US federal appeals court dismisses FTC’s data-throttling lawsuit against AT&T

US federal appeals court dismisses FTC’s data-throttling lawsuit against AT&T

In a Monday ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s October 2014-filed lawsuit against bigwig wireless carrier AT&T. The FTC had accused AT&T of misleading wireless subscribers by selling them unlimited data plans, and then quietly throttling the Internet connections if they consumed high amounts of data.

Via the lawsuit, the FTC was seeking potential refunds for AT&T customers with unlimited data plans.

With the FTC trying to punish AT&T for throttling the Internet connections of its wireless customers with unlimited data plans, AT&T had put forth the argument that it was exempted from FTC oversight of unfair and deceptive commercial practices, on account of Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s reclassification of mobile Internet as a common carrier service.

In a 2015 ruling, a US District Court judge in California had sided with the FTC in the data-throttling lawsuit, saying that “the common carrier exception applies only where the entity has the status of common carrier and is actually engaging in common carrier activity.”

However, AT&T appealed that verdict to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and won a ruling in its favor on Monday. In its verdict, a court panel said: “... Because AT&T was a common carrier, it cannot be liable for the violations alleged by the FTC.”

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