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AT&T avoids class action lawsuit over unlimited data throttling

It won't have to face every customer whose service slowed down.

Bad news if you were hoping to take AT&T to task for throttling your unlimited mobile data: you probably won't get much help beyond government regulators. A Northern California District Court judge has ruled that the carrier won't face a class action lawsuit for allegedly misleading customers by promising unlimited data that could slow down if you used 3GB or more in a given month. The judge claims that affected subscribers all signed contracts that let AT&T send disputes like this to individual arbitration. They can't sue, in other words.

You may get some relief from the Federal Trade Commission, whose pursuit of AT&T on the subject likely pushed the network to raise its throttling limit and make performance a non-issue for most users. However, this all but rules out any private action. Telecoms often prefer arbitration for disputes precisely because it works in their favor. The payouts are bound to be smaller than they would in a class action potentially representing millions of people, and it's frequently not worth the cost as a result. Unless the law changes to forbid arbitration clauses in contracts, you might not have much recourse.

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