Throttling is a dirty trick employed by wireless data providers. The carriers say that it’s a necessary tactic to cap heavy data users seemingly hoarding all the available bandwidth. Several studies say that’s nonsense, explaining the top percentage of users do not consume that much more data than the average users. No matter the cause, it’s shady for carriers to limit data on plans that were advertised as unlimited.
At least one court agrees. Last week, California Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel ordered AT&T to pay Matt Spaccarelli $850 for throttling his data — $85 for each of the ten months remaining on his contract. AT&T is appealing. Spaccarelli successfully argued that his data was being throttled despite paying $30 per month for what was called an unlimited plan. He even admitted to technically breaking his AT&T contract by jailbreaking his iPhone and sharing his data connection with his iPad.
As Spaccarelli notes in a tweet, cell phone contracts often prevent subscribers from filing a class action lawsuit and so he chose to take AT&T to small claims court since neither parties can use an attorney. Here is a primer about how you can do the same thing.
Don’t be intimidated by large companies like AT&T. As long as you follow the rules, the legal system is a powerful tool.
Bradley Sniderman, an attorney from southern California, penned a small claims tip sheet for MacTech. Most of his advice is common sense. You cannot simply walk up to a judge and demand AT&T pay you damages.
Here’s the key excerpt:
3) You need to be able to show that you have an unlimited data plan, which means you are entitled to unlimited data. You need to also show proof that AT&T had limited your data streaming. You next have to argue that AT&T has no right to charge you a fee for unlimited data, and then not supply it. It is not your fault that AT&T can’t keep up with demand for data. If you can even show that you are using less data that some of the fixed rate plans, such as the 3 gigabyte plans, that is even better (fixed plans using more data than you use, but they are not being throttled back). Make sure you have been paying your bill on time and that you are not late, since that could be used against you.
Matt Spaccarelli won $850 after proving AT&T violated their end of their agreement. That’s enough money to justify the trouble in my opinion.