A small claims court has ordered AT&T to pay an iPhone owner US$850 for throttling his data. Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel of the Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley in southern California issued the ruling in favor of Matt Spaccarelli, who sued AT&T after the wireless carrier throttled his data connection when he hit 1.5GB of throughput on his unlimited data plan.
Mr. Spaccarelli was grandfathered into an unlimited data contract with AT&T at $30 per month. He told the court that his data was throttled somewhere between 1.5GB and 2GB of throughput in a single billing cycle, even though AT&T currently offers 3GB of data per month for the same $30.
AT&T was apparently represented in court by area sales manager Peter Hartlove, according to the AP. His argument was simply that AT&T has the right to modify, or even cancel, a customer’s contract if they are harming the overall network.
The company has been quite up front about the fact that it will throttle unlimited plans for those customers who use what it considers to be too much data. This is part of the company’s effort to manage growing data demand on its network as it sells more and more iPhones and other smartphones.
The case was being held in small claims court, because AT&T has a clause in its customer contracts that prohibits those customers from taking their complaints to a class action or to a jury trial. Instead, its customers agree to take complaints to arbitration or to a small claims court.
Mr. Spaccarelli chose the latter option, and Judge Nadel awarded him $85 for each of the ten months remaining on his contract. According to the AP, the ruling could add weight to other such cases. AT&T can appeal the ruling, but has not said whether or not it would.