FCC To Fine AT&T $100 Million for ‘Unlimited’ Data Plans

AT&T has long boasted about its unlimited wireless data plans. But now it's been hit with a fine that might limit future claims made by the company. The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday it will fine AT&T Inc. $100 million for allegedly misleading consumers about unlimited data plans.

The FCC said that AT&T sold consumers data plans advertised as unlimited, but then capped data speeds for those customers after they had used up set amounts of data within each billing cycle. Those capped speeds were much slower than the normal network speeds advertised by AT&T, according to the agency. Also, that hurt the ability of consumers to access the Internet or use applications for the rest of their billing cycles, the FCC said.

Thousands of Complaints

Since 2011, the FCC has received thousands of complaints from AT&TEUs unlimited data plan customers. According to the complaints, the customers were surprised and felt misled by AT&TEUs policy of intentionally reducing their speeds. Consumers also complained about being locked into long-term AT&T contracts that were subject to early termination fees, all to get unlimited data plans that, as it turned out, weren't really unlimited.

The FCC said AT&T violated the transparency requirements of its 2010 Open Internet rules by labeling the plans as unlimited. Most of those rules were struck down by a federal court in January 2014, but the transparency requirement was upheld.

"Consumers deserve to get what they pay for," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Broadband providers must be up front and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure."

Plans To Defend

An AT&T spokesman told reporters that the company plans on vigorously disputing the FCCEUs assertions. The spokesman said the FCC previously identified the practice as a legitimate and reasonable...

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