T-Mobile Sued For Throttling ''Unlimited'' Data

A disgruntled T-Mobile customer recently filed a class-action lawsuit in California alleging that the carrier markets certain phone plans as providing unlimited data usage, but then caps the bandwidth once the consumer has signed a two-year contract.

Trent Alvarez purchased two smartphones from T-Mobile last year, signing two-year contracts to receive the discounted price. Alvarez signed on under the impression that data usage would be unlimited, as he was assured by a T-Mobile sales representative who "expressly represented … that the data plan [Alvarez] was to receive would be 'unlimited.'"

But he eventually discovered that wasn't the case. In May 2010 Alvarez received a text message from T-Mobile saying that his connection would be throttled. "Your data usage in this billing cycle has exceeded 10GB," the message said. "Data throughput [speed] for the remainder of the cycle may be reduced to 50kbps or less."

He called to have the throttling removed, however the carrier refused.

Alvarez claims that T-Mobile's throttling renders the two phones "essentially useless for anything other than making or receiving phone calls and text messages." The lawsuit demands an injunction that prevents T-Mobile from advertising plans as 'unlimited,' and also requests a refund for the money spent on the phones and contracts.

The problem with the lawsuit is that T-Mobile provides a disclaimer in its Data Plan Terms. "To provide the best network experience for all of our customers we may temporarily reduce data throughput for a small fraction of customers who use a disproportionate amount of bandwidth," it reads under Protective Measures. "Your data session, plan, or service may be suspended, terminated, or restricted for significant roaming or if you use your service in a way that interferes with our network or ability to provide quality service to other users."

Currently T-Mobile offers "unlimited" plans on its website, but does not indicate any type of restrictions by using an asterisk and fine print. Consumers must click on the Data Plan Terms link to read the unlimited limitations.