Last friday, news broke that a man took AT&T to small claims court for throttling his unlimited iPhone data plan and won. Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel found in favor of the man, awarding him $850. The Judge said it was unfair to label a plan as “unlimited” and then punish users for using that plan. The Judge also said it was unfair to then slow a unlimited user’s data below the level of a similarly-priced, but limited, data plan.
Recently, AT&T notified individuals who were using a lot of data, saying that AT&T would soon begin throttling their data, despite their unlimited plan. The throttling limits the users’ data to 1.5-2GB, although for the same price as unlimited, AT&T also offers a 3GB plan.
It doesn’t sound like much money, but it’s estimated that 17 million people will have experience throttling. And because AT&T has fought to prevent class-action suits, users are limited to binding arbitration or small claims court. But in states like California (where this suit took place), lawyers are not allowed in small claims court, so AT&T was represented by an area sales manager. Although court rules vary by state, what if suddenly regional managers have to respond to millions of small claims court hearings? Suddenly, not only is AT&T taking a financial hit, but their productivity will also suffer. If more users start taking AT&T to small claims court, it might be time for AT&T to stop throttling and start reinforcing its network.