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Today’s post is brought to you by Amazon’s 2014 Black Friday Deals Page. Just as in past years, Amazon is getting the Black Friday party started early, with limited-time, deep discounts on everything from DVDs to sewing machines. Advertisers make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content each day for free, so thanks for your support.
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AT&T Mobile AND DirecTV Customers: Heads Up!
Whether you’re an AT&T Mobile customer or a DirecTV customer, you’re going to want to read this. AT&T is in the midst of getting Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approvals to acquire DirecTV, and if they succeed, DirecTV customers can probably expect deceptive business practices and ripoffs like those already being experienced by AT&T Mobile customers.
Some Companies Never Learn…
Earlier this month I shared the news that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is forcing AT&T to issue millions in refunds to its mobile customers due to AT&T’s illegal practice of “cramming”: adding premium service charges to mobile customers’ bills without their knowledge or consent, and going even one step further to deceive customers by labeling those items as AT&T services, to make it harder for customers to notice or fight the charges.
Yesterday the news broke that the FTC is suing AT&T over another, totally different customer rip-off: purposely slowing, or “throttling”, the connection speed of customers who’d signed up for an unlimited data plan and were exceeding AT&T’s internal measures of reasonable data usage. Here are some details from an article on Consumer Affairs:
The FTC’s complaint alleges that the company didn’t adequately disclose to its customers on unlimited data plans that, if they reach a certain amount of data use in a given billing cycle, AT&T reduces – or “throttles” – their data speeds to the point that many common mobile phone applications – like web browsing, GPS navigation and watching streaming video – become difficult or nearly impossible to use.
According to the FTC’s complaint, AT&T’s marketing materials emphasized the “unlimited” amount of data that would be available to consumers who signed up for its unlimited plans. The complaint alleges that, even as unlimited plan consumers renewed their contracts, the company still failed to inform them of the throttling program.
The FTC alleges that AT&T began throttling data speeds in 2011 for its unlimited data plan customers after they used as little as 2 gigabytes of data in a billing period. According to the complaint, the throttling program has been severe, often resulting in speed reductions of 80 to 90% for affected users.
Today, The Los Angeles Times is also reporting that customers using as little as 2GB of data were throttled:
Beginning in October 2011, AT&T began restricting the data speeds of unlimited data plan customers who exceeded a monthly usage threshold that initially was as low as 2 gigabytes, the agency said…Customers who exceeded the level had their data speeds slowed 60% to 95% for the rest of the billing period.
The suit, filed Tuesday, alleges that AT&T deceived its wireless customers and seeks millions of dollars in refunds for a practice that still continues. Unhappy customers who canceled their plans were charged early-termination fees that typically were hundreds of dollars, [FTC Chairwoman Edith] Ramirez said.
AT&T Isn’t Denying Anything
Amazingly, AT&T does not deny its practice of throttling unlimited data plan customers. AT&T’s entire defense of the practice comes down to a claim that they notified customers of the policy change via email when it occurred, and that constitutes adequate disclosure.
Watch Out, DirecTV Customers: You Could Be Next!
The FCC has yet to rule on AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV, and these recent revelations may derail that process. But the FCC is a separate entity from the FTC, and the FTC’s actions and findings do not necessarily affect FCC decisions.
If I were a DirecTV customer and this merger is approved by the FCC, I’d be shopping for a new satellite service provider right away.
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And now, a word from our sponsor…
Amazon’s 2014 Black Friday Deals Page is up and running, and that means there are some great deals to be had! Since the deals are all on limited-quantity items and typically expire in less than a day, the specific deals shown in the screenshot below may be expired by the time you check them out. But it’s a page that’s well worth bookmarking and checking from time to time throughout the holiday season, because there are some definite steals there every single day.