohibits customers from taking their complaints to class actions or jury trials. The agreement specifies that customers must go to arbitration or small claims court instead. The Supreme Court upheld that clause last year.

Is AT&T now an LLC? How can that clause hold up?

If this was a car rental (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152791)

Can you imagine if you went to rent a car that advertised unlimited mileage that had the same contractual caveats that unlimited data plans have. Your conversation with the agent might go something like this.

"Yes you do get unlimited mileage but if you drive too much then the car will slow down and only go 5 MPH."
"Well how much is too much?"
"There is no set amount, it varies by how much other people are driving. It is only the top 5%"
"Then how am I supposed to know if I am driving to much?"
"Well there is really know way to know, just try to drive as little as possible and you should be fine."

I don't think anyone would stand for that kind of car rental contract.

Re:If this was a car rental (5, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153253)

Good analogy; I like the "all you can eat buffet one" myself. The first plate is fine, but after that, you have to go to the back of a long line, and are only allowed to take a single spoonful of food back to your table. And no eating in line.

And while you're doing this, you have to look at the posters on the walls proclaiming how yummy the food is, how much better your life is because you're eating it, and how filling it is.

Re:If this was a car rental (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153579)

I always thought I could set up an outstanding and wildly profitable "All you can eat" place. Suckers ^w Customers would get their first plateful, and then I'd throw them out, telling them "That's all you can eat. Beat it."

And if they get uppity, I'd prove that they are no longer capable of eating by breaking their jaws.

But, alas, you can't do things like that in the real world. Just services and software.

Re:If this was a car rental (1, Informative)

eth1 (94901) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153669)

Can you imagine if you went to rent a car that advertised unlimited mileage that had the same contractual caveats that unlimited data plans have. Your conversation with the agent might go something like this.

"Yes you do get unlimited mileage but if you drive too much then the car will slow down and only go 5 MPH."
"Well how much is too much?"
"There is no set amount, it varies by how much other people are driving. It is only the top 5%"
"Then how am I supposed to know if I am driving to much?"
"Well there is really know way to know, just try to drive as little as possible and you should be fine."

I don't think anyone would stand for that kind of car rental contract.

Well... that IS in fact what happens when everyone is driving too much... The rental agency is happy to rent you a Corvette for lots of money that can do almost 200MPH, in spite of the fact that most roads are "throttled" to 30-70MPH. And if there are too many people driving, you might only get 5MPH.

Re:If this was a car rental (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39154203)

In that case, it's the road throttling you, not the rental company. AT&T is making you drive 5 mph on a mostly clear highway being passed by others doing 80.

GoDaddy is doing this to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152801)

I have an "unlimited" account with GoDaddy and I recently got some nasty emails saying I can't exceed 500,000 files on my server.

After scrambling to find a way to place the data in SQL servers, I find out that each SQL database is limited to 1GB.

Unlimited my ass.

Re:GoDaddy is doing this to me (1)

Troke (1612099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152879)

I have an "unlimited" account with GoDaddy

There's your problem.

Re:GoDaddy is doing this to me (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152917)

It's GoDaddy. I hate to blame the victim, but are you surprised?

Re:GoDaddy is doing this to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153813)

I'm definitely surprised it took one guy a month and a half to exceed file limitations for an 'unlimited' service (with a suspiciously low price).

Where are the lawyers to keep this rampant lying and exaggerating in check???

$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (3, Informative)

PatPending (953482) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152817)

The customer contract specifies that those who win an award from the company in arbitration will get at least $10,000. Spaccarelli picked the same amount for his claim. Judge Nadel instead awarded him $85 for each of the 10 months left on his contract.

Er, what part of contract law does this Judge not understand?

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (5, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152877)

The part every judge doesn't understand anymore: that people and corporations are supposed to be treated equally in court.

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153815)

People and corporations should NOT be treated equally in court, or anywhere else. A corporation is a thing, a piece of property, not a person. And since the 1860s, people were not to be treated as property... in theory... In practice we are all property of the state, bought and paid for by your neighborhood corporation.

This comment was posted through a proxy, in order to at least be able to post as frequently as the spammers

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153965)

The part every judge doesn't understand anymore: that people and corporations are supposed to be treated equally in court.

They are, Show up to court with a legal department the size of AT&T and you will be treated the same.

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (4, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152883)

Going before a judge isn't third party arbitration. Is it?

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152905)

The Judge understood fine. Spaccarelli didn't go to arbitration, so why should the clause that pertains to damage awards in arbitration apply in court?

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (2)

PatPending (953482) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153009)

Good point. IANAL; my understanding is: in small claims court one can't sue for punitive damages, just actual damages, so this is apparently how the judge arrived at the amount. Then again, isn't $85 greater than what he was paying per month anyway, so he must be getting some "extra" money above and beyond his actual damages, right?

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

sglewis100 (916818) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153063)

Good point. IANAL; my understanding is: in small claims court one can't sue for punitive damages, just actual damages, so this is apparently how the judge arrived at the amount. Then again, isn't $85 greater than what he was paying per month anyway, so he must be getting some "extra" money above and beyond his actual damages, right?

The contract probably was $85 a month. AT&T never sold $30 unlimited Internet for mobile phones. It was sold on top of a plan.

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153175)

Man, that's a hollow victory. He gets the money for future months back, now he has to get a new plan that won't have unlimited unless he goes with Sprint. And ATT will probably never accept him as a customer again.

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153995)

if he had gone to arbitration, he wouldn't have won, so the judge should also have made this a case about that and award him the ten grand he would have gotten in arbitration(...IF he had won there..).

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152933)

So you're saying a contract can override a decision by a judge? That doesn't seem right.

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

guspasho (941623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153165)

Talk about a double standard. When the RIAA or MPAA sues their customers, huge - HUGE - punitive damages are involved. But when a customer sues a big corporation like AT&T, there's no punitive damages, and the required award is even disregarded in favor of something resembling actual damages? Where's the disincentive that's supposed to keep AT&T honest?

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153171)

It was during the New Deal that the judicial modification of contracts was hotly debated. The jurisprudence was created that judges can indeed alter contracts with a stroke of their pen. "Pray [they] do not alter it any further"

Re:$850 vs. $10,000 -- WTF, Judge! (2)

Jaytan (1163393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153531)

Small claims court isn't arbitration.

throttling is the right solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152831)

But it's the sales they need to be throttling, not the use.

legal analysis fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39152885)

OMG. They lost in small claims court where they were represented by a local manager. I'm sure AT&T is expecting this "judgement" to really threaten them.

ISPs ... (2)

issicus (2031176) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152951)

My ISP did not upgrade my dsl speed to what a new user would get. I noticed one day while looking at their data plans that I was not getting the 3mbits I was supposed too, far from it in fact 700kbits. I had to call them and have them and tell them to increase it. I think that says a lot about the industry.

US Cellular (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39152957)

I get 5GB per month plus free Wifi HotSpot tether for only $30 a month. They may not have iPhones, but who cares if it's going to cost a fortune to use it.

Re:US Cellular (1)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153317)

I have something better than iPhone - a Galaxy Nexus and I'm getting same plan. They throttle at 5 gigs, but I understand and have no issue with this.

I have a sense this is an entitlement issue. People feel entitled to unlimited _and_ unthrottled data, when it doesn't seem AT&T is promising that. Maybe AT&T just needs to make clear that you get X gigs of data at 4g speeds, and unlimited data beyond that at slower speeds. I have a feeling people would still cry about it.

Re:US Cellular (1)

fred911 (83970) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153341)

So buy an Iphone or an Android or whatever device you want. Sounds like a decent price on the bandwidth. Does it matter what device you use?

btw, I have unlimited, unthrottled 3.5g service for the equivalent price of $23, in SA. I absolutly abuse the service, torrenting, tethering, running an ap, using voip even swapping the sim to another device and I dont use any voice services they sell. All on a prepaid sim. I've never had a problem.

A big oops for AT&T (4, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153001)

I have an unlimited plan on my phone and so far I have not been throttled. I also have a 2 gig plan for my iPad. Last week I subscribed to Clear, now I have a mobile wifi hotspot. In my area the coverage is pretty good and I can hook up to 8 devices up to it. As a result I am canceling my iPad data plan. In short, even though I wasn't directly affected, I am dropping their service.

I wouldn't have even looked into Clear if they hadn't started messing with their customers.

One of two things is happening here. (0, Troll)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153295)

Either AT&T is false advertising, or people are confused as to what "unlimited data" means.

You can get unlimited data and still be throttled. Those are not contradictory. In fact I'm on T-Mobile's prepaid plan, $30 and I get "unlimited" data. But guess what, they clearly state that it's unlimited and only up to 5 gigs of it is at 3g speeds. I understand this, and agree to it.

So someone with a clear head please explain, is this just bullshit whining of people who don't understand that there is no _speed_ component in the phrase "unlimited data" and it's perfectly legitimate to throttle at some point as long as it's disclosed, or is it truly AT&T advertising unlimited data at guaranteed 3g or 4g speeds?

Re:One of two things is happening here. (5, Insightful)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153501)

So, do you understand what the definition of bandwidth is? It's real simple: bandwidth = data / time

If they lower bandwidth, they have to be either lowering data (meaning not unlimited within the constraints of 3G or 4G), or they are increasing time (which obviously is impossible).

Furthermore, the throttling was not in the older contracts; those got changed without grandfathering. And the text concerning the redefinition of unlimited, while present, is buried pretty deep in the contract.

Ice this cake with the sort of advertisements shown, the aps show cased (streaming video, watching the game wherever you are, etc) along with the whole push of fastest network capabilities and such, and absolutely a false picture is generated.

You wouldn't accept an all you can eat buffet that you can only remove food from one teaspoon at a time, unless it was made abundantly clear to you before hand that this was the case. And even then, you'd look askance at anyone offering such a deal with a name like "unlimited food" or "all you can eat".

Re:One of two things is happening here. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153841)

"If they lower bandwidth, they have to be either lowering data (meaning not unlimited within the constraints of 3G or 4G), or they are increasing time (which obviously is impossible)."

Uh, no it's not. They can (and are) increasing the amount of time it takes to transmit the data to you.

Re:One of two things is happening here. (2)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 2 years ago | (#39154259)

Lol, yeah. Was going to write same (seemingly obvious to me and you) reply. What in the world is he talking about? They certainly can change time (the time it takes to download shit).

Re:One of two things is happening here. (1)

HapSlappy_2222 (1089149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153887)

Flatly agree with Fork on this one, Fred.

Frankly, phone companies with a fervor for fixing frustration and financial feasibility really need to free us to flood our phones at a flat fee for the foreseeable future while factoring in a fleet and fixed.... uh.... flandwidth (?).

Maybe alliteration will help them remember. Shrug.

Re:One of two things is happening here. (2)

prestonmichaelh (773400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153659)

So someone with a clear head please explain, is this just bullshit whining of people who don't understand that there is no _speed_ component in the phrase "unlimited data" and it's perfectly legitimate to throttle at some point as long as it's disclosed, or is it truly AT&T advertising unlimited data at guaranteed 3g or 4g speeds?

The problem is that, at the time these "unlimited data" plans were sold and the contracts were signed, there were no constraints (i.e. throttling). iPhones started killing AT&Ts network, so they stopped selling "unlimited data" plans and started only selling only plans with a specified amount of data and prearranged overage charges (2 GB, 5 GB, etc.)

The people with existing "unlimited data" contracts were grandfathered in and for a time, nothing changed. Recently they have started throttling the grandfathered "unlimited data" customers, something that was never part of the original agreement. That is what everyone is so upset about.

Re:One of two things is happening here. (2)

Nexion (1064) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153711)

I think the point is that this is deceptive marketing. You maybe look at the term "unlimited data" and separate out the speed component, but most people do not. This is intentional on the part of their marketing. Otherwise they would advertise it as "unlimited data, throttled throughput" and sell far fewer contracts because of it. Whatever they bury in the contract makes it a case of bait and switch. Like taking a test drive in a Ferrari, agreeing to pay only $10,000 for it and then they put a massive contract in front of you where the fine print reads that they actually deliver a Pinto.

True, your an idiot for thinking you were going to get a Ferrari for 10k, true you could have read every word of that contract, but in the end you have grounds to take this before a judge to rectify the situation. In the end you either get the Ferrari you test drove, or the contract nullified.

I've had the iPhone since they came out and have an unlimited plan. I have a second iPhone on the account given to a friend as well that is not unlimited. Service is terrible. In fact saying it is terrible gives it too much credit. We've both suffered not just throttling or extreme slowness, but at times network outage in areas where we typically have connectivity.

I've been pondering a lawsuit to end the contracts and move to Verizon. True, I wont have unlimited service, but at least I'll be getting that for which I have paid. I left Verizon because AT&T was the only game in town for iPhones. I have regretted it ever since, but only in the last three months has service been so terrible as to think worthy of showing up to court to sue them. They've ruled out class action lawsuits to allow them to conduct themselves in a manor that would cause great financial loss if the customer didn't have to show up to court.

It's sad they didn't just upgrade their network. They say the best part of AT&T is me, but I disagree. The best part are the customer service representatives. The worst part by far is their executive management.

Re:One of two things is happening here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39154283)

"Just upgrade their network". Hee-hee-hee. Snort. Giggle, Chuckle. Guffaw.

AT&T had a gross revenue of approximately 30 billion dollars last year. Which pocket are they going to pull, say, 2 billion dollars out of to upgrade their core network infrastructure to every 4G tower? Because that's what that kind of wholesale "upgrade the network" would take.

Re:One of two things is happening here. (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 2 years ago | (#39153797)

It's a good point: You don't get charged for data overages or the like.

Part of the issue is that, while T-Mobile is clear about what will happen, AT&T is not. You purchase Unlimited Data on your 3G plan, you expect an unlimited amount of data at 3G speeds. To suddenly get a note saying, "Guess what? You use too much data so we're slowing you down" is a bit off. There isn't even a, "We're going to start throttling your speed when you download 5GB, 3GB, or whatever." It's completely arbitrary.

Are they kidding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153451)

2gb?!?

Do they know that just downloading ONE DVD requires 8gb?!?

Obligatory.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39153783)

"I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

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