In a sweet victory for cell phone users fed up with exorbitant early termination fees (ETFs), AT&T has proposed a settlement in a New Jersey class action lawsuit that contends the company’s flat-rate ETF is unlawful. The wireless carrier has offered hefty $16 million in cash and $2 million in non-cash benefits as a settlement for class members who file claim forms by June 14, 2010.
Should the court approve this settlement, any current or former US customer of AT&T Mobility who was charged a flat-rate ETF any time from January 1, 1998 through November 4, 2009, can submit a claim form to receive up to $140. But get this: the lawsuit also covers any AT&T Mobility customers with a flat-rate ETF in their contract during that 11-year period—even if they were never charged. These people are eligible for non-cash prizes—er, “benefits”—that include an AT&T Prepaid Long Distance Card with up to 200 minutes. Nice.
By settling the case now, AT&T avoids having to argue that users 23 months into their contracts should have to pay the same ETF as someone who just signed up. AT&T isn’t the only telecom service taking heat for unfair ETFs; Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint have each had their own share of costly legal trouble stemming from these fees.
The court will decide whether or not it will approve the proposed settlement on April 14, 2010. Until then, visit the ETF Settlement Website to see if you’re eligible for the settlement.