“AT&T promised unlimited data — without qualification — and failed to deliver on that promise,” Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release. “While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised.”
Under the settlement, which resolves a 2014 FTC lawsuit, AT&T is barred from “making any representation about the speed or amount of its mobile data, including that it is ‘unlimited,’ ” without prominently disclosing relevant restrictions, according to an FTC news release. Hidden hyperlinks or fine print will not suffice, the agency said.
The $60 million will be put toward partial refunds for affected customers. Consumers will not have to submit a claim to receive a refund; current customers will receive a credit on their bills, and former customers will receive checks for what they are owed.
“Even though it has been years since we applied this network management tool in the way described by the FTC, we believe this is in the best interests of consumers,” AT&T said in a statement emailed to The Post.
AT&T tried to fend off the FTC in court for years, saying the agency didn’t have jurisdiction over the case. A long legal battle ensued, but an appeals court judge sided with the FTC in 2018.
The Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T $100 million in 2015 over similar allegations. The FCC said it received thousands of complaints from customers about throttled data speeds, and that the agency’s investigation found that customers saw slowed service for 12 days per billing cycle.
“The AT&T throttling scandal is an important case study into how dominant firms operating without meaningful competition can easily renege on their contractual obligations and cheat consumers who have almost no recourse,” FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a statement Tuesday.
AT&T rejected Chopra’s statement.
“We couldn’t disagree more with Commissioner Chopra’s baseless characterization of the case," AT&T said in a separate statement emailed to The Post. "None of his allegations were ever proved in court. We were fully prepared to defend ourselves, but decided settling was in the best interests of consumers.”