AT&T customer wins $850 in iPhone ‘throttling’ case

“When AT&T started slowing down the data service for his iPhone, Matt Spaccarelli, an unemployed truck driver and student, took the country’s largest telecommunications company to small claims court. And won,” Peter Svensson reports for The Associated Press. “His award: $850.”

“Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel found in favor of Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley on Friday, saying it wasn’t fair for the company to purposely slow down his iPhone, when it had sold him an ‘unlimited data’ plan,” Svensson reports. “Spaccarelli could have many imitators. AT&T has some 17 million customers with ‘unlimited data’ plans who can be subject to throttling.”

Svensson reports, “That’s nearly half of its smartphone users. AT&T forbids them from consolidating their claims into a class action or taking them to a jury trial. That leaves small claims actions and arbitration… Companies with as many potentially aggrieved customers as AT&T usually brace themselves for a class-action lawsuit. But last year, the Supreme Court upheld a clause in the Dallas-based company’s subscriber contract that prohibits customers from taking their complaints to class actions or jury trials.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jeremy” for the heads up.]

45 Comments

      1. Not to mention the cost to AT&T of defending themselves in a multitude of jurisdictions. They might as well concede defeat now rather than suffer the death of thousands of cuts.

        1. Muwahahahahahahahaha 😀

          Even if it’s a fraction of 17 million… let’s say only 100,000 are on the grandfathered unlimited plan.

          100,000 x $850 = 85 MILLION dollars.

          Add to that the lawyer fees required to go to court with each individual customer, and this would come out to well above $100 MILLION for AT&T.

    1. according to AT&T, only two percent of the unlimited plan users are subject to throttling. That would mean a much smaller number of potential lawsuits than 17 million.

      1. No, it’s the “top 5%” and who is to say:
        1. that this is always the same top 5%.
        2. that only the people throttled are effected.*

        * If I told a group of 20 people that I was going to shoot 1 of them, every month. Do you think only the person shot would be effected by that?

        1. Correct, it’s 5% not 2%. Regardless, the other 95% (give or take) are not being throttled and therefore cannot sue.

          To answer your points
          1. Is why i said “give or take”
          2. huh? AT&T clearly said they would begin throttling the top 5% of their unlimited users once they went over a specific data amount per month. So the other 95% (or so) are not affected.

          1. I have despised AT&T for a long time. AT&T regularly provides reminders of why they suck. Unfortunately, the rest suck nearly as much, and occasionally more.

            The rest of the AT&T customers with unlimited contracts *are* affected because they are subject to the same ambiguous throttling policy as the ones who actually get nailed by it each month. Therefore, it affects how and when they utilize their data service and places them in jeopardy of unwittingly exceeding the cap each and every month. At the very least, unlimited contracts should receive at least 3GB before any sort of throttling should be considered. And the throttling should be reasonable, not draconian.

            It is a very clever scheme on AT&T’s part because, by scaring customers with unlimited contracts, they will tend to use less data and gradually reduce the level of the 5% threshold. Eventually, you either go to the 3GB plan or you get screwed. Actually, you get screwed either way.

            1. “It is a very clever scheme on AT&T’s part because, by scaring customers with unlimited contracts, they will tend to use less data and gradually reduce the level of the 5% threshold. Eventually, you either go to the 3GB plan or you get screwed. Actually, you get screwed either way.”

              Not me. I plan to turn off wifi on my phone and let my Netflix app play all day until I get a nasty email/text from AT&T. If they try to throttle me, I will throttle them with a lawsuit.

          2. But they said it after the customer signed up for the “unlimited” plan, which was offered at a premium price. So ATT took the premium money, then when the customer used the service they paid for, ATT said “oops, we changed our minds. You don’t get the service, but we’ll keep your money.”

          1. Right…let’s give that a little thought…

            Living in continual fear of being shot?
            Changing how you live in an effort to reduce the chances of getting shot?
            Dodging the near misses each month?

            No effect? You are so full of bull, BLN. You have the reasoning ability of an infant…tapeworm.

            1. I wasn’t commenting on the $850 judgement, dipweed. I simply debunked your dumbass comment that not being shot meant no effect.

              AT&T’s policy on grandfathered “unlimited” plans is ridiculous. How that escapes you is beyond understanding. Tapeworm…

        2. That’s the thing… as the top 5% gets throttled, their bandwidth used goes down… the top 5% of bandwidth consumed now encompasses a larger range of users. Eventually people just accept it.

          They say top 5% because that way they can determine what that really means.

          They should make it clear that if you go over “x” GB you get throttled. But they won’t do that… because then they can’t change the parameters as it suits them.

          1. AT&T haven’t given an exact number, but I believe I read (on Appleinsider, i think?) that the ones getting throttled were users over 3GB per month.. And the typical user averages about 500mb per month.

            1. Rsbell is right. Two people I know have gotten the warning at 2GB. It doesn’t REALLY seem to be a “top 5% thing” – I’ve seen many reports of other people online getting it at 2GB, as if it is a set limit.

              It seems pretty obvious that ATT is doing it at 2GB to try to get people to take the 3GB plan at the same price. This way, the victim can rationalize that they are getting more for their money, and ATT gets them off the unlimited plan.

              Dirty tactic.

              One of the two people I know who got the warning (and then subsequently throttled) did exactly that – switched to the 3GB plan.

              I wonder how many people are falling for it? Maybe once this news gets out, everyone who gets throttled will sue in small claims court as well.

        3. … don’t understand that 5% THIS month and 5% NEXT month, etc, can result in a percentage between 5% and 60% over a year’s time. Sure, chances are good that the number throttled in a year would likely be at the lower end of the scale – 10%-20%? – that is of little consolation to the >10% who were throttled.
          You get throttled THIS month and you are “good” next month – and a different 5% takes the hit. The following month, more are “being good”, and a different 5% are punished.
          Each and every one of these signed up for unlimited service!

    2. It is just a matter of time when the big companies and the class action lawyers start throwing money to the politicians to stop this nonsense. How it is much better for the people and the big corporate companies to “settle” and give everyone giftcards.

      1. True, but this is the second “David” to go toe-to-toe with a “Goliath” and win (I think the other was vs. Honda). Maybe judges are willing to stick it to companies that break their word and hide behind their lawyers.

        I just know that if they throttle me, I’m going to throttle them right back.

  1. Had this been brought to Judge Judy, she would of screamed at him to go look for a job instead of sitting on the sofa spending unlimited time and speed surfing the internet.
    sorry had to say it haha but honestly, its good he won, telco’s cannot or should not pull stunts like that. But also, its funny and I wonder.. of the people “abusing” unlimited data, how many are also unemployed? And what really are they doing? When I was on unlimited, i never breeched 1.8gb a month and I was doing lots.

  2. With having iHeart radio, iCloud and everything else including this app that is Internet based it is rly easy to become apart of the “5%”. I have unlimited and I got an email and a txt when I hit 1.5gb. I live on the southeast side of Houston. That’s less than the 3gb that’s the same price. WTF?!?! These guys need to be sued! If u ever get the notification saying ur approaching the top 5% of data usage, save it and take them to small claims court!!

  3. Yep they throttled me at 1.5 gb my data is worse than old school AOL DIAL UP remember those days and I just signed into this contract had I have known Verizon would have gotten my buisness I know they do it also but atop rather give my hard earned money to anyone but AT&T

  4. So, does this Small Claims ruling mean that the guy no longer can be throttled? I don’t think so.

    Another way of looking at this is that essentially, the court reimbursed him for the real (unsubsidized) cost of his iPhone, though I realize the original hardware cost was not actually part of the formula used to calculate the award.

  5. AT&T failed so miserably with this, and they didn’t have to. Other carriers have very clearly explained throttling. Look at T-Mobile’s prepaid unlimited plans: $50, $60 and $70 — all are unlimited talk/text/web, but with different throttling limits, all clearly explained, so you know EXACTLY what you’re paying for and when you’ll be throttled.

    AT&T apparently decided to figure out how to optimise user experience for their subscribers by taking out the biggest offenders in a most efficient way. They’ll look at a particular network segment (say, Metro NYC), take the top 5% users, determine how much they’re using and throttle them. In some geographical areas, this may begin at 3GB, elsewhere, where overall usage is low, but network congestion is still high (due to poor tower coverage), it may happen at as low as 1GB.

    There should be no surprise that so many people would be outraged by this apparently totally arbitrary policy.

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