Man awarded $850 in AT&T data throttling case

While AT&T no longer offers an unlimited data plan to its new customers, there are a large number of subscribers who have an unlimited data plan grandfathered into their contracts. However, AT&T has been throttling the data on a number of those customers once they reach a certain data limit since late in 2011.

One man, Matt Spaccarelli, got tired of having his data speed on his iPhone cut down to almost nothing. He said that web surfing on the iPhone took too long and video streaming didn't work at all. So he took AT&T to small claims court.

On Friday, the Associated Press (via Yahoo) reports that a judge in Simi Valley, California agreed with Spaccarelli and awarded him $850. The judge came up with the number by using the last 10 months left on Spaccarelli's AT&T contract and estimated he would have to pay $85 a month for any extra data he would download. AT&T's data plan for current customers charges $10 per gigabyte after a customer goes over three gigabytes a month.

AT&T said it would appeal the ruling. An AT&T sales manager tried to defend the company in court, saying that if a customer's data usage was drastically affecting AT&T's network, the company had the right to modify that customer's contract.

While AT&T customers are barred from launching a class action lawsuit, you can bet that others who have had to deal with the company's data throttling policies will copy Spaccarelli's actions and prepare their own small claims court cases.

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Also "unlimited" should me just that. If you are throttling me, then by definition my usage is being capped, so thus it isn't unlimited and thus he has a valid complaint. Throttled unlimited is not unlimited.

What I want to know is, how much data usage can you possibly do on a smartphone that would require throttling someone down? I seldom do much of anything on 3G, its simply to slow. WiFi @ work, WiFi @ home, WiFi is avail as you travel. If he is walking with his device, what is he doing..watching a movie as he walks or drives?

Dude, get a MiFi device.

I think it's interesting AT&T customers are "barred" from class action lawsuits against AT&T. I suppose they have that in their contract somewhere but it's hard to believe that can be legal. You can bar someone from their own legal recourse? Why not put it in the contract that once you're an AT&T customer then you cannot sue AT&T? Oh wait, that'll be next....

"An AT&T sales manager tried to defend the company in court, saying that if a customer's data usage was drastically affecting AT&T's network, the company had the right to modify that customer's contract."

So this is the guy who's been bringing down the network... Wow... /sarcasm

It appears that AT&T got caught with their pants down.
However, when a multiple billion company can't make a payment return stub fit into an envelope or can't tell U-verse users the amount they download (as they can with mobile phone users' their minutes), could one expect more?

One of the reasons I got off of AT&T and switched to Verizon. I get 4GB of data for $30 since I took advantage of their double-data promotion, better coverage, and real 4G AKA LTE.

And for people who complain about surfing and talking at the same time, how many people really do that? I did it once in 3 years. In an LTE area, you can now do that on Verizon, BTW.

small claims court is the ONLY way to go! Most states have a very large cap on the amount you can get awarded and is very simple to go thru for issues like this. Too bad more people won't fight wireless companies over things like this cause the drop from all of them of the unlimited usage is just beyond lame.

FloatingFatMan said,
US cellphone companies suck so much...

yeah...i'm so glad I live in Singapore...it's a heavily government-regulated market but the benefits are great:
no locked phones, flagship phones can only have limited timed exclusiveness by law (meaning something like AT&T having the Lumia 900 can only happen for a short period), no data throttling, and even unlimited still exists here.

FalseAgent said,

yeah...i'm so glad I live in Singapore...it's a heavily government-regulated market but the benefits are great:
no locked phones, flagship phones can only have limited timed exclusiveness by law (meaning something like AT&T having the Lumia 900 can only happen for a short period), no data throttling, and even unlimited still exists here.

How many people in Singapore have iPhones and/or other smartphones? Compare that number to the United States.

FloatingFatMan said,
US cellphone companies suck so much...

I have no idea how the phone companies are in other countries but I agree that U.S. phone companies suck.

FalseAgent said,

yeah...i'm so glad I live in Singapore...it's a heavily government-regulated market but the benefits are great:
no locked phones, flagship phones can only have limited timed exclusiveness by law (meaning something like AT&T having the Lumia 900 can only happen for a short period), no data throttling, and even unlimited still exists here.

Ummm, ATT's exclusitivity to the Lumia 900 is only for like 45 days.

An AT&T sales manager tried to defend the company in court, saying that if a customer's data usage was drastically affecting AT&T's network, the company had the right to modify that customer's contract.
If one customer's usage is enough to "drastically affect" the entire network, then I don't think the source of the problem is that customer.

And as much as I hate Sprint's network in this area, I'm still glad I ditched AT&T. This is no way to treat your customers. Having a bad network is one thing. I can accept that (I'm still ****ed off at it, but I can accept it). Having a bad network and blaming it on the customers? Get out. Now.

Everyone should boycott at&t. They are way too greedy and disrespectful. They get money and money and money and look at their services. It really sucks. I have at&t internet at home and its the third day I don't have internet. I live in Houston Texas. I called them 5 times each time at least half an hour on the phone. they were just beating around the bush and the last one just said its an network outage. I am moving to Comcast.

Does this mean every other ISP can't throttle or have gigabit caps? I remember when I signed up for comcast it was unlimited.

Melfster said,
Does this mean every other ISP can't throttle or have gigabit caps? I remember when I signed up for comcast it was unlimited.

My isp says that for years and yet they will traffic shape you, call you and threaten you and fine you and then cut you off, in others words "Unlimited" LOL
Its funny how many people don't know or bother to check the details
I've argued this with co workers before, pretty easy to find out, pick up a phone

Melfster said,
Does this mean every other ISP can't throttle or have gigabit caps? I remember when I signed up for comcast it was unlimited.

ISPs are different than mobile carriers contracts simply because most people don't have ISP contracts to begin with. This allows them to change their policies at any time as long as they provide a warning notice in the mail about the changes. As it stands, Comcast has the limit set to 250GB. Even in the most frantic times, I've used 150GB in a month like once, so the cap really isn't an issue. I only hope they would improve the network speeds so that regular browsing would be faster.

"An AT&T sales manager tried to defend the company in court, saying that if a customer's data usage was drastically affecting AT&T's network, the company had the right to modify that customer's contract."

no, you dont, what the hell you think a contract is. This is exactly why the judge didnt side with AT&T, he understands the meaning of a contract.

I am Reid said,
"An AT&T sales manager tried to defend the company in court, saying that if a customer's data usage was drastically affecting AT&T's network, the company had the right to modify that customer's contract."

no, you dont, what the hell you think a contract is. This is exactly why the judge didnt side with AT&T, he understands the meaning of a contract.

They don't modify the contract (as written in the article). It's written in the contract that customers who are still on the unlimited data plan will be throttled for excessive usage (5 GB). They will receive a warning the first time they exceed the cap. They will be throttled after exceeding the cap during their next billing cycle. Cell phones aren't meant to be used as primary internet connections anyways, though.

Anthony S said,

They don't modify the contract (as written in the article). It's written in the contract that customers who are still on the unlimited data plan will be throttled for excessive usage (5 GB). They will receive a warning the first time they exceed the cap. They will be throttled after exceeding the cap during their next billing cycle. Cell phones aren't meant to be used as primary internet connections anyways, though.

who told you that ?
They were being weazels glad the guy won his case.

Anthony S said,

They don't modify the contract (as written in the article). It's written in the contract that customers who are still on the unlimited data plan will be throttled for excessive usage (5 GB). They will receive a warning the first time they exceed the cap. They will be throttled after exceeding the cap during their next billing cycle. Cell phones aren't meant to be used as primary internet connections anyways, though.


Well you just explained exactly why ATT is in the wrong. It used to be anyone over 5GB and above. And then it became anyone in the top 5%, which is close to 4GB. Problem is that 5% is total hogwash according to some independent studies where users using only 3GB/month were getting throttled almost the same amount as those using 4GB.

In any case, the number of small claims going to be placed against ATT over the next few months will surely rise. I was reading over on reddit where someone put together a "claims kit" for anyone who wants to take them to court.

AT&T keeps coming up with every excuse possible to explain why their data network collapsed after the launch of the iPhone, except to say that their infrastructure is weak.

News like this makes me grateful that even though Sprint's data has been anemic lately, I can atleast still count on it working.

Recently, I haven't been able to let customers keep their unlimited data plans when they upgrade to a new mobile. It seems about 50/50 at the moment. They're really trying to get people to ditch the unlimited.

Kondrath said,
Recently, I haven't been able to let customers keep their unlimited data plans when they upgrade to a new mobile. It seems about 50/50 at the moment. They're really trying to get people to ditch the unlimited.

I've yet to run into this issue with any of my customers, whether they're moving from an iPhone to an LTE device, or an LTE device to an HSPA+ device, or any other kind of upgrade.

Anthony S said,

I've yet to run into this issue with any of my customers, whether they're moving from an iPhone to an LTE device, or an LTE device to an HSPA+ device, or any other kind of upgrade.

The other day, an iphone user with unlimited switched over to a Galaxy S II and POS.com wouldn't let me keep it. Usually it just automatically ported it over but it had no option and it wasn't on the other list. A few days before, it worked fine. Had the manager check it out and we couldn't figure out how to keep it. I always let people keep them if they have them, if it lets me.