A woman who received a $5,077 bill from AT&T for data charges on her Netbook is suing the wireless carrier and RadioShack for fraud, reports Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica.
The lawsuit alleges that the two companies conspired to promote a netbook plus data deal that deliberately misled customers and tricked them into paying thousands of dollars per month for service.
Here's Parks' story:
Parks purchased a netbook from RadioShack in December of 2008 after the electronics retailer began advertising a heavily subsidized netbook deal: for $99.99 and a two-year AT&T contract, customers could buy a netbook with AT&T's DataConnect plan, allowing them to get online from anywhere. The DataConnect service costs roughly $60 per month before the usual taxes and fees.
According to Parks' complaint, she was warned by RadioShack that her first AT&T bill might be a bit more than expected due to a $36 activation fee, a month's worth of service billed in advance, and prorated charges from when she signed up. She was not, however warned that any Internet data usage over 5GB would result in "astronomical additional charges running into the thousands of dollars." She claims that the Customer Service Summary she received states that additional charges apply, but it was impossible for consumers to determine what those charges would be.
Astronomical, of course, to the tune of $5,077 -- or enough green to buy nearly 17 (that's not a typo) Acer Aspire One netbooks from Radioshack.
Cheng details AT&T's defense:
As usual for these types of cases, AT&T indicates that some of the accusations are a bit excessive and says it goes to great lengths to make sure customers know the details of additional charges. "We're reviewing the suit and don’t have a comment on it at this time," AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom told Ars. "But I can tell you that we go to considerable lengths to inform customers of the limits involved in these plans. We display the plan usage limits and overage rates on our collateral, terms and conditions, and on att.com, And customers can check their usage using myWireless Account or by using the usage monitoring capability on the AT&T Communications Manager application."
Ignorance clearly does not lead to bliss. Still -- this all goes back to a question I asked back in February: Would you buy a wireless plan with your Netbook?