The complaint was filed in federal court in San Francisco and claims that approximately 3.5 million consumers have been effected. The FTC also claims that some of the data speeds were reduced by almost 90 percent.
According to the AP, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez ceased offering unlimited data plans to new customers in 2010 and began throttling the data speeds of current customers with unlimited plans in 2011.
“If you make a promise about unlimited service, we expect you to fulfill those promises,” said Ramirez. “AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise.”
In response, AT&T has denied any wrongdoing and said that it has not mislead its customers.
“We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” Wayne Watts, AT&T’s senior executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “We informed all unlimited data-plan customers via bill notices and a national press release that resulted in nearly 2,000 news stories, well before the program was implemented.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, many consumers objected to the idea of throttling and the company received thousands of complaints about slow data speed that were incurred under the throttling program. Some customers were, however, able to get around the throttling by using a Wilson Amplifier. Wilson Amplifiers allow customers to boost the signal on their cellphones. Originally designed for people in remote areas where cellphones are weak, some have found that these devices can also boost 3G and 4G data speeds.
The FTC suit is based in its ability to guard against deceptive marketing practices and has won praise from consumer advocated. These advocates have alleged that cellular carriers have padded bills with unnecessary and deceptive charges.
“No company should promise one thing and deliver another,” said Michael Weinberg, vice president of Public Knowledge, a Washington-based advocacy group, in a statement. “We support the FTC in stepping up to prevent data throttling of ‘unlimited’ plans.”