Two California consumers have put their names on a proposed class action wherein they allege AT&T has pulled a “bait-and-switch” scheme on wireless service customers.
The 37-page case claims that though AT&T advertises flat monthly rates for post-paid wireless service plans, the carrier instead charges higher monthly rates than those customers agreed to pay upon signing up. AT&T, the suit says, “covertly increases the actual price” by padding customers’ monthly wireless bills with an $1.99-per-line “administrative fee” on top of what they pay for cell service. This fee, the case argues, is not disclosed to customers when they sign up with AT&T nor after the fact.
“The so-called Administrative Fee is not, in fact, a bona fide administrative fee,” the lawsuit asserts, “but rather is simply a means for AT&T to charge more per month for the service itself without having to advertise the higher prices.”
Proposed class members only come to find out about AT&T’s administrative fee once they receive their first billing statement, the suit adds. Further, the plaintiffs allege AT&T “deliberately hides” the fee by intentionally burying it in language that makes it likely that customers will overlook it and that misleadingly suggests that the fee “is akin to a tax or another standard government pass-through fee.” At the end of the day, the case says, this additional fee is merely a method for AT&T to advertise and promise lower rates than customers actually have to pay.
As the lawsuit tells it, consumers can find out more about AT&T’s administrative fee by digging deep within the carrier’s website, where a purported description of the charge lives. Moreover, the lawsuit claims that the description not only amounts to an inadequate disclosure of the fee, but serves to further AT&T’s alleged scheme in that it suggests the administrative fee is tied to costs associated with wireless phone services.
The case states that AT&T began imposing the administrative fee on customers back in 2013, when the charge was $0.61 per month per line. Customers who signed up prior to that year and reasonably expected to pay the defendant’s advertised monthly rates were not informed of the fee, meaning it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they learned of the fee’s existence months or years after they signed up with AT&T, according to the suit. AT&T has reportedly raised its administrative fee three times since it was first introduced, including twice in three months during 2018, the lawsuit reads.
Potentially included in the class are consumers in California who currently or formerly subscribed to a post-paid AT&T wireless service plan from AT&T Mobility LLC and were charged what the company labeled an “administrative fee.”