Customers of AT&T mobile who thought they had pay-go payment plans grandfathered were switched to monthly plans instead. As part of a consent decree with the FCC, the company will offer refunds to affected customers and make a voluntary and hefty contribution to the US Treasury.
AT&T moved from pay-go to monthly plans in 2009, but grandfathered certain customers on the older plan. The grandfathering was to have transferred with the customer under a number of circumstances, but often did not.
Under terms of the decree, the investigation by the FCC into the matter, spurred by numerous consumer complaints, is terminated and AT&T admits no wrong-doing.
It will identify customers who lost grandfathered status improperly and offer them refunds, a return to a pay-go billing regimen or both.
It will also make a $700K contribution to the US Treasury.
“Today’s action sends a clear signal that wireless carriers can’t wrongfully charge consumers,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “These strong FCC accountability measures will ensure customers are not over-charged. I am pleased that AT&T is taking the appropriate steps to resolve this issue.”
“This Consent Decree puts precious dollars back in the pockets of consumers—where they belong,” said Michele Ellison, Chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. “We strongly encourage AT&T subscribers to check their bills closely and contact the company if they spot any overcharges related to wireless data.”
Marty Richter commented on behalf of AT&T, saying, “The consent decree involves less than 0.03 percent of our wireless customers, who inadvertently had a monthly data plan added to their account after getting a new smartphone through a warranty or insurance exchange or after relocating. We had already discovered and corrected the issue by Nov. 2010, and had given refunds to customers who contacted us. Based on a review of our refund process, we believe a vast majority of those customers affected by the billing error have already been made whole. But as part of the decree we’ll be providing a bill-page notice to affected customers, offering refunds, and giving them the option to return to a data pay-per-use plan, or to have a data block applied to their phone.”