AT&T has courted controversy in recent months over its fake 5G branding, but it looks like the U.S. carrier has been hit by another scandal. This time, the carrier has been slapped with a lawsuit over a hidden monthly fee.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California (spotted by Ars Technica), alleges that AT&T is engaged in a “bait and switch” scheme when it comes to monthly fees. More specifically, the complainants claimed that the carrier advertises one flat monthly rate for its mobile plans, then charges a higher monthly fee after customers sign up.
“AT&T covertly increases the actual price by padding all post-paid wireless customers’ bills each month with a bogus so-called ‘administrative fee’ (currently $1.99 every month for each phone line) on top of the advertised price,” read an excerpt of the filing.
Failure to disclose charges?
The complainants add that AT&T doesn’t disclose the extra fee to customers before or during the sign-up process.
“The first time AT&T even mentions the existence of the administrative fee is on customers’ monthly billing statements, which they begin receiving only after they sign up for the service and are financially committed to their purchase,” continues the filing.
The complaint alleges that the U.S. carrier deliberately hid the extra charges in an area of printed monthly statements where consumers were unlikely to see it, and where it’s suggested that the extra charge is a tax of sorts. Customers receiving online statements purportedly didn’t see the charges on their bill unless they clicked two ‘plus’ signs to view more details.
AT&T suggests that the fee — which has reportedly been raised three times since 2013 (from $0.61 at first) — is tied to interconnect charges and cell site rental costs. However, the suit cites the carrier’s own financial statements to note that these charges have actually decreased since 2013.
The legal challenge seeks class-action status for the carrier’s customers, with affected users able to contact the law firm involved over here. Meanwhile, the carrier has hit out at the suit in a statement to Ars Technica, claiming that it disclosed the fee to its customers. But if the company only disclosed the fee to customers when they received the first monthly bill, that seems pretty suspicious. What do you make of this lawsuit? Hit up the comments section below.