Small claims court may soon prove to be a thorn in the side of corporate counsel everywhere. First, a woman opted out of a class action and was awarded nearly $10,000 in a suit filed against Honda. Now, a California man has earned himself $850 in a lawsuit brought against wireless carrier AT&T.
That man, Matt Spaccarelli, has accused AT&T of throttling -- or slowing down -- the data traffic speed of its top users. Having signed up for an unlimited data plan, he doesn't think his contract gives AT&T the right to punish him for taking advantage of what he pays for.
AT&T disagrees with this analysis and plans to appeal, according to the Associated Press. In court, the company's representative argued that AT&T has the right to modify contracts if a customer's data usage adversely impacts the network.
With approximately 17 million smart phone customers on unlimited data plans, AT&T claims it must find some way to regulate network traffic. Throttling allows the company to minimize network congestion and ensure a more pleasant experience for all.
Though Spaccarelli may inspire a number of those 17 million consumers to file their own AT&T throttling cases, the legality of throttling may soon be a moot point. Verizon already uses a similar "data optimization" system, according to PC World, and T-Mobile will begin to throttle in April.
And AT&T? It announced plans to throttle the top 5% of its users back in July. Counsel must have updated the standard wireless contract by now.
- Throttle This: Two Big Consumer Small Claims Victories (Forbes)
- Woman Tries to Take Honda to Small Claims Court to Freeze Out Lawyers (FindLaw's In House)
- AT&T iPad Data Plan Leads to Class Action Suit (FindLaw's Common Law)