The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that AT&T is in hot water for misleading consumers about its so-called “unlimited” mobile data plans. The telecommunications giant could face a $100,000 fine, WLTX 19 reports.
AT&T was caught “severely” slowing data speeds, in contradiction to its advertisements, without notifying customers who purchased the unlimited data plan. The FCC added that AT&T’s practices violated the agency’s FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order, better known as net neutrality rules.
“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”
“When customers consumed more than five gigabytes of data for the month, AT&T, according to the FCC, slowed down their data transmission speeds ” to levels that made using mobile apps difficult or impossible,” WLTX 19 wrote. This tactic is called “throttling” and has become more common in the telecommunications industry.
More wireless carriers are “tightening” access to their networks, due to the massive demand for data, to regulate traffic and boost profits, but customers are usually notified about the scale-back.
The FCC said that it has received “thousands of complaints” concerning AT&T’s “unlimited” data plan service. “The customers who were subject to speed reductions were slowed for an average of 12 days per billing cycle,” WLTX 19 added.
The FCC said that anyone who is still subscribed to AT&T’s unlimited data plan, which the carrier discontinued for new customers, has the right to use as much data as they please.
Refuting the FCC’s claims, AT&T stated that the agency knew “for years” that it has been using throttling as a practice and “all of the major carriers use it.”
“We have been fully transparent with our customers, providing notice in multiple ways and going well beyond the FCC’s disclosure requirements,”AT&T said in a statement.
The FCC issued AT&T a “notice of apparent liability” and the carrier has 30 days to respond. The agency will review the reply and decide whether AT&T will be required to pay the $100,000 fine.