An MSNBC investigative report, and related lawsuit, claims that AT&T has “systematically overstated” the data usage of iPhone and iPad customers. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, seeking class action status, hired an independent computer firm to compare the actual amount data used by iPhone and iPad customers with the amount that AT&T bills users for. “Did you find overcharges on every single transaction,” asked MSNBC’s Lisa Myers, speaking with the investigating firm’s representative. “Yes, every single one,” he responded. “Did you ever find an instance where the discrepancy worked to the benefit of the customer,” poses Myers as a follow-up question. “Never,” quipped the representative. “Always an overcharge; never an undercharge.” The study alleges that AT&T overstates customer data usage by 7% to 14% and, in some rarer cases, by up to 300%. To illustrate its point, the firm bought a new AT&T iPhone and line of service, “disabled everything that might trigger data usage,” and let the phone sit untouched for ten days. During that time period, thirty-five different data charges appeared on the virgin phone’s bill. AT&T responded to the report saying that the claims are “without merit” and that applications may auto-update or refresh in the background without a consumer’s knowledge or consent. Whatever the reasoning is for the purported up-charging, we’re sure this isn’t the last you’re going to hear about this one. A video clip of MSNBC’s report is waiting for you after the break.
UPDATE: An official statement from an AT&T spokesperson is after the break.
An AT&T spokesperson has provided the following statement to BGR:
Accurate billing is clearly important and, unfortunately, there have been some incorrect claims about our data usage billing practices. We properly charge for all data that our customers send and receive, including data activity that runs in the background on smartphones and other powerful data devices. Data usage for emailing, downloading applications, browsing the web, downloading a video or streaming music is all applied to a customers’ data plan. So are real-time updates to applications, such as weather updates, sports scores, or stock tickers. Particularly for smartphones, tablets and other advanced mobile devices, applications are often constantly running in the background and engaged with our network. And, AT&T captures your data activity nightly to create a bill record in our systems. This will appear on your bill to be a late night “charge,” but in fact, the time stamp reflects the time that your device established a connection to the network, not the time that you sent or received data.