FCC hits T-Mobile with $48m throttling fine

James Pearce
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Regulator found labeling data offer as "unlimited" could be deceptive for consumers

T-Mobile will be forced to fork out at least $48 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission investigation into whether the carrier inadequately disclosed speed and data restrictions on its “unlimited” data plan.

The FCC found that T-Mobile had slowed customer data speeds when they exceeded a monthly data threshold on the plan, but only revealed the information in 2015 after numerous complaints. 

T-Mobile had been throttling data for customers in the top 3% of data usage, which translated to around 17GB of data per month.

The regulator said the problem wasn’t T-Mobile’s decision to throttle customer’s data but how the operator marketed its unlimited plans.Claiming the offer was unlimited was deceptive to customers and violated the 2010 Open Internet transparency rules, according to the FCC.

"Consumers should not have to guess whether so-called ‘unlimited’ data plans contain key restrictions, like speed constraints, data caps, and other material limitations," said FCC Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc in a statement.

The settlement will see T-Mobile and MetroPCS (which runs off its network and was also impacted) customers affected by the throttling eligible for 4GB of additional mobile data. They will also be offered a 20% discount on in-stock phone accessories. This will be a one off boost of 4GB, and -Mobile will notify eligible customers by 15 December.

T-Mobile said it will pay for this through a $35.5 million consumer benefit programme, while it will also fork out $7.5 million directly to the US Treasury and $5 million in services and equipment for American schools.