In the latest chapter of the AT&T unlimited data throttling debacle, a small claims court judge in California has awarded an AT&T iPhone user $850 in damages due to AT&T significantly slowing the user's data speeds to "manage usage on it's network". The unidentified user, who was grandfathered in to the unlimited data plan, claimed to be throttled each billing cycle at approximately 1.5 GB to 2 GB of data. Reuters reports:
Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel found in favor of Matt Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley. Spaccarelli filed a small claims case against AT&T last month, arguing the communications giant unfairly slows speeds on his iPhone 4's unlimited data plan. Nadel's ruling could pave the way for others to follow suit. AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans that can be subject to throttling, representing just under half of the company's smartphone users.
AT&T does have the option to appeal the courts decision but it is not yet known if they will choose to do so. The company's main argument in the case was that they have the right to modify or cancel customers' contracts if their data usage negatively affects their network. What makes this judgement interesting is the fact that it has the possibility to open up quite a few additional small claims lawsuits against AT&T.
That means thousands —and possibly hundreds of thousands— of people who feel abused by AT&T's policy could seek to challenge the company, one by one, in arbitration or small claims court. The customer contract specifies that those who win an award from the company in arbitration will get at least $10,000. Spaccarelli picked the same amount for his claim. Judge Nadel instead awarded him $85 for each of the 10 months left on his contract.
We've said it before, and we will say it again - AT&T needs to stop this data throttling. Some of their most loyal customers are the ones being inconvenienced by their actions and it's just not right. Perhaps this lawsuit will open some eyes to help get this accomplished. Before it goes class-action.