AT&T Threatens Man Who Won Small Claims Lawsuit

    March 14, 2012

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.