AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has "systematically" overbilled Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and iPad users for mobile data charges, according to allegations filed in a lawsuit against the company.
The plaintiff in the case, Patrick Hendricks, retained an independent consulting firm to look into AT&T's billing practices. Over the course of two months, the firm found that AT&T regularly overbilled data charges by 7 percent to 14 percent--and sometimes by as much as 300 percent. The suit, filed in federal court in California, seeks class-action status.
"AT&T's bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account," the brief submitted on behalf of Hendricks states. The lawsuit alleges that AT&T's billing practices are like a rigged gas pump that "charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car's tank."
The carrier said it will defend itself against the suit. "Transparent and accurate billing is a top priority for AT&T," an AT&T spokesperson told FierceWireless. "In fact, we've created tools that let our customers check their voice and data usage at any time during their billing cycle to help eliminate bill surprises. We have only recently learned of the complaint, but I can tell you that we intend to defend ourselves vigorously."
AT&T in June replaced its unlimited smartphone data plans with usage-based data plans, which offer 200 MB for $15 and 2 GB of data for $25 per month.
This is not the first time AT&T has taken heat over its data plans. In late June, AT&T and Apple were hit with an expanded lawsuit claiming AT&T used bait-and-switch tactics on iPad customers by initially offering unlimited data pricing for the device and then, shortly after its introduction, switching to metered plans. AT&T did allow users to stay on the unlimited plans, but only if they renewed their service each month.
- see this Electronista article
- see this Atlantic article
- see this Computerworld article
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AT&T has 7 million usage-based pricing subscribers