What Was AT&T Thinking?

Following an investigation of AT&T’s (NYSE:T) data plan policy, the Federal Communications Commission determined that the wireless carrier must pay a “voluntary contribution” of $700,000 to the regulator and refund customers who were charged for more expensive monthly plans without their agreement.

Beginning in September 2009, the carrier required any new smartphone subscriber to pay for monthly data plans as a condition of the service contract. Existing customers with pay-per-use plans or no contract at all were not required to purchase a data plan unless they upgraded an old smartphone. When a customer, who was covered under this grandfather policy, replaced a lost or broken phone covered by insurance or a warranty, or moved to a new service area, the requirement was not supposed to apply.

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However, the FCC began receiving complaints from subscribers in November 2009 alleging that AT&T had added monthly data plans to their bills. Some of the complaints came from customers who should not have been required to change their plans under the policy.

The commission found that some of AT&T’s customers were moved to the monthly data plan without their consent.

According to the consent decree posted on the FCC website on Tuesday, AT&T will pay the regulator the “voluntary contribution” and and refund the individual grandfathered customers $25 to $35 a month, depending on data usage.

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