AT&T has been tied in a long legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2014, the FTC sued AT&T for throttling its unlimited mobile data plan customers and not properly informing them it would that the company would throttle. AT&T a few months later claimed that because of its common carrier status, it wasn’t under the jurisdiction of the FTC and requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
In 2015, a judge rejected AT&T’s claim, but in 2016, a three-member Ninth Circuit appeals court threw out the previous ruling and FTC’s lawsuit by saying that AT&T’s common carrier status did exempt the carrier from being under FTC’s regulatory jurisdiction.
It appears that the lawsuit is back on track. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, a federal appeals court has ruled that the FTC may proceed with the lawsuit against AT&T, and has rejected the Ninth Circuit court’s previous decision. Per the full-panel Ninth Circuit appeal court, they back the FTC’s original argument, which says that because the service in question weren’t part of those that fall under AT&T’s common carrier status, the lawsuit is therefore valid and may proceed.
The FTC’s lawsuit against AT&T is seeking reimbursement for the AT&T customers who has their data throttled by the carrier. FTC Chair Maureen Uhlhausen in a statement said, “I welcome the Ninth Circuit’s ruling as good news for consumers. It ensures that the FTC can and will continue to play its vital role in safeguarding consumer interests including privacy protection, as well as stopping anticompetitive market behavior.” FCC Chair Ajit Pai said, “The Ninth Circuit’s decision is a significant win for American consumers. Among other things, it reaffirms that the Federal Trade Commission will once again be able to police internet service providers after the Restoring Internet Freedom Order takes effect.”
In a statement to Reuters, AT&T spokesperson said, “Today’s decision on jurisdiction does not address the merits of the case. We are reviewing the opinion and continue to believe we ultimately will prevail.”