AT&T seeks to settle -- quietly -- with iPhone user

Mar 14, 2012 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer
This undated file screen grab provided by Mike Trang shows a warning message on the screen of his iPhone that he received from AT&T advising he was in danger of having his data speeds throttled. AT&T has offered to discuss a settlement with Matthew Spaccarelli, an iPhone user who won a small-claims case that alleged the company was slowing down his "unlimited" data service. The company is appealing. Spaccarelli filed a small claims case against AT&T in January, arguing the communications giant unfairly slows speeds on his iPhone 4's unlimited data plan. (AP Photo/courtesy of Mike Trang, File)

AT&T is offering to discuss a settlement to an iPhone user who won a small-claims case that alleged the company was slowing down his "unlimited" data service.

A law firm retained by AT&T Inc. also threatened in a letter dated Friday to shut off Matthew Spaccarelli's phone service if he doesn't sit down to talk.

The phone company doesn't say if the settlement would involve money beyond the $850 award the Simi Valley, Calif., resident won from the company in small claims court on Feb. 24.

AT&T has about 17 million smartphone customers on "unlimited" plans, and has started slowing down service for users who hit certain traffic thresholds. Spaccarelli maintained at his Feb. 24 small-claims hearing that AT&T broke its promise to provide "unlimited" service, and the judge agreed.

Spaccarelli has posted online the documents he used to argue his case and encourages other AT&T customers copy his suit. Legal settlements usually include non-disclosure agreements that would force Spaccarelli to take down the documents.

In its letter, AT&T asked Spaccarelli to be quiet about the settlement talks, including the fact that it offered to start them, another common stipulation. Spaccarelli said he was not interested in settling, and forwarded the letter to The Associated Press.

Spaccarelli has admitted that he has used his to provide Internet access for other devices, a practice known as tethering, which violates AT&T's contract terms. AT&T says that means it has the right to turn off his service.

Spaccarelli says he doesn't care - the important thing to him was defeating AT&T in court, he said.

Dallas-based AT&T has said it will appeal the Feb. 24 decision. Appeals in California small claims court are similar in format to the original hearings, except that lawyers may attend.

AT&T did not comment further on its offer.

Late last year, AT&T started "throttling," or slowing down data service for "unlimited" subscribers once they reached the top 5 percent of data users in their area. The slowdown, which makes a phone difficult to use for anything but calls, texts and some emails, lasts until the end of the subscriber's billing cycle.

Subscribers complained that they hit the limits at unexpectedly low levels, and that they had no idea what they levels were before getting warning messages from the company that they were approaching the limit.

Two weeks ago, AT&T said it would stop throttling the top 5 percent, and instead apply the slowdown after 3 gigabytes of data consumption. Customers on a "limited" AT&T plan get 3 gigabytes of data for $30 per month, the same price paid by "unlimited" users.

Spaccarelli's victory in small-claims court is similar to that of Heather Peters, a California woman who won $9,867 from Honda last month because her Civic Hybrid did not live up to the promised gas mileage. She, too, is helping others bring similar cases.

Explore further: Creating the fastest outdoor wireless Internet connection in the world

3.5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Judge awards iPhone user $850 in throttling case

Feb 24, 2012

(AP) -- When AT&T started slowing down the data service for his iPhone, Matt Spaccarelli, an unemployed truck driver and student, took the country's largest telecommunications company to small claims court. ...

Feel cheated? Small claims court brings big wins

Mar 02, 2012

(AP) -- If you feel cheated by a big company and complaining gets you nowhere, what can you do? A handful of recent cases suggest that consumers can, if they're motivated enough, win against big companies ...

AT&T customers surprised by 'unlimited data' limit

Feb 13, 2012

(AP) -- Mike Trang likes to use his iPhone 4 as a GPS device, helping him get around in his job. Now and then, his younger cousins get ahold of it, and play some YouTube videos and games.

Recommended for you

Streaming release of 'Interview' test for industry

2 hours ago

Sony's "The Interview" has been a hacking target, a punchline and a political lightning rod. Now, with its release online at the same time it debuts in theaters, it has a new role: a test for a new kind of ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DGBEACH
not rated yet Mar 14, 2012
Enough of IPs claiming semantics when naming so-called unlimited services... wrong is wrong.
mrlewish
not rated yet Mar 14, 2012
Threatened? So interfering with a judges order is contempt right?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.