Following our reporting last week, chronicling AT&T’s multiple material changes to their terms of service (and refusal to waive Early Termination Fees stemming from that), we have received a response from AT&T.
AT&T’s position is that the changes to their arbitration clause (which changes how customers can seek arbitration, and further limits their ability to sue AT&T), as well as their Acceptable Use Policy (which now limits the ability to share video and television streams over a device) are not material changes. The CTIA (and all carriers) have agreed to waive termination fees, should they make a material change to their terms of service.
Specifically, Mark Siegel, Director of AT&T Media Relations provided AT&T’s internal policy on what they consider to be a material change:
“Under (AT&T’s) terms of service, there are only two situations in which we would allow you to terminate your agreement because of a change in TOS without having to pay the ETF:Â
- If we increase the price of the service,
- Or if we materially decrease the geographical area in which your airtime rate applies.”
We have been unable to locate where this policy is communicated to customers… before, during, or after they sign their contract. Other carriers, such as Sprint, clearly state what limits they put on material changes in the written terms of the contract.
Mr. Siegel declined to comment on the impact of the FCC’s Comcast/BitTorrent ruling, which appears to state that AT&T (or any other service provider) cannot limit individual usages or protocols on their connection to the internet. If said ruling was applied directly to AT&T, it would render illegal AT&T’s new restrictions on what consumers can do with their internet service. The FCC has thus far avoided application of the new ruling to wireless providers. Advocacy groups such as the EFF, and PhoneNews.com, have begun advocating that the FCC begin uniform application of the Comcast/BitTorrent ruling.
PhoneNews.com will continue to work with AT&T, and begin working directly with the FCC to resolve this matter. If you do not agree with AT&T on this, the federal government requests that you file an FCC complaint online, a one page form that takes only a few minutes to complete.
Previously, when AT&T was providing various conflicting statements, we encouraged you to cancel in protest. Now, you’re going to have to decide what is best for you. It may take the FCC years to achieve a final resolution, so it’s up to you if you want to cancel and dispute the ETF charges. Keep in mind that if your account is in dispute, you won’t be able to sign back up with AT&T until it is resolved. We certainly encourage you to complain to AT&T if you don’t agree with these changes (and, this new policy that limits what a material change to the contract is).