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Print 41 comment(s) - last by serialjoepsych.. on Aug 18 at 2:55 AM


  (Source: intomobile.com)
Carrier throttles data for users who exceed 5 GB or 10 GB of usage

While AT&T has done away with no-limit data plans in favor of tiered, capped plans (with Verizon expected to follow suit shortly), T-Mobile has continued to offer its customers unlimited* data services on all of its devices, including bandwidth-gulping smartphones.

Except there's a catch. Here it is, buried in fine print in T-Mobile's terms and services:

To provide the best network experience for all of our customers we may temporarily reduce data throughput for a small fraction of customers who use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth. Your data session, plan, or service may be suspended, terminated, or restricted for significant roaming or if you use your service in a way that interferes with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users.

And there is no asterisk next to "unlimited" on any of T-Mobile's merchandising. If you don't read all of the fine print, or a forthcoming sales rep doesn't warn you of the carrier's ability to throttle your data speeds as it sees fit, then you're stuck finding out the hard way, like one Trent Alvarez.

Alvarez has filed a class-action lawsuit in California against the nation's fourth-largest carrier, alleging he was misled by a T-Mobile sales representative to believe that the service plan he was signing up for truly was unlimited, ConsumerAffairs reports. Alvarez purchased two smartphones last year under two-year contract agreements. In May, he received this text message from T-Mobile:

Your data usage in this billing cycle has exceeded 10GB; Data throughput [speed] for the remainder of the cycle may be reduced to 50kbps or less.

Alvarez is alleging that the throttling renders the phones "essentially useless for anything other than making or receiving phone calls and text messages.”

The lawsuit demands an injunction that would prevent T-Mobile from advertising its plans as "unlimited," as well as restitution for the cost the class spent on smartphones.

The suit is similar to one brought against Verizon in 2007 by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who alleged invisible limits on what was marketed as "unlimited data." Verizon settled that lawsuit for $1 million.



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RE: Why lie?
By quiksilvr on 8/11/2010 9:29:06 AM , Rating: 5
It should be illegal for ANY company to say unlimited and not mean it. Screw the asterisk, its either unlimited or its not.

That's like saying "All You Can Eat!" and a little asterisk saying: limit 1 lb per customer.


RE: Why lie?
By Goty on 8/11/2010 9:40:30 AM , Rating: 5
If I'm not mistaken, his contract IS still "unlimited". He's still at the buffet, he's just got a really small spoon.


RE: Why lie?
By xsilver on 8/11/2010 10:08:42 AM , Rating: 1
Now I think all the guy really wants is a similar payout to the 1 million dollars that verizon gave out.

yee hah - when you can get paid to find stupid wordings in contracts


RE: Why lie?
By eskimospy on 8/11/2010 11:13:25 AM , Rating: 5
How on earth is it a 'stupid word in a contract'. So basically under your reasoning Verizon or whoever you have could limit the data on your smartphone plan to 1kbps today if they felt like it and still be in compliance with your contract? Do you actually believe that?

You know as well as I do that T-Mobile advertises their data plans as having unlimited data at 3G speeds. They are materially misrepresenting the nature of the service they provide, and they are doing so for their own benefit. If they don't want to provide unlimited data at that speed that's their business, but there is not one piece of literature that I am aware of that makes a customer aware of this limitation.

Secret terms and conditions like these are an impediment to commerce, in the end they hurt both customers and business.


RE: Why lie?
By xsilver on 8/11/2010 3:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
well if you understood the post above mine, you would understand that it is still "unlimited" data - they're just feeding it to you through a straw.

I agree with you that they should stipulate that any use over 10gb = shaping but from t-mobile's pov they are just trying to ease network congestion because if everybody is downloading to the max you wont even be able to make a phone call. If the network is congested and speeds slow down are people still going to complain that they cant get "unlimited" 7mpbs bandwidth?

Anyways my original point was that I dont believe for a second that this guy wants anything less than the 1 million dollars that was paid via the verizon lawsuit.


RE: Why lie?
By eskimospy on 8/11/2010 10:44:36 PM , Rating: 2
I understood it perfectly. T-Mobile has decreased it to 50kbps according to the article, such a slow speed as to be basically unusable for modern web traffic. Reducing a connection to an unusable level while still technically maintaining one does not even remotely cover what would be considered 'unlimited' service by any reasonable person.

I see many comments in this thread about how people should read the fine print on everything they sign. If people in the US actually did that, commerce would grind to a halt. That's without even addressing the fact that in many cases large sections of the fine print for agreements that you sign that are not legally enforceable.

Whether the guy wants money or not is irrelevant. The only question is if T-Mobile is falsely advertising.


RE: Why lie?
By marvdmartian on 8/11/2010 10:17:51 AM , Rating: 3
I'd say it's not only a really small spoon, but also Hulk Hogan grabbing him by the wrist, and trying to keep that spoon from getting from the plate to his mouth.


RE: Why lie?
By eskimospy on 8/11/2010 11:03:20 AM , Rating: 2
The argument you're trying to use is the telcom equivalent of when a big brother grabs their younger brother's hand and starts hitting them with it, all the while saying 'why are you punching yourself? huh?! why are you punching yourself?!' It's technically true that in that circumstance you still have unlimited data, but then again it's also true that the kid is punching himself.

Slowing the connection down that far basically does make it unusable; it doesn't count if you can't use it. Even if the judge does side with T-Mobile there's almost no chance that he's going to do so for the reason you mentioned.


RE: Why lie?
By HotFoot on 8/11/2010 11:13:48 AM , Rating: 2
Fair enough - the data plan is indeed limited, so "unlimited" probably isn't a good name. I'm with a different carrier, and I pay $35/mo for a similarly "unlimited" plan. It was very clearly spelled out to me, when I signed up, that there was no data cap, but if I were to exceed 5 GB in any month the bandwidth would be reduced for the duration of that billing period.

To me, this means that it's basically a 5 GB/mo plan, but I also know that even if I do go over, I'm never paying more than $35/mo. Considering what these companies usually charge for overages, I like the arrangement.

What it does mean, practically, is that I can't just tether my phone all the time and forgo the cable internet I use at home. Heck just downloading SC2 would have destroyed my 3G data usage for the rest of the month. Still, 5 GB covers quite a bit of Skype, maps and Youtube.


RE: Why lie?
By eskimospy on 8/11/2010 1:32:41 PM , Rating: 2
I think we agree, all I want is for T-Mobile to be upfront with their customers and have a way for the average customer of theirs to understand the limitations on their service. After that, throttle away!

I'm not sure if Sprint has a data cap (although I wouldn't be surprised if they did), but I never go above a few hundred MB's a month so it's irrelevant for my purposes. This is more just setting off my deceptive advertising alarm, and that sort of thing pisses me off.


RE: Why lie?
By ebakke on 8/11/2010 1:59:20 PM , Rating: 1
Hmm. Can you define what you think would qualify for "being up front"? To me, clearly stating it in the TOS is sufficient. Furthermore, none of their literature guarantees any data rate. In fact, most of it does the opposite and explicitly states that no guarantees are made.


RE: Why lie?
By Alexstarfire on 8/11/2010 5:16:59 PM , Rating: 2
You mean the ToS that almost no one reads? Yes, reading contracts is something people should do, but I (and I'm sure just about everyone else) don't expect to get screwed from certain companies, like cell phone companies.


RE: Why lie?
By ebakke on 8/12/2010 10:16:58 AM , Rating: 3
It's also clearly stated at the bottom of each webpage describing their data options. But I keep forgetting.. this is America. People can't be bothered to take responsibility for their decisions.


"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay














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