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iPhone user successfully sues AT&T over 3G throttling

post #1 of 78
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In a California court ruling on Friday, an AT&T customer who saw a reduction in his iPhone's download speed due to high usage was awarded $850 on claims that the telecom's throttling measures are unfair to consumers.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel handed down the decision in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Vally, bringing an end to the small claims case that was filed in January which asserted that AT&T unlimited data plan users' bandwidth speeds, reports the Associated Press.

The ruling could affect the roughly 17 million subscribers, or a little under half of AT&T's smartphone customer base, who pay for a so-called unlimited data plan that was first introduced alongside the original iPhone.

The nation's second-largest mobile carrier ended its all-you-can-eat plan in 2010, however the company allowed existing users to keep their unlimited service on the condition that the privilege would end if they ever opted to go with a tiered contract. In other words, an unlimited subscriber cannot return to the endless data plan if ever they choose one of AT&T's tiered options.

As smartphones grew in popularity after the launch of Apple's handset and smartphones running Google's Android OS, data bandwidth became increasingly scarce. In an attempt to stem the swelling tide of data users, AT&T and other telecoms made the decision to throttle the download speeds of the top five percent of "heavy users."

An inherent issue with the new throttling model is that an unlimited plan subscriber can see speed reductions if they are deemed to be within the top five percent of heavy users, regardless of the amount of data used. Tiered subscribers are never throttled.

In Spaccarelli's case, speed was reduced after about 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data usage during a particular billing cycle, which is far less than the identically priced 3 GB tiered plan. Currently, unlimited access to AT&T's network costs $30 per month for grandfathered-in customers, while tiered plans run $20, $30 and $50 per month for 300 MB, 3 GB and 5 GB, respectively.

According to an in-court argument by AT&T area sales manager Peter Hartlove, the carrier has the right to modify or cancel a contract if data usage is so high that it bogs down the network.

In addition, a clause in contracts signed by data users prohibits customers from joining a class action suit or jury trial, and instead must take any grievance to arbitration or a small claims court.

The agreement also claims that if a plaintiff wins an arbitration case, the minimum award from AT&T would be $10,000. Although Spaccarrelli asked for the same compensation, the small claims court judge only awarded him for $85 for each of the remaining 10 months of his contract.


Sample of AT&T's pre-throttle warning messages. | Source: Simple Mobile Review


In theory, every customer who has been throttled could potentially take the Dallas-based carrier to court if they feel that the speed reduction is a violation of rights.

AT&T's attempt to clear data congestion has been vague since its introduction in 2011, as the system is based on a sliding scale and not a set bandwidth cap. User also won't know if they are part of the top five percent until a warning message is received, and by that point they only have a few days of regular usage before seeing a reduction of speed.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 78
The Top 5% figure makes no sense, what if it's a slow month some regular user just happens to in that top 5%, it should certainly only affect users that are actually using a significant percentage of available bandwidth on a per region basis. Otherwise it's just stupid.
post #3 of 78
How would we even know our data speed was slowed???
I have a horrible service, on top of it now I have to suffer slow data speeds.
post #4 of 78
"was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"

So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.
post #5 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by luckyw View Post

"was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"

So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.

Sounds like $85 per month but yes they should edit.
post #6 of 78
This is good news. Nice to see a win for the consumer.

AT&T's throttling practices with their grandfathered unlimited users is BS and ruins the unlimited aspect of it.

Who wants an unlimited supply of slow internet speeds?
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post #7 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by luckyw View Post

"was awarded $850 on claims" AND THEN... "awarded him for $85 for the remaining 10 months of his contract"

So is it $850 or $85? That's a big difference.

It is $85 a month for the 10 months in his contract, so a total of $850 for the 10 months.
post #8 of 78
Great. The millions of grandfathered users should follow suit.

I plan to.
post #9 of 78
I got the throttling message at 1.5GB, however I'm nearing 5GB now and still don't feel any difference (in San Jose, CA) although a friend of mine in Oakland, CA told me his had become unusable. Hopefully this will make them think twice about actually throttling.
I find it really galling that they essentially claim I'm bogging down their network at 1.5GB, while they have no trouble selling 3GB contracts -- so these users are not bogging down their network then? They're just scam artists, thieves and monopolists.
post #10 of 78
Legal fees of thousands of customer going to court will be painful, but most won't be bothered.

I just find it amazing that a company is permitted to sell something as unlimited and then limit it.

They need to be held accountable for honest marketing. Thieves and liars! What is this nation coming to.
post #11 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post

I got the throttling message at 1.5GB, however I'm nearing 5GB now and still don't feel any difference (in San Jose, CA) although a friend of mine in Oakland, CA told me his had become unusable. Hopefully this will make them think twice about actually throttling.
I find it really galling that they essentially claim I'm bogging down their network at 1.5GB, while they have no trouble selling 3GB contracts -- so these users are not bogging down their network then? They're just scam artists, thieves and monopolists.

How the hell do people use 5GB of 3G? I'm serious. Do you not have wifi at home? Do you stream videos all day? I've never hit 500MB, and I use it constantly outside wifi. Seriously, what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data? Do you not have shit to do, or just spend the entire day, wherever you are, looking at your phones?
post #12 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

The Top 5% figure makes no sense, what if it's a slow month some regular user just happens to in that top 5%, it should certainly only affect users that are actually using a significant percentage of available bandwidth on a per region basis. Otherwise it's just stupid.

I actually got one of those dreaded high-usage emails yesterday, and it made it clear I wouldn't get throttled over a single month of "top 5%" usage. So it's not quite as bad as THAT, but still.

For a communications company you'd think AT&T would be better at, you know, communicating.
post #13 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post

This is good news. Nice to see a win for the consumer.

AT&T's throttling practices with their grandfathered unlimited users is BS and ruins the unlimited aspect of it.

Who wants an unlimited supply of slow internet speeds?

True, but is the contract for unlimited data amounts or unlimited data speed?

I can see the need for throttling in extreme cases, but starting the throttling at such low levels is going way too far.
post #14 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

True, but is the contract for unlimited data amounts or unlimited data speed?

I can see the need for throttling in extreme cases, but starting the throttling at such low levels is going way too far.

Or unlimited time. Surely even the dullest people understand that unlimited is defined as being a specific metric not all possible metrics.

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post #15 of 78
Well throttling is a bone-headed move by AT&T -- they should look at the data use over the entire time as a customer. i.e. if I am a customer since 2007 with the original iPhone, compared to all other users, how many days, weeks, months of those years have I used as the top 5% -- guaranteed in my case, the numbers would indicate that AT&T made money on me, and they can afford me doing top 5% once in a while because they have made their money on me over YEARS of low/average data usage!

So much for common sense at the old phone company.
post #16 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

How the hell do people use 5GB of 3G? I'm serious. Do you not have wifi at home? Do you stream videos all day? I've never hit 500MB, and I use it constantly outside wifi. Seriously, what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data? Do you not have shit to do during the day?

You use it constantly to do WHAT, exactly? Play Solitaire?
Streaming 128Kbps audio (like Sirius satellite radio) uses up 56MB/hour; Netflix at its lowest quality, 300MB/hour. You don't have to be a torrent junkie to use up gigabytes of data.
I mostly stream Sirius during my commute, and I think that's completely within reasonable use and what I pay for and the bill of goods I was sold. There you go, maybe you learned something today and you'll go to bed a little less dumb than you woke up this morning.
post #17 of 78
I stream Pandora to/from work during my commute. I also check facebook & email, play games, send 1000's of messages & pics via iMessage and watch quite a few youtube videos. The highest amount of monthly data I've ever used was 2.2GB.. and that was while I was biz travel to San Francisco for 9 days and I was using my iPhone's WiFi hotspot to play around 40 hours of Call of Duty Black Ops on my Xbox 360 that I brought along with me. My average use is around 1GB a month.

While I cant personally understand how someone is using 5, even 10 or more GB's of data a month. Unlimited is UNLIMITED. Dont advertise it and do not call it that, if it is not. Even still I cant help but feel so sorry for these big telecom companies when I have no doubt 10GB's of wifi data costs them pennies.. literally.

I hope two things comes from this. 1) That several 1000's of throttle customers sue AT&T in small claims court. 2) That AT&T (and Verizon/TMobile) change their stance on Unlimited data.. and keep it truly UNLIMITED. I believe Sprint is the only company that delivers truly unlimited data with no throttling.
post #18 of 78
I love NPR. I want to listen to a complete NPR episode which is available from iTunes as a podcast. I jump in my car for a ride and go to grab the podcast, just to be told I can't download it via 3G because it's over 20 MB. Isn't an unlimited plan unlimited -- why does AT&T or Apple have any say as to what I can download and do with my data plan?
post #19 of 78
Great.

Now bring on FaceTime 3G!
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post #20 of 78
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Originally Posted by GTR View Post

Great.

Now bring on FaceTime 3G!

Coincidently just got a message out of the blue from a friend who JB his iPhone 4S and installed the app that allows FaceTime over '3G'. He said, "FaceTime on 3G is jerky." I know that he's in one of AT&T's best areas for fast data throughput, too. They simply haven't invested in priority QoS to all the service to be real time. I can't imagine them doing so unless Apple pays them in order to get ahead of competing video chat services. This may be different in other countries but in the US this is the case, and not just on AT&T.

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post #21 of 78
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Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

How the hell ... what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data?

Data Hogs ruin it for everybody else. They make us pay higher bills and slow down our connections.
post #22 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

How the hell do people use 5GB of 3G? I'm serious. Do you not have wifi at home? Do you stream videos all day? I've never hit 500MB, and I use it constantly outside wifi. Seriously, what the fuck you do you people do on your phones to consume gigabytes of data? Do you not have shit to do, or just spend the entire day, wherever you are, looking at your phones?

Did you think maybe some of us aren't home all day long? I stream music, send emails, browse my numerous forums, occasionally stream netflix, and similar movie streaming sites on my commutes, while I'm out and about.

I can average about 5-10gb a month...Till I got throttled and now I reach the top 5% just by streaming music alone..

I've been throttled every month since October..tested out my usage differently every month and still exceed 2gb on adverage just by streaming music and email/web use...
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post #23 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

Data Hogs ruin it for everybody else. They make us pay higher bills and slow down our connections.

if someone purchases UNLIMITED , then thats what they are entitled to its not the consumers fault if the seller cannot meet the demand for the product they sold.
dont blame the consumer , blame the seller for the the plan.
how would u feel if you went to an all you can eat buffet , and after your first plate you were cut off , or had your eating untensils and plate removed or other methods to prevent you from getting all you can eat?
post #24 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetpornstar View Post

if someone purchases UNLIMITED , then thats what they are entitled to its not the consumers fault if the seller cannot meet the demand for the product they sold.
dont blame the consumer , blame the seller for the the plan.
how would u feel if you went to an all you can eat buffet , and after your first plate you were cut off , or had your eating untensils and plate removed or other methods to prevent you from getting all you can eat?

How do you feel when you come back the next day and they try to charge you again. The nerveĀ” You already paid for ALL you can eat and there was nothing that implicitly stated that it's only for a single meal or what defines a meal. At least with carriers you are signing a contract that definitively describes what they mean by and in what of the 3 senses they are using unlimited.

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post #25 of 78
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Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

How do you feel when you come back the next day and they try to charge you again. You already paid for ALL you can eat and there was nothing that implicitly stated that it's only for a single meal or what defines a meal. At least with carriers you are signing a contract that definitively describes what they mean by and in what of the 3 senses they are using unlimited.

yes , you signed a contract that offers unlimited, they throttle you when you reach an undefined point which is what is happening they had there day in court and the law sided with the consumer.
post #26 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by muppetpornstar View Post

yes , you signed a contract that offers unlimited, they throttle you when you reach an undefined point which is what is happening they had there day in court and the law sided with the consumer.

Good luck using your old receipt to Golden Corral with that argument. I have a feeling the judge won't side with you.

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post #27 of 78
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Originally Posted by muppetpornstar View Post

yes , you signed a contract that offers unlimited

WHAT.

Quote:
they throttle you when you reach an undefined point

Of WHAT.
post #28 of 78
A $85 for each month left on your contract payout amounts to being paid off for the rest of your contract. It's not enough to be punitive.

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post #29 of 78
Base landline rates up 50% in 4 years. Just got notice my DSL rate is up 25%. Time to cancel.
post #30 of 78
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Originally Posted by realwarder View Post

Legal fees of thousands of customer going to court will be painful, but most won't be bothered.

I just find it amazing that a company is permitted to sell something as unlimited and then limit it.

They need to be held accountable for honest marketing. Thieves and liars! What is this nation coming to.

word...I guess because technically it's unlimited...

I have unlimited data on T-mobile and when they throttle it goes from like (random numbers follow) 500kb/s to like 1kb/s

How is that even usable AT ALL.

If you're going to throttle they should at least not be complete dicks about it.
post #31 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by AbsoluteDesignz View Post

word...I guess because technically it's unlimited...

I have unlimited data on T-mobile and when they throttle it goes from like (random numbers follow) 500kb/s to like 1kb/s

How is that even usable AT ALL.

If you're going to throttle they should at least not be complete dicks about it.

With AT&T the dick move is throttling users who are paying for a limited amount of usage and to make matters worse then throttling when they are still under 2GB used. That's just bad for business.

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post #32 of 78
Unfortunately, the contracts we sign for service are so one sided I'm surprised they can actually be called a 'contract' at all. I also read an article on CNN today that said throttling provided no discernable improvement in the bandwidth usage for the carriers. Basically, it's a chickens$^t way to get users to move to tiered plans, so they can then bill you for overages.

Along the same lines, a buddy of mine was notified by DirecTV that his bill would be increasing by $5 per month for the last 12 months of his 24 month 'contract'. He called and asked about the increase and they flatly told him 'it says we can do that in the contract, so you're out of luck.'

So much for customer service...
post #33 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post

You use it constantly to do WHAT, exactly? Play Solitaire?
Streaming 128Kbps audio (like Sirius satellite radio) uses up 56MB/hour; Netflix at its lowest quality, 300MB/hour. You don't have to be a torrent junkie to use up gigabytes of data.
I mostly stream Sirius during my commute, and I think that's completely within reasonable use and what I pay for and the bill of goods I was sold. There you go, maybe you learned something today and you'll go to bed a little less dumb than you woke up this morning.

A little less dumb? What the fuck is with you and personal attacks? Why was that necessary? Did I personally offend you and your existence with that question? Yes, I'm aware streaming video consumes a large amount of data. My question was why an average person would need to constantly be watching netflix on a data connection on a phone or streaming shit outside of wifi. Most people actually have jobs during the day, socializing, classes, etc that prevents them from having their noses attached to a screen. So of course you didn't address that and how it pertains to general use scenarios, instead you state the obvious (streaming video consumed data!) then use it to insult my intelligence and personal attacks. I assumed you're one of these data hogs, that uses way, way more than everyone else and fucks it up for everyone. Part of that small demographic that does nothing but stream shit from their phones the whole day with a data connection in an absolutely wasteful manner, then get filled with rage when reasonable throttling is introduced when they exceed average use by a massive margin, using as much data as hundreds of people and clogging up the network uselessly.
post #34 of 78
I am also getting throttled after the warning message. I use about 4GB a month, mostly international radio streaming about 1 hour a day during commute and another 45 minutes a day during workout. On the weekends, I stream about 8 hours each day because I'm outdoors all weekend and want to listen to a station from my previous home country.

Add some light web browsing during the week and I arrive at 4GB. Now throttled. I first got upset when I read the posts from other users that the phone becomes useless. In my case, ATT throttles to 0.2Mbps, which still allows uninterrupted streaming radio and it is still fast enough to hardly notice delays during web browsing (because ping, which is awful for cell phones on 3G or GPRS in general, determines most of the network delays and that doesn't change when throttled).

What this throttling has told me are three things:

* I don't really need 3G speeds for what I use the phone for. So I won't be spending any money on faster service in the future.

* My next phone (may be Android, if Apple doesn't include support for t-mobile) will be unlocked (I'll pay the extra $400 so that I can pop in an international SIM and actually use the phone as intended during international travel without going bankrupt) and on a cheaper carrier than ATT or Verizon.

* ATT are total jokers. Their annoying 4G commercial with the know-it-all douchebags shows usage that would exhaust a 5GB/month plan in about half a day.
post #35 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Good luck using your old receipt to Golden Corral with that argument. I have a feeling the judge won't side with you.

My problem in this fiasco, is with the AT&T contract. Unlimited data should mean no caps. But, a bigger problem with it is thinking that a TOS can stop you from joining a class-action suit. I'm not a lawyer, but I think such no TOS can be binding to sign away rights to representation in the courts. Doing so would set a precedent in Law. AT&T might get away with getting you to agreed, but that's because it hasn't been challenged effectively. There are other parts, in this realm, in that TOS I believe are suspect.

Lawyers please way in??
post #36 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Good luck using your old receipt to Golden Corral with that argument. I have a feeling the judge won't side with you.

Here we go again, Solipsism playing Devil's Advocate just to get attention.....
post #37 of 78
Hey guys,

So do I need to take this case to court in order to get any payment for the slowed down speeds for the last couple of months or will AT&T be automatically required to pay to those who they have affected? Thanks!
post #38 of 78
Quote:
Originally Posted by amethystlocke View Post

Hey guys,

So do I need to take this case to court in order to get any payment for the slowed down speeds for the last couple of months or will AT&T be automatically required to pay to those who they have affected? Thanks!

Whoa, now.

You don't get anything for doing nothing here, and you're not gonna get squat, even if you do try to take them to court. It's in your best interest to wait and see how this actually plays out, but AT&T is going to win in the end.

Actually, I'm really surprised at the telecoms.

If they think they can get away with charging us more/less depending on the time of day we make our calls, why haven't they started charging more/less depending on the time of day people use data?

Think about it. You're charged $10 per megabyte during peak hours and $5 per megabyte otherwise. Just like with calls.

Without new sweeping legislation to prevent them from EVER doing ANYTHING to cap, throttle, or limit bandwidth in the future, any small wins like this one will only cause them to fight back harder.
post #39 of 78
So far this month I've used 42 Gigabytes at home. If I lived on the road I'd need just as much bandwidth depending on the availability of WiFi.

I recognize that these telecommunication companies create their own definitions for the word unlimited. What I don't understand is how a court judge didn't bring the hammer down on AT&T for lying and using the word unlimited in their advertising. It is so sad to see such issues being adjudicated by judges who are probably paid off by some big company.

Why is it that in the agreement AT&T was liable for $10,000 and were only asked to pay-off a contract for ten months? Where are the details? AT&T is squeezing all they can out of customers yet they aren't volunteering to give over that $10,000 for losing the case.
post #40 of 78
Good on ya
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