FTC files suit against AT&T for data throttling

The Washington Post reports that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed suit against AT&T on Tuesday for throttling the data access of consumers with unlimited plans. The FTC has summarized aspects of their complaint in a press release published yesterday. They allege that AT&T misled customers with unlimited data plans by failing to adequately disclose that when they reached a certain percentage of usage on their plans the company would throttle their data access by reducing Internet speeds.

The complaint alleges that AT&T began throttling data speeds by as much as 80 to 90% for customers who had used as little as 2 gigabytes of data on their unlimited plans starting in 2011. The FTC charges that "AT&T violated the FTC Act by changing the terms of customers’ unlimited data plans while those customers were still under contract, and by failing to adequately disclose the nature of the throttling program to consumers who renewed their unlimited data plans," according to the October 28 press release.

AT&T claims that they did notify their customers of the throttling through emails or texts when they reached a certain limit on their data plans and defended its practices as "fully transparent and consistent with the law and our contracts," according to the Washington Post.The wireless carrier further stated that it "manages its network resources to provide the best possible service to all customers." AT&T is currently paying out a $105 million settlement of another case to the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the 50 states, plus Washington DC, for unlawfully billing customers for unauthorized third party charges.

The complaint regarding data throttling was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The FTC reports that the vote authorizing the complaint was unanimous and that the organization worked closely with the FCC in its investigation of AT&T. The FTC generally "works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them," according to their website. The FCC"regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories."