Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have all gotten into hot water for throttling data speeds, but they're not the only offenders. The FTC is now levying a huge $40 million fine against TracFone for throttling customers who had purchased unlimited data.
TracFone is the largest prepaid cell service provider in the country and sold the phony plans under several different names including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America. The FTC is suing the company for selling monthly unlimited data plans and then throttling, or slowing down, data speeds by 60% to 90% when customers reached secret limits set by the company.
The FTC says TracFone varied its data limits, but generally slowed data service when a customer used 1 to 3 gigabytes, and suspended data service outright at 4 to 5 gigabytes.
If that wasn't bad enough, TracFone even canceled talk and text services for some customers who approached preset data limits.
In the past, some of the major cellphone carriers have claimed they needed to throttle some customers to relieve congestion on their networks. But, that wasn't the case with TracFone. Documents from the company say it was just doing it to save some money.
TracFone technically opened up about its throttling policies back in 2013, but it made that information hard to find.
Beginning in September 2013, TracFone began to make some disclosure of its throttling practices for its “unlimited” programs, but those disclosures were often not clear and conspicuous, according to the FTC’s complaint. In many cases, the disclosures were in very small print or on the back of packages or cards where consumers were likely to miss them.
Customers who were taken advantage of by TracFone are entitled to a refund. You can file a claim on the FTC's website.