AT&T is being punished at last for its shady claims of plans with “unlimited data” but were in reality nothing of the kind: The company has agreed to a $60 million settlement with the FTC, which has pursued the case for years. Some 3.5 million affected customers can expect partial refunds — little more than pocket money, but it’s something.
The complaint was filed almost exactly five years ago, after customer complaints from previous years had piled up. AT&T, after offering truly unlimited data plans for a few years, made changes to how the plans worked but not to how they were advertising. Starting in 2011, the company began throttling to a fraction of the speed they normally got customers with “unlimited data” who hit data caps. We’re talking kilobits here.
Naturally that’s not quite in line with the “unlimited” claims, and some people took AT&T and others to court early on over it. But the FTC’s 2014 complaint indicated that the feds were taking this seriously.
Because the complaint was so obviously true, AT&T attempted to thwart it via process, claiming that the net neutrality rules adopted in 2015 moved the authority to regulate mobile carriers from the FTC to the FCC, retroactively mooting the case. They pursued this ridiculous argument until last year, when a federal court slapped it down and the FTC’s process was allowed to continue unimpeded. And here we are 18 months later with a $60 million settlement.
AT&T kept charging DirecTV customers for a sports channel that was blacked out for two months and is only giving customers refunds when they complain to the company.
AT&T’s customer service in this case is falling short of the standard set by Comcast, of all companies. As we wrote Monday, Comcast has been issuing automatic bill credits to customers in Colorado during the blackout of Altitude Sports network, which broadcasts games played by the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Rapids.
AT&T didn’t respond to our inquiry on Monday but gave us a statement late Tuesday night.
“We issued credits to thousands of our customers who asked about Altitude Sports while we worked toward getting it back on air,” AT&T told Ars. (AT&T struck a deal with Altitude to get the channel back on DirecTV late last week.)
Notice that AT&T only issued bill credits to “customers who asked about Altitude Sports.” If you paid for a sports channel you didn’t get for two months, you’ll have to contact DirecTV’s customer service to get your money back, because DirecTV owner AT&T chose not to give automatic bill credits to customers affected by the blackout.
AT&T seems to have gone full predator in recent years. The scam that I’m dealing with involves their push to force all their customers into autopay. Ever since AT&T took over Directv, they’ve been using phony late charges to try and get you to give up and let them charge you directly thru your credit card or bank account. The way it works is (actual example):
8/17/19 – Email received with balance due 9/3 (pushing autopay)
8/24/19 – Received actual bill
8/13/19 – Official Bill “Issue” date per paper bill
9/03/19 – Bill due date
But the bill return slip has a barely legible quibble that says the payment may take 7 days to post.
Bottom line: you’ve got three days to get the check to them if you want to be sure to avoid late charges.
Like I’d trust these mokes with my credit cards/bank accounts.