T-Mobile to pay $48 million fine for “unlimited” data throttling

Mobile / Tech
FCC Building

At the heart of the matter is how the magenta Un-Carrier previously referred to unlimited data plans.

The FCC is tasked with protecting consumers from misbehaving companies as it relates to communication. Today they’ve announced the end of an ongoing investigation that will result in T-Mobile paying $48 million in fines and consumer benefits.

At the heart of the matter is how the magenta Un-Carrier previously referred to unlimited data plans. Marketed as “unlimited” data, the plans would actually start to get throttled in some cases of very heavy use. The FCC wasn’t so mad about the throttling itself, but for presenting their plans as unlimited without any consumer notification of any potential reduction in speed.

The $48 million fine will be more than just a fine. Yes, several of those millions will be paid as fines, though the majority will be paid out as benefits for affected T-Mobile and Metro PCS customers. At least $5 million will also be earmarked for services and equipment for public schools. FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Travis LeBlanc talked about how this settlement is a win for consumers:

Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called ‘unlimited’ data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps, and other material limitations. When broadband providers are accurate, honest and upfront in their ads and disclosures, consumers aren’t surprised and they get what they’ve paid for. With today’s settlement, T-Mobile has stepped up to the plate to ensure that its customers have the full information they need to decide whether ‘unlimited’ data plans are right for them.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere commented — on Twitter, of course — about what the settlement means to the company.

Affected customers will be able to get the following benefits:

  • Discounts of 20 percent off (up to $20) of the regular price for any in-stock accessory.
  • 4 GB of additional data if they have a mobile Internet data line – specifically T-Mobile’s “Simple Choice MINT” plan – or a tablet plan under the MetroPCS brand.

T-Mobile has also vowed to be more transparent with any limitations or throttling that may occur, even on plans labeled as “unlimited.” I have personally noticed in some recent advertising that they’re already pointing out that a very small percentage of users may have their data throttled if they reach a certain threshold, though that number is far above what most normal people will use in a month.

Are you a T-Mobile or PCS customer that was surprised by throttling on your “unlimited” data plan? Are you pleased with the results of this investigation? Tell us what you think in the comment section below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

  Source: FCC.gov
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