Print 91 comment(s) - last by Icelight.. on Oct 5 at 1:04 PM

AT&T Legal Policy threatens to cancel service for criticizing AT&T and its affiliates

AT&T is one of the largest providers of mobile phone, home phone and internet access in the United States. In many areas, AT&T is the only choice for phone and data services. AT&T has updated its legal policy with new standards, which if enforced, could leave customers without service.

The new legal policy takes away a customer’s right to criticize AT&T without the fear of losing their service. In many rural areas where the only phone provider and Internet service provider is AT&T, this effectively means that any criticism of AT&T could leave them without data service. The section of the AT&T Legal Policy that takes away the customers constitutional right to free speech reads:

5.1 Suspension/Termination… [AT&T] may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries.

Some will say that AT&T has the right to refuse service to anyone. At the same time, others will say that refusing service to someone for simply criticizing AT&T is infringing on the right to free speech. For many Internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity. Many business professionals work from home and use broadband Internet access to connect to corporate networks. For those that are tied in with AT&T’s service (by choice or because there are no other options available), one should be careful not to step on AT&T’s toes or face disconnection.

Another item of note is that if AT&T decides to disconnect your service for any reason, they can delete any files you have, including emails, without notification. What is not clear from the policy is if criticizing any AT&T service can result in termination of your AT&T data service. If you get an iPhone and complain in comments here at DailyTech because the update breaks your unlocked iPhone, could you lose your AT&T data services?

Updated 10/2/2007
AT&T has issued the following statement with regards to the above policy:

AT&T respects its subscribers' rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from websites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation). We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T. This policy is not new and it's not unique to AT&T.

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RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Murst on 10/2/2007 1:05:58 AM , Rating: 2
All my employers were either small or medium sized businesses. Although I've never had to experience a client voicing their dissatisfaction, I have seen the owner refuse service to a client (I won't get into details, but the client has previously done damage to a friend of the owner). As a small business, it is extremely important to have a good reputation among your clients, so even though this client was going to bring in money, it was not worth the risk.

As a business owner, I'm sure you'd attempt to resolve any issues your customers have with you. But what if an issue could not be resolved, and the customer went on to criticize your business publicly, while maintaining their contract with you. What if the customer then went on to your other customers, and attempted to convince them to switch to your competitor? Would you still service that customer?

To answer your question: If a business was so bad that I felt the need to criticize it publicly, I certainly wouldn't be using their services when I do criticize them. Such a policy would not affect me at all, and I wouldn't even consider it when evaluating a service.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By Scott66 on 10/3/2007 9:58:43 PM , Rating: 2
What would you do if you had a 2 year contract with that company providing you with crappy service or you had to pay some of your hard earned revenue (wages) to cancel the contract.

RE: Let's Test That Theory
By mdogs444 on 10/3/2007 10:41:19 PM , Rating: 2
If you can prove that the services offered were violations of the contract you signed, then you wont have to pay to cancel it.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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