AT&T Cannot Force Arbitration In Throttling Case, Judge Says

Major carrier AT&T cannot force customers in California into individual arbitration in a case involving throttling on supposedly unlimited data plans, according to the same judge that originally laid down the decision that the carrier could do so. This is due to a ruling in a case involving Citibank that essentially amounted to a change in the law surrounding arbitration clauses in consumer-facing contracts. Due to this change, the judge backtracked on his previous ruling, meaning that AT&T customers are now able to seek public relief, up to and including a class action lawsuit, against AT&T in this case.

AT&T tried to argue back that the court waited too long to raise the new argument and that it could not be applied retroactively to the case at hand. Similarly to a previous argument in the case, AT&T's assertion was shot down by the court on the grounds that the company could not point to any cases that set a precedent in favor of binding arbitration clauses. Another argument, referred to as "poison pill", is that the arbitration clause is self-defeating in that it bars any sort of injuctive relief for customers who feel that they've been wronged. AT&T's clause in particular technically includes language that points to arbitration through AT&T's own counsel as an option for relief, but at the same time, is ambiguous enough in other passages that it could be construed as barring all forms of relief. This being the case, the point of the customer having no possible relief against injury is against California state law, and thus unenforceable.

The case originated from a class action lawsuit against AT&T in 2015, wherein customers asserted that they did not get what they thought they were paying for because AT&T sold plans that it called unlimited, but throttled data speeds after a certain usage threshold. The original lawsuit sought refunds for customers, as well as punitive damages amounting to the profits that the plaintiffs insisted that AT&T gained through its deception. It also sought an injunction against further marketing of "unlimited" plans by AT&T when the data plans on offer do not truly fit the definition of the term unlimited.

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Daniel Fuller

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for Android Headlines since 2015, and is one of the site's Senior Staff Writers. He's been living the Android life since 2010, and has been interested in technology of all sorts since childhood. His personal, educational and professional backgrounds in computer science, gaming, literature, and music leave him uniquely equipped to handle a wide range of news topics for the site. These include the likes of machine learning, voice assistants, AI technology development, and hot gaming news in the Android world. Contact him at [email protected]