AT&T, Apple facing expanded lawsuit over iPad data rate changes

Both AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) are being hit with an expanded lawsuit that claims customers were tricked into buying an Apple iPad only to have AT&T then switch its unlimited data plans to a usage-based pricing system.

The suit, originally filed in the United States District Court in San Jose, Calif., on June 9, has been expanded to include more iPad 3G customers. The suit, which is seeking class action status, claims that the two companies "baited" customers into purchasing an iPad 3G with prepaid unlimited data plans "only to have that promise reneged upon within weeks of their purchases."

"I originally purchased a standard iPad. Three weeks later, I returned it to the Apple store, paying an additional $130 plus sales tax to upgrade to an iPad with 3G capability. I thought the iPad 3G was worth the additional money because, with the unlimited data plan, I could work outside my office or home and access all the data I needed for a fixed, monthly price," commented plaintiff Adam Weisblatt in a release distributed by law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. "But I also knew that for several months each year, with my schedule, a lesser expensive, limited data plan was sufficient. I would have never purchased a 3G-capable iPad if I knew Apple and AT&T were planning on suddenly taking away from me the freedom to opt in and out of an unlimited data plan at my choice."

The suit was filed one week after AT&T announced data limits on plans that previously had unlimited usage. Under AT&T's new plans, customers who buy smartphones and iPads can pay $15 per month for 200 MB of data or $25 per month for 2 GB of data, with extra charges for additional data. AT&T said customers who had bought an iPad 3G with an unlimited data plan could keep that plan, although if a subscriber skips a month of data fees they lose the right to go back to the unlimited plan.

Representatives from AT&T and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For more:
- see this release
- see this NYT blog post

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