FCC slaps AT&T with $100-million fine for lying about ‘unlimited’ data plans

What exactly did AT&T think 'unlimited' means?


Kevin Collier


Published Jun 17, 2015   Updated Mar 1, 2020, 1:18 am CST

If you’re an AT&T customer who thought your “unlimited” data plan’s “maximum” plan wasn’t really performing, you’re probably right. The Federal Communication Commission is suing the telecommunications giant for a whopping $100 million for misleading customers about their service.

“The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure,” FCC chair Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

AT&T, the FCC claims, systematically implemented a “Maximum Bit Rate” policy on customers who had unlimited data usage, which somewhat hurts a company’s ability to truthfully claim their data policy is unlimited. Under the policy, customers who reached a certain data cap each month would see their Internet data speeds slow by “orders of magnitude,” according to court filings.

In a statement, AT&T partially rebuffed the charges, saying, “We have been fully transparent with our customers, providing notice in multiple ways and going well beyond the FCC’s disclosure requirements.” But in a press call, a senior FCC official described AT&T’s attempts to disclose their data caps as inaccurate and incomplete.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a completely unrelated, but similarly massive, charge against AT&T. In early April, the two parties settled for $25 million over loose security at AT&T’s third-party customer service centers, resulting in the theft of nearly 300,000 customers’ data.

Photo via Jericho/Wikipedia (CC BY 3.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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*First Published: Jun 17, 2015, 2:09 pm CDT