∞ Lawsuit claims AT&T overcharges iPhone data users up to 300%

A new lawsuit alleges AT&T is regularly overcharging iPhone and iPad customers for data usage, in some cases up to 300% more.

[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]Lawyers for the lawsuit said they spent $80,000 testing devices in preparation for their day in court. In one instance, lawyers purchased a brand new iPhone and turned off everything that could affect data usage. When the bill came in from AT&T, there were 35 transactions for data usage, according to MSNBC.

Lawyers said that AT&T overcharged on every single transaction. Not once did a data usage charge go in favor of the customer. Lawyers said that AT&T systematically overstated data usage by 7-14% and sometimes up to 300%.

While they said that individual charges may add up to $10 or $15 a month, with millions of customers, it’s quite a boon for AT&T.

One lawyer compared the AT&T charges to a rigged gas pump where you pay for a gallon of gas and only get 9/10 of a gallon.

AT&T says the charges are “without merit” and says customers misunderstand how data is charged. The company points to things like automatic app updates in the background that customers may not be aware of.

  •  Please this is such BS. “turned off everything that could affect data usage” did that include putting it in Airplane mode? The AppStore uses data when checking for updates, checking email, and more. The only real way to test this is Airplane mode.

    • Anonymous

       Better yet. Turn off the whole dang phone. That will really stop data usage. 

      While I agree that the carriers overcharge in a lot of ways (text message plans, data plans, not having to discount if you are no contract or finished your contract), I don’t think that that these lawyers have the data to prove their case based on this story. 

    • Airplane mode is the only way to turn off all data on the phone? This can’t be true. The App Store doesn’t request data unless opened; this is why no update badge appears until you open the app. The Mail app can be set to only pull data once opened, but better yet, why even add a mail account to the phone. All of the other native apps, such as weather and maps, were originally designed with an Edge connected iPhone in mind. I can’t imagine they would be sending/receiving data once a day without the apps launching. If the iPhone is transferring data like this without user knowledge when the proper steps have been taken to illuminate all known transmissions, wouldn’t that be a security concern?

      If at&t had nothing to hide on these bills, they would not make them so convoluted. It would be easier for them to give you daily in/out breakdowns than it is for them to show every connection attempted, mixed in with all of the text message data.  Just my opinion. 

      • The phone uses other data. It still checks in with apple and voicemail uses data as well.

        • Voicemail…. I didn’t think of that. Curious indeed.

          • Boris1982

            I am ATT employee: I also had a feeling that we were overcharging. Data should be charged flat rate a month and not by a bit and byte. Even if u have 2 Gigabyte plan the megabytes are flowing too fast when you watch  a video. I think whoever introduces flat rate pricing will have the advantage.

      • Anonymous

        The App Store doesn’t request data unless opened; this is why no update badge appears until you open the app.

        We must live in different universes, then, because I find out about updates by seeing the badges, when I haven’t touched the App Store icon in weeks.

        • Anonymous

           (Unless “opened” means “running in the background because you ran it a while ago”… but that is, for user interaction purposes, identical.

          Because, naturally, the only app that’s really “open” in iOS is the one you’re looking at right this second.)

    •  Rather, both sides are BSing. According to AT&T, the iPhone has background application updates. 

    • How about going into the settings and disabling 3G and cellular data? This is how many people can use a pre-activated iPhone (via craigslist, for example) without a data plan

  • DTtexas

     The problem is there is no reliable measure or visibility to how much data you consume.  Everyone can time their minutes.  But with data, there is so much interpretation and ambiguity that it lends itself to overcharging by smarmy carriers.  And with voice and messaging revenue decreasing, they have all the incentive to do this.  Why do you think they are eliminating unlimited usage in favor of metering?  Because there really is a shortage of capacity?  Please.

    • Well, that’s not exactly true, is it? The phone itself keeps track of how much data it has sent and received and even knows what interface through which it transferred (whether wi-fi or 3G/Edge). I saw this story crop up a few months ago and examined my phone’s data counter before giving up my grandfathered “unlimited” data plan in favor of a cheaper, capped plan. My counter never agreed with AT&T’s numbers (all in AT&T’s favor, of course) so I called and asked them about why there was always a discrepancy between my phone’s data counter and AT&T’s. He said he wasn’t sure, but reset it and we’d keep an eye on it. From that point forward, there was no discrepancy. I KNOW.

      This is systematic and intentional, and I firmly believe that, unless you call them and let them know that you’re paying attention, they will screw you to the wall. You can check out your iPhone’s cell-network data counter under Settings>General>Usage. Wi-fi data usage shouldn’t be charged by AT&T at all, anyway.

  • Boxdrink

    AT&T’s response in plain English: Do not pay attention to the man behind the curtain!

    So yeah, I’d expect them to refute something shady like this. I’m one of their customers and this would not surprise me in the least. My painful 8 month excursion with trying to get my bill adjusted with UVerse is a testament to their deceit and trickery. I finally got my bill adjusted to the tune of 800$ but still!  

  • revog

    The key issue, is that AT&T says “phone REQUIRES data plan or it won’t work”.  I have done it without it.  You have them block the Internet (yes, they can do that) and there are no data charges…PERIOD.  You just do your appstore updates from your PC or your home wireless.  Thus it is now 1 device that has voice and itouch features.  Now, you can’t do that anymore as they found they can make more money by saying 98% of their phones REQUIRE data plans.   THAT is where the lawsuit should be, not on the overcharging, but on all of them FORCING you to have data plans on a phone whether you want it or will use it. 

    • Skz

      I have had an iPhone 3g for 2 years and have never had a data plan.

      It was given to by an upgrading and generous friend just before I was going to leave the country for a month. Since I was going to be leaving I didn’t get the iPhone plan and instead just moved my SIM from my old phone. Civil unrest in my destination country postponed my departure so I stayed here [US] and realized that I with my activity I was almost always near a WiFi connection and thus didn’t need a data plan.

      • Noemail

        HOW?  I have a regular phone with voice, no data plan.  I have a smartphone that i connect over wifo at home and in the office. 

  •  “customers misunderstand how data is charged”?  It is up to you, the vender, to help me understand how data is charged. Of course, it’s to your benefit if I “misunderstand” in a certain way, isn’t it. 

  •  If I have the unlimited data plan can I still get in on the fun?

  • Anonymous

     If AT&T wanted us to understand their bills, they’d make them readable.

  • This “Nickel-and-diming” is so pervasive EVERYWHERE in our lives.  It’s why we can’t afford to have any fun anymore compared to people in the 50’s and 60’s.  Our buying power is bled to death by fees and charges and all those little things that add up to the fact that this year, again, you’ll be having another “staycation.”

    It’s up to the public to be aggressive in an equal and opposite direction and fight back as hard as possible, including running smear campaigns.  If the Supreme Court is now allowing corporations to just that to people (Citizens United), well, since we’ve already had a “voice” we need to start using it, and in creative ways before it’s completely drowned out.

    The “Corporate Plutocracy of America is coming, if it isn’t already here (influence wielded by the rich and powerful few).  Just look what happened last week with the FCC and Comcast/NBC Universal, and then take a good look at your cable TV bill.


    AT&T is not here to make our reception better, or our lives.  They are here to beat Verizon and use customers in as many creative ways possible to reach that goal of domination.  It’s the game they’re playing with each other, and we’re the pawns.  (AT&T had been broken into pieces, and now they’re almost all back together again.)

    So I hope this lawsuit gets traction, and at the very least starts expanding the public’s awareness that “nickel and diming” is the primary reason for the increased stress and tension in our lives.

    Monthly expenses, in our household of two:

    AT&T home phone $35 AT&T cell phone $161  (two iPhones) Cox Cable  $150  (no premium channels or DVR) TiVo $13 Gas & Electric $85 Gasoline $200 Bank Fees > $300 per year

    … and the rest of the charges that creep upwards ever so slowly each month goes on.

    GET THAT AT&T!!!!!  

    (Sorry for the long post!)

  • I wonder what the bills say? ATT does provide detailed billing if you ask for it.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, seems like a pretty good deal when you think about it.


  • Adam

     “The company points to things like automatic app updates in the background that customers may not be aware of.”

    Except the iPhone doesn’t do that.  App updates only happen when they are explicitly initiated by the customer.

  • Mariahtrivizo

    I think is really stupid there is a reason why there is a required data plan it is due to the fact emails & apps store will automatically update. It is pretty simple if you do not want to pay for data do not get a smart phone there are so many phones out there to choose from that are non smart phones they do not require data plans. The people who want iPhones and don’t want to pay for data plans are getto rich. They want the phone so they look good not the finctionalty of the phone.

    • Robert

       Not necessarily.  I use a (jailbroken) iPhone for work.  Since it is on T-Mobile, I don’t really use the (Edge only) data too much – only about 1.4 GB in the past year according to the phone itself.  However, I use it extensively for data – I just normally am in range of a wifi network (which is conveniently faster than the Edge data anyway).  In about 99% of cases (e.g. when I am not out to dinner or whatnot) I wouldn’t miss the data plan.

  • Sunny Burwell

    Well I see it as this , have any of you ever downloaded the data meter ? Didn’t think so because there isn’t one because if there were it would hurt there profit,and besides why are we carrying around this high tech super phone thats made in China . Why are these prices so high . But any way we bought it and signed the contract no wonder all the prepaid companies are based outsid the contry,this will never fly at&t will win at our behest and our pockets.

  • Anonymous

     I remember this story from way back in late January.  Is this something new?  It sounds identical, right down to the iPhone experiment.    http://goo.gl/dPIUu

  • Johnny

    Download the app DataMan to precisely track your data use in real time. This useful app monitors your 3G data usage in the background, keeping a log of your activities every 10 minutes. It helps to verify your carrier’s records. Plus, it warns you in real-time when you exceed your self-defined custom usage thresholds. You can find DataMan in the App Store.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, seems like a pretty good deal when you think about it.

    http://www.swapngreen . com 

  • Fatted

    I can only comment with anecdotal evidence but I’m from Europe and every plan I’ve had for nearly the last 3 years has had a 1 gig plan. I’ve almost never used more than 100Mb in a month. My highest ever month was 150Mb. I’ve switched operator 3 times during those 3 years so my usage seems to be stable and not operator specific. I’ve used an iPhone 3g and a google nexus one during that time. Last year I worked in new York for 2 stints one of 6 weeks and once for 3 months. I bought an At&t prepaid sim and loaded up the 19.99 100Mb data figuring I’d squeeze a month out of it. No chance! 10-14 days Max per 100Mb plan. I was amazed at the speed the plan disappeared. My lifestyle was the same as home. I was staying with friends, had wifi in the home and office and was going to work every day. (I wasn’t on holidays touring around or generally changing my usage habits).

    It really felt like the data counter was looking for a promotion …

  •  This is why I have proposed the elimination of mandatory data plans on smartphones.

    1. As features improve, all phones will eventually be called smartphones. Will AT&T continue to slap on a $15-25 per month?

    2. As Wi-Fi expansion from various providers improves and continues to saturate the area, while other alternatives such as Mi-Fi’s become more mainstream, individual data plans should no longer be necessary.


    I fired off letters to the FCC, FTC, and my state legislature to propose it. I want it gone. Help me get more exposure to yet another instance of unnecessary customer abuse. Don’t even get me started on SMS.

    The first wireless iPhone-compatible carrier that supports it in the US, or at least allows family data plans (looks like Verizon), that’s where I’m headed.

  • Juwan

     I would love to join in on a law suit against ATT, they over charge and steal from all their customers. 

  • Prettymonkey201

    You snobs with your iphones should probably consider how they work and your usage patterns. “Phantom” data usage in the night can occur if you leave apps open all day. ATT has to calculate usage sometime. You use Facebook, Twitter, various news/weather and any other junk you morons think you need in your daily life and have it open all day. Usage is calculated once a particular data session is terminated. So if you popular folks never terminate it, how else are they going to calculate it? Duh.

    • “You popular folks”?

      Is it lonely in your server room?

      • Prettymonkey201

        Not lonely but peaceful. I certainly don’t need to be updated on what everybody I ever knew is doing at any moment in time. If that was the case I would live with them or handcuff myself to them or something. People have dependency issues anymore and it’s really, really sad.

        • Well, thank heavens you have a place of solitude where you can judge people without having to interact with them.

  • Thecook4u

    At night while asleep and hooked up to my wi-fi AT&T showed that I downloaded “something” using 978,689KB, after looking at my “full bill” I noticed this happening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I called AT&T and after speaking to a rep from there he gave me a credit and I cleared my phone of all APPs. I will add them back @ 1per week and see what happens from there. I was billed for going over my 200mg plan 3 times in the past 4 months, all the while going through my wi-fi for 99% of the usage.

  • Concerned

    I have had AT&T for along time. They have no customer service! It took two years for them to remove a charge off bill! As for their add a line for $9.99. That’s a lie! It has cost me $70.00 a month.

  • Debbie

    We received a message that my husband had reached his data plan limit at 6pm July 5th.  We turned the phone off, boarded a plane and flew through the entire night.  Next morning we turn the phone on and receive a 2nd message that we reached the limit AGAIN!, and we were charged $15 twice. This has happened over and over again when the phone is not in use.  I have started saving all the emails warning us of overage charges being applied and found a continuous pattern of being charged multiple times in a couple of days span.  This only started in April, prior to that everything was normal.

  • Profesorpescador

    I am having similar problems with ATT and stated in the article.  I would love to be able to jump in and join the fight.  I don’t feel part of the “family” at all.  I even shared with Apple my frustration.  I love Apple.  I hate ATT.  

  • Nick

    So… I have the 200MB /mo. plan and I tracked my usage over the last year and never used more than 60% of it per month. Then I got a text msg and an email saying I was approaching my limit. The next day I got the msgs again, so I called ATT. They said I had a 100MB usage during a 3hr period on a Friday night. I told them the phone was at home (in my WiFi network) not doing anything…how could it download a 100MB!, not only that the ATT reception is two bars max at my house, how could I get 100MB. They hemmed and hawed and then bumped my plan to the 2GB version for the rest of the month.

    I also asked them how to turn off DATA. They said you can’t. If you turn the phone off, it will wake itself and get updates from ATT. If you put it in Airplane mode, it will wake itself and get data. It you turn 3G off or put it in International Data Roaming, it will still go into data mode and get updates from ATT ;-(  

  • Shannondenning5

    how do i  get in this lawsuit

  • Adriancarey

    I’m in the UK and have started to notice this problem. I’ve gone 500mb over my allocated allowance and have therefore incurred charges. My argument after various calls to my provider is that we (the paying public) should be made aware of this issue by means of a clear message either on the providers websites or by letter!

    It is not acceptable in my opinion to have to go into the settings every night to switch off data services, especially as I have a permanent wifi connection with unlimited data in place. So this is indeed a serious issue and needs proper clarification.

  • Mainer17

    who are the lawyers? phone on airplaine mode then already turned off but still billing data charges. BS! when i’m through the 2 years, am going somwhere – hell with AT&T. geesh!

  • 4israel

    No wonder AT&T got rid of the unlimited data plans. And those who still have unlimited data plans are being punished by restricting our access when we “use it to much”. Thats what we paid for an thats the contract we originally signed into, unlimited access. Im surprised those with the original unlimited data haven’t sued AT&T or breach of contract!

  • Marshawn_broks

    thats why i got boost mobile cuz at&t charge over fees thats why they emerged with another company so if they get sued they woild take all the money from the other company and leave

  • Rhand77

    AT&T is over charging you! I just discovered this occurring this week on my husbands 3GS. He has a 2GB data plan and in less than two weeks, almost all of it is used. I investigated his usage online and on SEVERAL ocassions while CONNECTED to our wifi at home his phone is using hundres of thousands of KB. For example, over 480,000 KB was sent at 1230am while we were asleep. This has also happened on my phone as well, but I have an unlimited plan. At&t has NO explanation of this. They claim it’s that the phone isn’t connected to wifi and the user is downloading large amounts of data. Untrue!

  • Yio

    Better yet how About dumpinf att and all major rip off contract carriers? I had horrible experiences with att, sprint, tmobile and finally switched to metropcs 4 years ago. Unlimited everything on my smartphone one flat rate 50 bucks. These carriers like att get away with it because people stick with them.

  • GregMN

    The news about a customer getting an $11,000 roaming bill or from a “capped” Data Plan is NOT great advertising for AT&T.   Why is there a “2 GB Plan” if one can accidentally exceed it without getting at least a WARNING message?  My bill was suddenly $300 higher and AT&T cuss reps are stone-walling.

     Are there no automatic sensors for accounts that suddenly exceed previous usage by such a huge factor?  

    Are there no user settings to limit customer’s exposure? — If not, why not? SHAME ON AT&T! — This is certainly a reason to look for a provider that cares for their customers.

    I will join the suit, or start a new class action.  …and seek a new cell provider that DOES PROVIDE for their customers!

  • Sherr

    My data has been way off the last two months. I have wifi at home and don’t use my data. AT&T was not helpful. I’ve been hearing the same from others. What’s up?

  • Kendra

    This also just started happening to me.  I’ve been charged the extra $15 twice now within a month and, after the first time, I turned everything OFF.  3G, Cellular data… made sure everything was checked to “push” manually.  Yet, they tried telling me I went over again, even though the only time I accessed anything was at home through my WiFi.  It’s ridiculous.  There should be no updating automatically or stuff running in the background.  Data should only be used when you’re actually USING it. Period.

  • Keith

    AT&T has been over charging me on my data plans since we got our first iphone. We use wifi most of the time, we go to bed and wake up and we get texts we’ve over-exceeded our data plan. How can this be when we are sleeping and in our house when the phone is to be using wifi before 3/4G data? How do I make sure my name is on this suit so I am reimbursed from this lawsuit.

  • Liza

    I have a AT&T phone its a new iphone and my data limit is 300, i went to Tahowe for a vacation i was up to 273 out of 300 i was connected to the internet at all times, suddenly I see 300 out of 300 so i completely closed all imternet applications i turned off everything i only texted once a day or accasionally called someone but that is unlimited so they cannot take money off of that, so the next time i checked it was 300 out of 300 and my pverage was 11, i turned off my phone in a few days i turned on my phone and it was 18 overage, i turned it off again, today i checked my phome, it was 28 overage!, i am completely unhappy with this, can anyone help me out in this situation?, tomorrow i am going home to my lafayette, i am fileing a schedule meeting with AT&T, i am taking my friend that once worked there so he can help me, i am not about to pay 50 extra dollers, AT&T, if you hear this message stop overchargeing your customers with data, we will file complaints and replrts, thank you.

  • chris

    I have had at&t for over 20 years and up until approx. 1 year ago everything was fine and bill always stayed where it should. Now I have been in heated battles with them every single month for about a year with cell phone bills as high as 600-700 a month and they claim I use over 20gb of data plus as I get hit with overage charges to the tune of hundreds of dollars. they are scam artist and wont do a damn thing to help figure out the issue they just keep telling you to upgrade to the next highest plan. I am seriously going to sue these people its just not right what they are doing!!