AT&T to Pay $700,000 to Clear Data Charge Complaints
WASHINGTON – AT&T has agreed to pay $700,000 as
part of a consent decree with the Federal Communications Commission to resolve
complaints that it switched certain consumers to mandatory monthly wireless
data plans even though they were grandfathered in under pay-as-you-go plans.
AT&T has agreed to refund excess charges paid by individual customers,
which could be as much as $25 to $30 a month, depending on data use. The
transfers began occurring in November 2009, shortly after AT&T required
first-time smartphone subscribers or those who upgraded their phones to enroll
in monthly data plans. Consumer complaints prompted the FCC to launch an
investigation last year.
AT&T smartphone customers who had pay-as-you-go data plans, or disabled
network data, and kept their old phones, had the option of keeping their
pay-as-you-go data plans when the company made monthly plans mandatory in
September 2009. Some consumers who replaced these phones under warranty
or insurance, or who moved to a new residence were switched to the monthly
plans, even though AT&T had said the grandfathering policy would continue
to apply in these situations, the FCC said.
Under the terms of the
decree, AT&T has agreed to make a voluntary payment in the amount of
$700,000 to the U.S. Department of Treasury and refunds to individual
customers. AT&T has also agreed to an extensive compliance plan,
which includes: Consumer notification, training of customer care
representatives, and periodic compliance reports to the FCC. AT&T
must also conduct additional searches of its records to identify improperly
switched consumers and ensure appropriate refunds.