Lawsuit claims AT&T is overcharging iPhone users for data

A new class action lawsuit claims that AT&T is overcharging its iPhone customers for its data plans. Venture Beat reports that the lawsuit, filed in Oakland, California, alleges that AT&T is boosting data charges by $10 to $15 a month and the rate is sometimes as much as 300 percent off what the company should be charging.

The people involved in the lawsuit claim that they actually brought in an independent firm to conduct tests on AT&T's iPhone data charges to the tune of $80,000. According to the story, "The tests involved buying new iPhones, disabling any applications that could trigger data usage, and letting it sit untouched for two weeks." The lawsuit claims that even with that kind of set up, the bills from AT&T still generated 35 separate charges for data usage.

One of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit, Barry Davis, said that all of the data transactions were overcharged and compared AT&T's billings to getting ripped off at a gas station with a rigged pump. He said that AT&T's billing was like asking "for a gallon of gas, but only get nine-tenths." The lawsuit is asking for unspecified damages.

AT&T quickly defended itself in a response to this lawsuit, saying that it is "without merit". It also said that "background processes" were the reason for the additional charges on the iPhone. However there is no word on what exactly was running in the background of those phones, which the lawsuit said they disabled, to cause the additional data charges.

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I want a lawsuit saying how all cell phone companies are ripping off customers on text messages. Seriously, if you only knew how much that overhead costs to send a 160 character message x 1,000 per person across you would see how they are making a s**t load of money of us.

One issue that I have had knowledge of was that the data service communicates with the phone, if the phone isn't even on, that data that was sent is still classed as data used by the handset even if its not using or even enabled on the phone.

Its like being charged for a phone call that the carrier never sent to your phone, but honest it did happen............

I have heard of practices like this happening before.

Funny thing. This same thing was reported very early on when WP7 came out. Of course, it was blamed on Microsoft. It was ultimately found to be a Yahoo Mail server issue.

Same data situation, different blame. Do people really trust Apple so much that they will blame everyone else first? How is it AT&T's fault that any phone is using large patches of data even when the user does nothing?

Plain and simple. The iPhone is doing something wrong. AT&T is just charging as the contract states.

I thought the idea was, in the absence of collusion or other anti-competitive practices, any price a company charges is legitimate?

This lawsuit makes no mention of data usage on Verizon, probably because they still offer unlimited services, but I doubt that the phantom data usage is limited to AT&T. Apple has a longstanding history of deception and aversion , i.e. location tracking, antenna issues, being virus proof, etc. I would look more at the data IO that the OS is generating before calling out the service provider as they may not be at fault. Alas typical Apple users are always quick to blame everyone and everything else but their precious defective products when problems occur.

And this is the bull**** i'm gonna have to deal with if ATT takes over my provider Tmobile. Tmobile to me was the last good provider left. After that it's gonna just be picking the lesser of two evils

I would love to see the details of their independent firm's testing. Just because you aren't using the phone doesn't mean it's not doing anything! There are background processes that run (just like on any PC) that will consume small amounts of data. They could be sending crash report data or usage data. I'm not that familiar with iPhones (wife had a 3G about a year ago) but I'm willing to bet that BBs, WP7, Android, WebOS, and even Symbian would all generate similar results as the iPhone under the same tests.

This is just another class action lawsuit that won't help consumers and just line the pockets of greedy lawyers with even more money....

The early hours of the morning data usage is very annoying, but apparently it's when the data is reported and aggregated in their system, it's not the actual time of the usage. Also, when the phone goes to sleep, even when WIFI is available it switches over to 3G since it uses less power, so background apps could potentially use 3G when you would not expect it to.

Disabling apps and letting the phone sit untouched is hardly scientific. Don't know about the iPhone, but some OS's poll for updates periodically, or maybe they missed an app. I'm no ATT fan, but from a logical point of view, their testing isn't very solid. Get a new iPhone, and never turn it on. If you see data then, there's a problem.

homeboyrocketshoulders said,
Disabling apps and letting the phone sit untouched is hardly scientific. Don't know about the iPhone, but some OS's poll for updates periodically, or maybe they missed an app. I'm no ATT fan, but from a logical point of view, their testing isn't very solid. Get a new iPhone, and never turn it on. If you see data then, there's a problem.

Wait, how is it "hardly scientific"? I don't think the article gives enough information on the testing for us to determine if they used the scientific method or not.

Exactly. It doesn't even say how much they were charged, just "generated 35 separate charges for data usage". Seriously? This could've easily been checking for updates, and for all we know, these "35 charges" could have totaled 2 cents, since they never tell you the amount (what a shocker...). I call absolute BS.

Tha Bloo Monkee said,
Exactly. It doesn't even say how much they were charged, just "generated 35 separate charges for data usage". Seriously? This could've easily been checking for updates, and for all we know, these "35 charges" could have totaled 2 cents, since they never tell you the amount (what a shocker...). I call absolute BS.

Both of you are using information provided by tech blogs. Neither one of you are getting information directly from the source and I doubt either of you have read the report from the firm who conducted the tests. Your statement that this is absolute BS is completely premature because there isn't enough information out there to come to that conclusion yet.

And FYI: iPhone does not check for OS updates over the air and app updates are only checked when you open the App Store.

The test conducted show that the iPhone is essentially a "leaky faucet" (my words) on AT&T's network.

Shadrack said,
Your statement that this is absolute BS is completely premature because there isn't enough information out there to come to that conclusion yet.

Shadrack said,
The test conducted show that the iPhone is essentially a "leaky faucet" (my words) on AT&T's network.

I thought there wasn't enough information to come to that conclusion yet?

I'm on the 200MB plan now. I've only gone over once in about a years time. I noticed about 5-10MB a night of unexplained data usage when I was monitoring it closely. I hope this law suit shakes them up to fix the problem or loosen up on their data plans.

A big thing to do here would be to take another iPhone or two on different carriers, and test what happens there. So do the same test on Verizon, then head north of the boarder to Canada and test on one of their networks

Sraf said,
A big thing to do here would be to take another iPhone or two on different carriers, and test what happens there. So do the same test on Verizon, then head north of the boarder to Canada and test on one of their networks

that's the proper way to do it. at&t could claim the iphone it's at fault.

I had this issue with my little brother's iPhone.

I signed him up for the 200 MB plan because he rarely used internet on his iPhone except on Wifi at school and home.

However, we found that he would still accumulate over 200 MB of data usage a month. It didn't make sense.

I opened my AT&T bill and turns out his iPhone was downloading 10-25 MB at night. I would see usage at like 3 AM for 24 MB when he was obviously asleep and the iPhone would be at home and connected to Wifi.

I called AT&T and they claimed it was an Apple bug and they couldn't do anything about it. Not surprisingly, they refused to take the random midnight usages off the bill.

I think the jump in size from the low to the mid tier data plans says it all. One is assured to create overage fees while the mid is overkill for the vast majority.

Dashel said,
I think the jump in size from the low to the mid tier data plans says it all. One is assured to create overage fees while the mid is overkill for the vast majority.

My point is that no one was using the phone and it would create phantom charges in the middle of the night even when the iPhone was at home connected to Wifi.

DukeEsquire said,
I had this issue with my little brother's iPhone.

I signed him up for the 200 MB plan because he rarely used internet on his iPhone except on Wifi at school and home.

However, we found that he would still accumulate over 200 MB of data usage a month. It didn't make sense.

I opened my AT&T bill and turns out his iPhone was downloading 10-25 MB at night. I would see usage at like 3 AM for 24 MB when he was obviously asleep and the iPhone would be at home and connected to Wifi.

There had to be an application that was pulling down data. It could not have been a built in process to the iPhone or every single iPhone on 200MB data plans would be hit with overages. I don't know about how the iPhone works but some devices turn off the Wifi connection when the screen turns off to conserve battery. If this is the case then it could have been transmitting that data over the mobile network instead.

DukeEsquire said,
I opened my AT&T bill and turns out his iPhone was downloading 10-25 MB at night. I would see usage at like 3 AM for 24 MB when he was obviously asleep and the iPhone would be at home and connected to Wifi.

It was probably just uploading your geographical location data

/troll

DukeEsquire said,

My point is that no one was using the phone and it would create phantom charges in the middle of the night even when the iPhone was at home connected to Wifi.

Here's an idea. When not using it at night turn it off.

DukeEsquire said,
I had this issue with my little brother's iPhone.

I signed him up for the 200 MB plan because he rarely used internet on his iPhone except on Wifi at school and home.

However, we found that he would still accumulate over 200 MB of data usage a month. It didn't make sense.

I opened my AT&T bill and turns out his iPhone was downloading 10-25 MB at night. I would see usage at like 3 AM for 24 MB when he was obviously asleep and the iPhone would be at home and connected to Wifi.

I called AT&T and they claimed it was an Apple bug and they couldn't do anything about it. Not surprisingly, they refused to take the random midnight usages off the bill.

Same with my wife's phone, she NEVER uses it for anything but a phone when she is not on WiFi, we even disabled automatic checking of emails and she kills all apps when she leaves the house, still we seem to go over 200 MB every month. We finally gave up and had to pay for the 2GB plan, which sucks, we don't even want a silly data plan! Voice + WiFi is all she needs.

DukeEsquire said,

My point is that no one was using the phone and it would create phantom charges in the middle of the night even when the iPhone was at home connected to Wifi.

Well, it is going to be using the data connection for any email. PUSH email always leaves an open connection I think. Also, the WiFi connection closes if the phone is on standby for some amount of time so any background data transfers are over the cellular network.

You can disable cell data on the iPhone. Given the report it does appear that the iPhone is just leaky with data for some reason.

jjkusaf said,

Some don't have that luxury (i.e. work).

If it is for work then they can deduct the cost on their taxes. Business expense.

mikecel79 said,

There had to be an application that was pulling down data. It could not have been a built in process to the iPhone or every single iPhone on 200MB data plans would be hit with overages. I don't know about how the iPhone works but some devices turn off the Wifi connection when the screen turns off to conserve battery. If this is the case then it could have been transmitting that data over the mobile network instead.

The iPhone does too. when the screen is sleep WIFI is turned off. Even if it is attached to a charger.