AT&T Threatens Man Who Won Small Claims Lawsuit

    March 14, 2012
    Shaylin Clark
    Comments are off for this post.

Late last month we brought you the story of Matt Spaccarelli, the iPhone user who sued AT&T in small claims court for throttling his “unlimited” data connection after around 2GB of data use (which, for the record, is less data than those who pay for AT&T’s top-level limited data plan). A California judge ordered AT&T to pay Spaccarelli $850 for failing to deliver on their claim that they are the fastest 3G network and that Spaccarelli’s plan was unlimited.

Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling last year upholding a clause in AT&T’s customer contract, customers are not allowed to take AT&T to jury trials or bring class action lawsuits. Arbitration and small claims court are the only options left to disgruntled customers. Knowing that, Spaccarelli published a guide via PublikDemand, a consumer advocacy site, showing other throttled AT&T users how to duplicate his small claims victory.

This, as you might expect, does not appear to be sitting well with AT&T. Last week the company sent Spaccarelli a letter in which they reminded him that they had the right to terminate his service completely (he admitted to tethering his iPhone without a tethering plan, which violates AT&T’s customer agreement). They stressed, however, that they are “interested in hearing any concerns you would like to raise about AT&T,” and that they wanted to “reach a mutually agreeable resolution of these issues.” A key feature of that mutually agreeable solution, however, is an agreement that “the conversations will be kept private and confidential.” In other words, AT&T wants Spaccarelli to enter into a non-disclosure agreement, whereby (no doubt) he will be required to stop telling other AT&T customers how to beat the company in small claims court. The full letter can be read in PDF form here.

I sent AT&T a request for comment about this situation. I asked whether they had appealed the decision or paid Spaccarelli the $850 awarded by the courts (or planned to do either), whether his plan was still being throttled, and whether the request for a non-disclosure agreement really had more to do with wanting to make sure he didn’t tell other customers how to beat AT&T in small claims court. As yet there has not been a response.

What do you think? Is AT&T really interested in a settlement, or are they just trying to shut Spaccarelli up? How would you respond in a situation like this? Let us know in the comments.

  • Justin

    GO FOR IT! Let the world know how to beat the corporations!!!

  • jamie

    I say go for it, too. AT&T is one of the worst companies in the world to deal with. And I am only talking about home phone and internet. I could only imagine if I had gotten my cell phone service from them; which they are always trying to talk me into doing. One time, I had a complaint about never getting the introductory price on internet or the gift card for buying their modem, and I called them. After getting the run around for what seemed like hours, and getting put on hold and always ending back at the “employees retirement” extension or whatever it was, I finally got someone who told me they would fix it. Not only did they NOT fix it, they doubled my bill the next month. When I called to complain about that, some idiot guy laughed at me and said once it was billed, no one would take it off my bill, even if it was an error they made. I managed to get someone else on the line who finally fixed THAT problem, but, I still have never gotten my introductory rate, and it has been two years since I switched to their internet service.
    Anything anyone can do to AT&T to make them feel some discomfort is just what they deserve. When they merged with Bell South here, it was the worst thing in the world they could do to their customers. One day, we will shut THEM off!!

  • Adam

    Guys, we are in a world increasingly tech-dependent. Why do these companies fight tooth and nail against upgrading their infrastructure? Do they think that as smartphones, and tablets become more prevelant that our total data usage will somehow magically go down?
    Our way of life is demanding higher bandwidth, more coverage and so many of these companies are losing more money fighting this necessary upgrade than they would just pony up and do what is needed to do to be a more successful company, with customers that are actually HAPPY with their service (crazy concept, I know).

  • Andrew

    (to the what would I do) If they wanted to enter a non disclosure agreement I would want to know what they’re going to do to fix their mistake before I signed anything. I’ll usually give them (any company that’s wronged me) a redemption chance. If they fix the problem (and depending on how well, soon, and their attitudes) I’ll say good things about them to everyone. Lets face it, we’re all human, we all make mistakes, corporations included – it’s all about how you handle it. If you don’t fix the issue, apologize, and you have a bad attitude about it then of course I’m going to tell everyone that. And I would NOT enter any non disclosure agreement if they’re being jerks about it.

  • Art Weaver

    I have a Galaxy Note that SHOULD be able to function as a wifi hotspot, or tethered, but att has disabled that feature on my $699 phone that belongs to me and is trying to hijack me for an extra $35 each month in order to get it enabled. I will gladly pay for any amount of data I use, but this phone belongs to me and all of it’s features should work for the price I’ve already paid! I don’t need this feature often and will not use enough data to justify the extra cost!
    I’m suing!

  • kelli

    I HATE AT&T WITH A PASSION. They lie and hang up on me every time i am on the phone with them trying to understand my outrageously high bill and all the charges on it. Its almost comical the employees have no idea why my bill is so high. Taking them to small claims court, i dont care if it’s for 50$, i need to get out of my contract and sue their asses for all this stress they are causing me. They are everything that is wrong with america.