AT&T recently made the headlines for some misleading business concerning its 5G network — in essence, it added a 5GE indicator on devices that don't actually support 5G. Even a lawsuit from Sprint couldn't stop the company. Now, another complaint is on its way to the carrier, this time from its customers. They are accusing AT&T of charging a monthly $1.99 "bogus Administrative Fee" that it doesn't properly disclose in its rates.
According to Ars Technica, the plaintiffs say the company hides the additional fee in customer bills and suggests that it is similar to some tax or other government-related payments that can't be circumvented. AT&T does provide some proper explanation on the fee, but it's hidden away in the depths of its website and is not easily accessible. It states that the costs are associated with interconnect charges and cell site rentals. The plaintiffs argue that if this description is correct, these charges should definitely be included in the advertised monthly price, as they're part of the costs for providing the service in the first place.
AT&T first added the fee in 2013 at the cost of $0.61 per month and has since raised it three times — we even called the carrier out when it nearly tripled the charge back in 2018. Thus, the company can silently raise its service's prices without advertising higher costs to the customers. Also, the actual interconnect and cell site rental charges decreased per AT&T's financial statements, so the costs it passes through to its customers should in fact decrease, not increase. Thus, the lawsuit says the carrier is violating California's Consumer Legal Remedies Act. This would mean that AT&T collected the money illegally through the fee and that it has to reimburse harmed parties.
The lawsuit is seeking class-action status, so all current and former subscribers in California could get their money back. Affected people should contact the firm Hattis Law who speaks for the plaintiffs by using its online form. When Ars Technica asked AT&T for a statement, it repudiated any guilt: "The lawsuit is wrong. This is a standard fee, and we disclose it to our customers."
- Ars Technica