A class action lawsuit has been filed against U.S. carrier AT&T in California over incorrect data charges and billing. Patrick Hendricks, the plaintiff in the suit, is claiming that AT&T is billing iPhone customers, including himself, for over-billing on legitimate data transactions and also for billing customers for phantom data use.
According to Hendricks, who subscribes to the carrier’s $15 data plan for 200 MB per month of data, AT&T had charged him for 259 data transactions, which added up to 223 MB of data, in a month. Many of those transaction, alleges Hendricks, is for phantom data transactions that he never initiated.
A consulting firm had purchased an iPhone from an AT&T store to verify Hendrick’s claim. That firm had turned off email, push notifications, and closed all apps, but was still charged for 35 data transactions over a 10-day span that resulted in 2,292 KB of data use. While the number may seem small, over-billing a lot of customers has a huge net effect on AT&T’s bottom line, Hendrick says.
The lawsuit is filed for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Hendricks is asking for damages as well as costs according to PC Mag.
The issue of phantom data transaction on an iPhone has appeared in various blogs and news media outlets in the past. However, the issue is especially pertinent today as AT&T has stopped offering the option to subscribe to an unlimited plan effective June 2010. The carrier, prior to the launch of the iPhone 4, has stopped offering its $30 unlimited (with a fine print cap of 5 GB of data per month) plan in favor of a metered and tiered usage model. The maximum data plan currently is for 2 GB of data per month at a cost of $25. With phantom data charges and over-stated data use by AT&T’s reporting, if Hendrick’s allegations are correct, users stand to be charged more by AT&T.
Phantom data use has also plagued Microsoft recently in the news with the company’s Windows Phone 7 smartphone devices. According to Microsoft, synchronization problems with Yahoo! email may be to blame for that issue.