US operator AT&T has agreed to pay regulator FCC a fine of $700,000 for overcharging its customers. The regulator ruled that the operator had unlawfully moved subscribers to more expensive data plans and must also refund affected customers.
Until October 2009, the operator had allowed subscribers to use data services on pay as you go plans. However, it discontinued the service in November, offering only pay-monthly plans to new subscribers who wanted to use data.
In implementing the new tariffs, AT&T allowed existing PAYG smartphone subscribers to continue using data services without upgrading to a pay-monthly plan, as long as they did not upgrade to a different handset model.
The operator implemented a process on its systems to enforce the policy, but shortly afterwards the FCC began receiving complaints from AT&T subscribers about the addition of monthly data plans to their accounts. Some of the complaining subscribers alleged that they should not have been subject to AT&T’s monthly data plan upgrade. As a result, some subscribers were charged as much as $30 per month regardless of how much data they consumed, when they should still have been eligible to pay according to their usage.
The operator must now query its relevant databases to identify subscribers who were overcharged and refund them, in addition to paying the $700,000 charge. It must also begin a new customer care programme and file periodic reports to the FCC.
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