AT&T is about to get away with its fake $1.99 ‘administrative fee’

Since 2013, AT&T has been quietly stealing from customers hundreds of millions of dollars with a bogus “administrative fee,” a fee that more than doubled to $1.99 a month in 2018. For a few years, a California class-action lawsuit made it look like AT&T might finally be reprimanded. But this week, both sides told a judge they would settle for just $14 million — meaning customers could get less than 10% of what they paid AT&T, while AT&T continues to charge.

According to the agreement proposed in Vianu vs. AT&T Mobility — which has yet to be approved by a judge — virtually all postpaid AT&T Wireless customers in California since 2015 will be eligible for an estimated payout of between $15 and $29.

But then again, that’s just a fraction of what AT&T’s own records show it charged: $180 per customer on average since 2015, according to documents. The deal “represents a refund of approximately 6 to 11 months of average fees,” they read. Meanwhile, the lawyers are expected to receive $3.5 million.

“The estimated amount of the payment represents a strong outcome for the Settlement Class, especially considering the risks, costs and substantial delays of continuing litigation,” the proposed settlement agreement reads, going on to list all the ways in which attorneys suing AT&T believe that AT&T can still win the case.

There’s little doubt the fees are fake, in case you’re wondering: Judge Laurel Beeler stopped AT&T from trying to file the case because the company “misleadingly and unfairly disclosed [the administrative fee] as a ticket cost”. In other words, AT&T can’t pretend it’s an unexpected expense that it’s simply passing on to its customers – the operator is profiting from it! And yet, the plaintiff’s legal team will not seek a victory.

Oh, and you won’t even get a check in the mail if you’re still an AT&T customer, assuming this version of the deal gets approved. The money will be credited back to your AT&T account, where AT&T can return the hand back for $1.99 — or more if it feels encouraged enough to raise the fee again. (Admittedly, it’s a more reliable way to ensure customers get their money back.)

If approved, you’ll likely find the settlement’s website here.

Here are a few more links you might find relevant:

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