The 10 Biggest AT&T Lawsuits in Company History

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AT&T is among the largest telecommunication companies in the world today. The telecommunications giant has a long and storied history. AT&T has been the defendant in numerous lawsuits, most filed against it by the government. Many of the legal proceedings got filed for perceived violations of anti-trust laws because of their massive breadth. Legal actions against AT&T were also filed for allegations of wrongdoing or overcharging consumers who were customers. We looked through the history of AT&T to learn more about its legal struggles. We learned that the company has a long history of monopolizing telecommunications services and charging high prices to its customers. Many lawsuits resulted in the courts determining that AT&T acted illegally. Courts further ruled that the company imposed unfair charges on its customers. These cases are disturbing to hear about, but it’s necessary to acknowledge the facts. Here are the ten biggest lawsuits in the history of the company.

10. Throttling practices settlement Award: $60 million

If you signed up for an unlimited wireless plan and the company fails to deliver on its promise, you may have good reason to file a lawsuit. The FTC confirmed that AT&T was accused of promising services that it failed to deliver to its customer base. The action sought damages in favor of consumers. Customers promised unlimited data on their plans did not receive what they purchased. AT&T was proven to fail in delivering on the promises. AT&T stood accused of engaging in deceptive and unfair business practices for failure to disclose that usage of specific amounts of data would cause throttling of data speeds using them to slow down, rendering certain smartphone functions unusable.

The practice of illegally throttling data speeds for these customers started in 2011. The lawsuit commenced in 2014. AT&T’s promise of unlimited data was a form of deceptive advertising that not only failed to deliver the service but also interrupted operation considered reasonable. It rendered their smartphones useless for some modes of functioning, such as streaming. The slowdown in service caused inconvenience for customers, thereby robbing them of the opportunity to enjoy the service purchased. The courts found AT&T guilty of the charges and ordered them to return $60 million to customers affected by the deceptive practices. The ruling was announced in 2019, directing AT&T to issue partial refunds to all customers who agreed to the unlimited plans and became victims of the illegal activity. AT&T issued automatic refunds. The funding appeared in credit on their bill for current customers during the period in question. The former customers no longer with AT&T were written checks for the settlement amount they had coming.

9. 1982 Case against AT&T for anti-trust

Investopedia reports that AT&T had been sued by the government on many occasions starting in the late 1800s. The courts ruled that AT&T violated the rules by securing a monopoly on long-distance phone services. The Ma Bell company became broken into a series of Baby Bells. The action gave consumers a better range of choices for long-distance carriers. At the time of these events, consumers paid by the minute for long-distance calls. As a result of the breakup, competition for long-distance phone service was possible by MCI and Sprint stepping up as service providers. Rates for long-distance telephone calls fell. Few carriers now charge per minute rates.

The lawsuit also resulted in other types of relief for long-distance customers. Back in the old days, customers were required to rent their telephones, paying a monthly charge for them. The court ruling opened up commerce. Consumers were allowed to purchase phones, paying them off and avoiding monthly rentals costs. It also resulted in lower overall costs for making telephone calls. The monthly rental fees went away. Looking back we can see that the cost of owning a telephone was much higher than it is today. The case started in 1974 and concluded in 1982, not in favor of AT&T. AT&T was allowed to continue functioning, but it had to let Ma Bell go, spinning it off with multiple Baby Bells, distributing the long-distance services among them, and opening the way for new competition. By 1984, AT&T fulfilled the ordered mandate. It took them a few years to comply with the judgments, but the courts allowed them the time they needed to complete the necessary processes.

8. Lawsuit against AT&T Alleging Improper Fees

AT&T has been the object of multiple suits over its sneaky and deceptive fees. This company attached an administrative fee to its customers in California. Two customers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging AT&T advertised flat monthly rates for wireless service plans. It then adds covert increases on the price, then adds administrative fees. Plaintiffs filed the suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit suggests that the fee is hidden and misleading. They listed the line item in the section with government fees, but it does not fall under that category. It is merely a method for AT&T to charge more than the advertised rates. The action is a massive suit that is still pending. We believe that this suit has a good chance of going in favor of the plaintiff. AT&T established a long history of losing court cases for charging higher fees. They’ve also been held responsible for even lying about their practices. Continue reading to learn more about the big lawsuits filed and won against the company.

7. AT&T Sued for Selling Location Data

Mashable reports that AT&T is being sued, along with three other wireless communication companies in a lawsuit that alleges that location information of consumers who were using their services was sold. They exchanged the data without their express permission. This act resulted in a massive class-action lawsuit that names T-Mobile, Spring, Verizon, and AT&T as the defendants accused of violating customer privacy by sharing data with third-party brokers. The brokers sold the data to various others. The list includes bail bondsmen, debt collectors, bounty hunters, and other middlemen. The lawsuit is supported by Federal Communications laws that prohibit sharing account information including, but not limited to geolocation data, telephone numbers, and more personal information. The injured parties covered by the lawsuit include 300 million customers with service between April 30, 2015, through February 15, 2019. Consumers are growing tired of having their personal information sold to others who harass them in their jobs and at home.

6. 1913 Kingsbury Commitment Lawsuit

Money reports that a lawsuit against AT&T was named a lawsuit in 1913, about the monopoly it built in 1907. The Justice Department filed the suit, alleging AT&T had a monopoly. The Kingsbury Commitment case got settled regarding Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone company that became established in 1876, and it settled in 1913. The government agreed to allow the company to spin off a Western Union company to allow independent telephone companies use of the long-distance network of AT&T, with the caveat that AT&T would not purchase any of the independents without approval from the government. AT&T was allowed to legally function as a monopoly for the following seventy years.

5. Fax Spam lawsuit filed against AT&T

A class-action lawsuit was filed against AT&T for sending faxes that were unsolicited to consumers. The faxes caused recipients to incur charges for each fax received. Consumers were not allowed to opt-out of the faxes sent, leaving them with no choice other than to pay for faxes they did not want. The lawsuit was filed in accordance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that prevents harassment through telephone calls, text messages, and fax communications. AT&T was in clear violation of sending faxes equal to spam. They did so to gain additional revenue.

4. Orange County Florida School District vs AT&T

The school district in the state of Florida filed a lawsuit against AT&T for overcharging both school facilities and students for phone services. The plaintiff alleged fraud after it was discovered that the FCC found over $1 million in overbilling charges for phone service. AT&T contested the charges. Reps for AT&T argued, that even if the statements were true, they didn’t constitute fraud. The presiding judge in charge of the case ruled that AT&T was found guilty of fraudulent activity and misrepresented its charges. They were found guilty of the allegations.

3. Shareholder lawsuit against AT&T

Investors who placed their confidence in AT&T filed a lawsuit against the company for making false statements and failure to disclose pertinent information about sales and financial activities. The class-action lawsuit further asserts that AT&T’s CEO along with other administrators hid shortfalls of the DirecTV streaming service, and lied about it to investors. The charges are in accordance with the US Securities act that states knowingly making false statements to investors and failing to disclose issues affecting sales is a violation of the act.

2. Electronic Frontier Foundation vs AT&T

EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T for allowing the NSA to illegally wiretap the communications of American customers, and data mine. The EFF sued on behalf of its customers, presenting evidence that proves that AT&T collaborated with the NSA to obtain copies of internet traffic which resulted in a violation of the privacy of American citizens.

1. Lawsuit against AT&T for Bad Service and Past Overcharging

Public Justice reports that a lawsuit was filed against AT&T for overcharging their customers when the massive company completed a merger with Cingular Wireless in 2004. AT&T promised to provide improved services for consumers. Instead, customers were forced to migrate to the Cingular network when the AT&T system was degraded and dismantled. Customers were forced to purchase new phone equipment and migrate to more expensive plans, as well as pay high transfer and upgrade fees. Anyone trying to leave AT&T was charged a fee of $175 for early termination of services. The costs for wireless went up with an additional $4.99 fee with inferior wireless services rendering bad reception, and in many cases, no reception. This was the case of bullying that gave AT&T customers no recourse other than to pay higher fees or face a high fee if they didn’t accept the changes in the terms of the new contract, which was altered at the discretion of the company. Customers were not given any options for getting out of the deal, even though it wasn’t one that they had agreed to during the initial signup. They were forced to pay higher fees or pay a stiff penalty for leaving the company. There was nothing even remotely fair about the shenanigans they pulled on loyal customers. This was just one of many illegal and unfair practices of AT&T, that consumers pushed back about.

Final thoughts

AT&T has been sued numerous times in its long and storied history. Many suits were settled in favor of the plaintiffs, evidence supported illegal acts that violated many of the laws set in place to protect consumers from fraud and misleading practices. We’ve identified ten of the most weighty cases against the company, but there are dozens more that deal with similar allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing. AT&T has been a service provider in the telecommunications industry for well over a century. Nearly since the inception of the company, complaints have been filed by companies, organizations, private citizens, and the federal government. There are checks and balances set firmly in place to protect consumers from being taken advantage of. During our research, we found several resources online that allow people and businesses who believe they have been the victims of unfair or illegal actions by any telecommunications company to file a complaint. Consumers are protected under the law, but it is their responsibility to step forward and make their situations known if they believe that their rights have been violated under the letter of the law. There may be more people in the same situation as you.

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