T-Mobile USA has been ordered to pay a fine and provide benefits to consumers totaling at least $48m following an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into whether the company adequately disclosed speed and data restrictions for its ‘unlimited’ data plans.
The FCC said that it received complaints from T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers who felt misled after discovering their unlimited data plan included ‘de-prioritised’ data speeds after exceeding a monthly threshold, something T-Mobile's adverts didn't properly communicate.
“Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called ‘unlimited’ data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps, and other material limitations,” said FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc. “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 [the] 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.”
According to the FCC report customers complained that they were not receiving “unlimited" data as had been sold to them, that their data throughput speeds after de-prioritization caused their data service to be “unusable” for many hours each day, and that the de-prioritization policy led to them consuming “half” of the data they wanted to use.
The settlement will see T-Mobile pay a $7.5m fine, and spend $35.5m to make certain consumer benefits available to current T-Mobile and MetroPCS unlimited data plan customers.
T-Mobile will also spend at least $5m dollars to address the homework gap in low-income school districts. The company will work with eligible public schools to purchase devices that students may take home and use for school work, and provide mobile broadband to those devices at no cost to the students or their families.