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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001


Courthouse News Service reports that AT&T has been hit with a new class action lawsuit alleging that the carrier is overbilling its customers for data transferred through its networks to iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. According to the suit, AT&T is overstating the amount of data used for each transaction, leading some users to exceed their data plan limits and incur extra charges.
This one claims that "AT&T's bills systematically overstate the amount of data used on each data transaction involving an iPhone or iPad account," and bills customers for data transactions even if they disable their phones and leave them untouched - as the plaintiff's experts did.

The class says AT&T's billing system "is like a rigged gas tank that charges pump that charges for a full gallon when it pumps only nine-tenths of a gallon into your car's tank."
The filing describes how a consulting firm hired by the plaintiff's attorneys conducted a two-month study that found AT&T overstating data usage by 7-14%, with some transactions coming in at as much 300% above the actual amount of data transferred.

The complaint goes on to detail data transactions being recorded even when no data usage is being initiated by the customer, as determined by the company purchasing an iPhone and letting it sit with push notifications and location services disabled and with no applications open or other data-transferrring tasks enabled.
This was discovered by the same independent consulting firm, which purchased an iPhone from an AT&T store, immediately disabled all push notifications and location services, confirmed that no email account was configured on the phone, closed all applications, and let the phone sit untouched for 10 days. During this 10-day period, AT&T billed the test account for 35 data transactions totaling 2,292 KB of usage. This is like the rigged gas pump charging you when you never even pulled your car into the station."
PC World notes that the greater-than-expected data usage may in some cases be related to Apple's multitasking features deployed in iOS 4 that allow certain processes of applications to continue running in the background even after the applications themselves have been suspended by the user switching to a different application.
Many of those apps may be actively communicating and downloading data in the background. So, perhaps the data issues that users are seeing, and that AT&T is being accused of systematically overcharging for, are--at least in part--a function of the "virtues" of adding multitasking to iOS. I can tell you this: once we realized all of these apps were running and started manually shutting down all of the multitasking apps, my data usage issues went away.
While it is true that certain applications running in the background can utilize data, that explanation does not appear to account for the circumstances cited in the lawsuit, which involve alleged overstatement of data used in individual transactions and phantom data usage by devices configured not to use data services.

Article Link: AT&T Sued Over Alleged Overbilling for iOS Device Data Usage


macrumors 6502a
Jul 1, 2010
I hope with this AT&T pays for everyone's bill for at least a month.

Not likely but one can hope.


macrumors 6502a
Sep 23, 2008

If these guys in this study were simply counting the data after it entered the device, it does not include the 'tax' of the TCP/IP Protocol....which adds about 10% to the data overhead.


macrumors 6502
Jan 8, 2007
Interesting. I don't think they did it on purpose, but I think it was a pretty stupid mistake. I'm not surprised; the iPhone's data counter in the Usage screen tends to be less than AT&T's reported data usage.

Hopefully we customers will get something out of this.

If these guys in this study were simply counting the data after it entered the device, it does not include the 'tax' of the TCP/IP Protocol....which adds about 10% to the data overhead.
Wouldn't be surprised if that were a factor as well.


macrumors 604
Mar 17, 2004
I've been charged for passing the 2 GB cap before, so I take interest in this.


macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2010
AT&T should just go back to a single unlimited plan and be done with it. Maybe this will guide them that way (hope, hope).


macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2003
I wonder if they are doing the same for calls? My usage has remained stable for years. In fact I have always had hundreds of unused minutes each month. In the past 6 months I have been charged for exceeding my minutes every billing cycle. I have tried to rationalize this but I cannot understand how I have all of a sudden almost doubled my minutes.
And just try to make any sense of the crazy bills. Bit like the tax system...there only to confuse you :confused:


macrumors 603
Jun 26, 2009
long island NY
i feel like that it is the os just sending data. did they think to try other phones on att? or an iphone on a different network? i mean come on.


Mar 26, 2008
wasnt there a case once that the iPhone sends data to "unknown" every night around 3 am? i think i read about that once


macrumors regular
Jan 18, 2010
Yet another point scored for unlimited data.

I agree.

Whether we're talking about MBs used in data plans or minutes used in voice plans, it is very difficult for consumers to independently confirm the usage claimed by network providers. Moreover, if the consumer does somehow independently meter his usage, he has no easy mechanism to challenge
the usage claimed by network providers.


macrumors newbie
Feb 1, 2011
As much as I dislike AT&T, this surely is a frivolous lawsuit. Are they taking into account the TCP/IP header overhead? ACKS and NACKS? Polling for software updates? Some lawyers are greedy, some are just stupid... sounds like these chaps are both.


macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2006
I always keep my data turned off, so nothing can access 3G or Edge or whatever unless I specifically want it to. I have the 200mb per month plan, so I watch it like a hawk. I use WiFi much much more anyway and when i'm out on the road, I just use the phone part anyway.

So far it's worked out great. I also keep tabs on what app is running in the background. Never had a problem with overbilling...yet. :D


macrumors 6502a
Aug 4, 2007
Interesting. I don't think they did it on purpose...
I don't think they did it at all. When the method of measuring this is gone over with a fine tooth comb, as it will be only if the legal case goes far enough, then I suspect we'll find that the investigator's method for measuring data usage was flawed.


macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
The chances of AT&T, at any level, messing up any process beyond all reason, is very high :eek: I have never hit my data limit (nor had signal problems, thankfully) but I’ve had occasion to work through problems with various AT&T departments in the past (land line, DSL, mobile) and they are inevitably shockingly disorganized and incompetent.

I can believe they might do this intentionally... and I can even more easily believe they just screwed up and are happy not to fix something that brings them money.


macrumors 6502
Sep 9, 2009

Good luck...

I heard from a source that works for AT&T that the company is near backrut. Whether its true or not, best of luck...


macrumors 6502a
Aug 2, 2005
On an island in Maine
If these guys in this study were simply counting the data after it entered the device, it does not include the 'tax' of the TCP/IP Protocol....which adds about 10% to the data overhead.
Yep, all these internet services are very chatty and are constantly sending information back and forth that the user never sees. It's the nature of modern networking. All the more reason that bandwidth caps are a out-of-date method of restricting internet usage and a step back for the consumer. These days when you turn any device on, there is a constant interchange of information, whether you like it or not. Just try installing a network spy on your desktop if you don't believe it.


macrumors 604
Mar 17, 2004
Melenkurion Skyweir
AT&T should just go back to a single unlimited plan and be done with it. Maybe this will guide them that way (hope, hope).

I'll be more than happy if they just introduce a plan with a reasonably high cap - like 25 GB or so.

That'd serve as a secondary purpose of mocking the stupid Canada ISPs. "You have 25 GB caps on your WIRED connections? We've got that on our WIRELESS networks! Suckers"

Or maybe not. :D
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