Since 2013, AT&T has been quietly driving customers away hundreds of millions of dollars with a false “administrative fee,” a fee that more than doubled to $1.99 a month in 2018. For a few years, it looked like AT&T would finally be held accountable by a class-action lawsuit in California. But this week, both sides told a judge they would settle for just $14 million — meaning customers may be getting less than 10 percent of what they paid to AT&T, while AT&T is allowed to continue charging them.
According to the proposed settlement agreement in Vianu v. AT&T Mobility — which has yet to be approved by a judge — just about every AT&T Wireless postpaid customer in California since 2015 will be eligible for an estimated payment between $15 and $29.
But again, that’s only a fraction of what AT&T’s own data shows: an average of $180 per customer since 2015, according to documents. The settlement “represents a repayment of approximately 6-11 months of average fees,” they read. Meanwhile, the lawyers are likely to receive $3.5 million.
“The estimated payment amount represents a strong outcome for the settlement class, especially given the substantial risks, costs and delays of ongoing litigation,” reads the proposed settlement agreement, and goes on to list all the ways the attorneys suing AT&T believe that AT&T may still win the case.
There’s no doubt that the fees are fake, in case you’re wondering: Judge Laurel Beeler previously prevented AT&T from closing the case because the company “deceptively and falsely disclosed” [the administrative fee] as transmission costs.” That is, AT&T can’t pretend it’s an unexpected expense that it just passes on to its customers – the carrier benefits! And yet the plaintiff’s legal team will not pursue a victory.
Oh, and you won’t even get a check in the mail if you’re still an AT&T customer, assuming this version of the settlement is approved. The money is returned to your AT&T account, where AT&T can put its hand right back in for that $1.99 — or more if it feels encouraged enough to raise the fee again. (Granted, it’s a more reliable way to ensure customers get the money back.)
If it gets approved, you’ll probably find the settlement website here†
Here are a few more links that may be relevant: