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

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 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.

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