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Consumers, FTC want to throttle AT&T over 'throttling' practices

Cellular companies are in fierce competition with each other. One of the big selling points that providers offer is unlimited texting and data plans. For people who want to save money and avoid overage fees, this appears to be an attractive offer. However, according to a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one provider, AT&T, has not been giving customers the benefit of the bargain. 

The FTC has filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest cellular provider; claiming that it allegedly deceived millions of customers who purchased unlimited data plans, but then slowing Internet speeds once they used a certain amount of data. The practice, called “throttling,” affected more than 3 million customers. The FTC received thousands of complaints about this practice, which resulted in slowdowns an average of 12 days per month.

This, claims FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, does not comport to be the unlimited data plan that consumers signed up for when they bought the plan. When limits are put on something that is advertised as unlimited, that presents a problem.

As a matter of law, vendors cannot use phrases, sayings or slogans to mislead customers. Essentially, people who buy a product or service have the right to know what they are purchasing is actually what they expect, and they must be able to expect that what they are told about the product is true. If a company is found to have falsely described what a product can do, the company could be held liable.

It remains to be seen whether AT&T will be held responsible, and whether consumers will be given money back.

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