Until fines are actually significant to giant corporations’ net income, all they’ll do is just write them off as a cost and then proceed with business as usual.
And all we can do is throw our hands up in disbelief knowing these corporations can get away with whatever they want because the consumer doesn’t really have a choice in buying their product.
AT&T is one of those companies and they were only fined $60 million for misleading its customers by throttling your data plan.
In July, Facebook was fined a record breaking $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission, which was the largest penalty ever imposed on a company for violating consumers’ privacy rights.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to pay the historic fine but more importantly they also agreed to adopt new protections for its users on the social network platform.
All of this was prompted by the 2018 Cambridge Analytical scandal where it was discovered that many companies sell off data they’ve acquired of its users to the highest bidder.
But does $5 billion really put a dent in Facebook?
It may be a historical fine but it’s practically chump change to the social media giant.
AT&T is one of the largest telecommunications companies in America and they were only fined $60 million by the Federal Trade Commission after settling a case where they lied to customers about its “unlimited” data plan because it throttled their data if they went over a certain threshold.
The settlement requires AT&T to deposit that $60 million into a fund that will be used to provide “partial refunds” to customers who signed up for unlimited data plans before the year 2011 (when the company’s throttling policy first went into effect).
The company is also barred from marketing plans off of their suggested speed or amount of data without disclosing any restrictions those plans may have.
The FTC wrote in a statement, “For example, if an AT&T website advertises a data plan as unlimited, but AT&T may slow speeds after consumers reach a certain data cap, AT&T must prominently and clearly disclose those restrictions.”
FTC Cbairwoman Edith Ramirez wrote back in 2014, “AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”
And if you thought that would make AT&T think twice then you’re sorely mistaken.
The company’s net income in 2018 was $20 billion. Also, it’s not the only time AT&T has been fined.
In the summer of 2015, the Federal Communications Commission fined AT&T $100 million for similar deceptive marketing practices involving its data plans. According to the FCC, the agency received thousands of consumer complaints that led them to investigate the throttling allegations.
Andrew Smith of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protections director said in a statement at the time, “AT&T promised unlimited data—without qualification—and failed to deliver on that promise. While it seems obvious, it bears repeating that Internet providers must tell people about any restrictions on the speed or amount of data promised.”
Of course, these figures seem like a lot of money in a vacuum but it’s like car change in your cup holder kind of money for them.