Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

AT&T data taxing Class Action settlement reached

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Everybody hates lawyers… until they need one.

While some would go so far as to extol alleged virtues of the abolition of taxation, asserting that no one should not pay any taxes whatsoever – such as the radical liberal Mises Institute, whose ivory towered Social Darwinistic professorial adherents theorize of such a Utopian society – the vast majority of us live in the real world, where taxation upon income, purchases and transactions are a daily part of life.

However, the purpose of this post is not to espouse a particular position, but to inform. Toward that end, it very much appears that for many years, AT&T Mobility has – in violation of applicable federal, state and/or local law(s) – independently taxed Internet service it provided to smartphone owners – such as the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm, etc.

Thus, if you have ever used any AT&T Mobility Internet service – whether you have ever owned a smartphone or not (there are numerous cell phones that can access the Internet, even though they’re not categorized as “smartphones”) – you are a member of a class, and are entitled to a settlement.

For your convenience, there are few questions with answers posted below; and for further reading and details, the link to the website is: ATTMSettlement.com.

1. What is the lawsuit about?
This is a case that relates to AT&T Mobility’s practice of charging customers for taxes, fees and surcharges on internet access through certain services. These services include iPhone data plans, Blackberry data plans, other smart phone data plans, laptop connect cards and pay-per-use data services. The lawsuit alleges that these practices are not permitted under the Internet Tax Freedom Act, 47 U.S.C. § 151 (1998) (as amended) and other state laws. As a result, the lawsuit claims that AT&T Mobility is liable for damages to the Class.

The reason you are getting this notice is that there is a proposal to settle the entire lawsuit, as will be described below. AT&T Mobility denies that it did anything wrong, denies that it violated any laws, and has raised a number of defenses to the claims. There has not been any finding of any violation of the law by AT&T Mobility or that recovery could be had in a certain amount. The Court has authorized notice to be given of the proposed Settlement, but does not express any opinion on the merits of the claims or defenses asserted by either side in the Lawsuit.

2. Why is this a class action?
Class actions are lawsuits in which the claims and rights of many people are decided in a single court proceeding. Representative Plaintiffs (“Class Representatives”) are named in the lawsuit to assert the claims of the entire class. This avoids the necessity for a large number of people to file similar individual lawsuits and enables the court system to resolve similar claims in an efficient and economical way. Class actions provide a vehicle whereby people with similar claims are treated alike. In a class action, the court is guardian of class interests and supervises the prosecution of the class claims by class counsel to assure that the representation is adequate. Class Members are not individually responsible for the costs or fees of counsel, which are subject to court award.

3. Why is there a Settlement?
The Court did not decide in favor of the Class Representatives or AT&T Mobility. The lawyers who initially brought this case, referred to as “Class Counsel,” have investigated the facts and applicable law regarding the Class Representatives’ claims and AT&T Mobility’s defenses. The parties have engaged in lengthy negotiations in reaching this Settlement. The Class Representatives and Class Counsel believe that the proposed Settlement is a good deal for the Class. It remains for the Court to decide under the appropriate legal standards that the proposed Settlement is indeed fair, reasonable and adequate and in the best interests of the Class. Both sides agree that, by settling, AT&T Mobility is not admitting any liability or that it did anything wrong, but both sides want to avoid the uncertainties and high cost in time and money in litigation of this type.

4. Who is included in the Settlement?
You are a part of the Settlement if you paid taxes, fees or surcharges to AT&T Mobility on internet access through certain services including iPhone data plans, Blackberry data plans, other smart phone data plans, laptop connect cards and pay-per-use data services on bills issued from November 1, 2005 up to and including September 7, 2010.

Excluded from the Class are (i) AT&T Mobility, any entity in which AT&T Mobility has a controlling interest or which has a controlling interest in AT&T Mobility, and AT&T Mobility’s legal representatives, predecessors, successors and assigns; (ii) governmental entities; (iii) AT&T Mobility’s officers, directors, agents and representatives; and (iv) the Court presiding over any motion to approve this Settlement Agreement.

23. How can I get more information?
More information is available on this website. You can read the Settlement Agreement by clicking here. Or you may view the papers filed in this Lawsuit during regular business hours at the office of the Clerk of the Court,
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
,
Eastern Division,
Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse
,
219 South Dearborn Street,
Chicago, IL 60604.

File: In Re: AT&T Mobility Wireless Data Services Sales Tax Litigation, MDL No. 2147, Case No. 1:10-cv-02278. You can also call 1-877-905-8928 for information.

The full Settlement Agreement and the pleadings filed in the Actions can be requested, in writing, from Class Counsel. Addresses for Class Counsel are available in the response to question 13 above.

24. Will I be paid all the taxes that were charged to me?
No. The legal fees associated with the Settlement and the costs of administering the fund, etc. will be deducted from each Class Member’s share of the Settlement. The amount you may receive also will be affected by the taxing jurisdictions’ decisions on the refund claims. Finally, the amount of your benefit payment will depend upon the amount of the tax that you were charged, and that amount depends upon the type of service you had and the particular state and/or local taxes you were charged based on your location.

25. Do I have to submit something to receive my benefits?
No. You do not need to do anything. AT&T Mobility can identify who was assessed taxes and the amount of those taxes. However, if you change your billing address, please send written notification of your old and new address, along with your account number(both current and if applicable, old/inactive) and phone number to the Settlement Administrator using the following address:
ATTM Settlement Administrator
P.O. Box 57098

Washington DC
, 20037-7098

If you desire to be in the Class, please do not send any materials to Class Counsel or the Settlement Administrator. Do not mail copies of bills or other correspondence. This will not aid in the payment of benefits and may lengthen the time and cost of administering the payments.

If you have questions, please do not contact the Court or AT&T Mobility, but review all materials on this site.

26. How will I be paid my benefit?
The Settlement Administrator will issue you a check and mail it to the most recent address the Settlement Administrator has on file when the Settlement is finally approved and no longer subject to appeal and the refunds from your state have been fully collected.

27. Can I apply my benefit to my AT&T Mobility bill?
No.

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8 Responses to “AT&T data taxing Class Action settlement reached”

  1. loganblogs said

    This was a year and a half ago. The website hasn’t been updated since then. I wonder what happend?

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi Logan! Thanks for writing. The site to which you refer – http://attmsettlement.com/ – has this scrolling note on the LEFT side: “On June 2, 2011, the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division granted the Motion for Final Approval of the Settlement. The rules allow for appeals of the Judge’s order. Whether or not there are appeals, Class Counsel and AT&T will continue to collect refunds of taxes paid from the taxing jurisdictions. As required by the Plan of Distribution, no payments will be made to class members until the maximum amount recoverable for a state, including amounts due from various local governments, has been collected. Please continue to refer to this website for updates regarding the distribution process. Thank you.”

      There is also a FAQ section, which may be helpful.

      On another note, may I encourage you (and others) to become active participants by sharing your voice with the FCC? They do give attention to disgruntled customers. As well, being politically active is something else I would recommend. For many years, the FCC has had a Republican chair, and has been closely tilted toward activities that do NOT give customer satisfaction. By being proactive, we can influence positive change that benefits consumers.

      Thanks again!

      • PM said

        Um, Warm, that last update on the attmsettlement website was in *2011*… not 2012. Will they ever update it again?

      • Warm Southern Breeze said

        Hi PM! Thanks for reading and for your question. My thoughts are “No, I sincerely doubt AT&T will update that site.” Frankly, the BIG MONEY that brought them back together again after their anti-monopoly break-up years ago (do you recall that court-ordered break up?), has once again, gained control in the halls of justice and in Congress, and their henchmen – most of whom are seated on the FCC Board – do their bidding, not the people’s benefit or interests. And that is a very sad state of affairs.

  2. loganblogs said

    I wonder what happened? This was a year and a half ago and the website hasn’t been updated since then!

  3. joyce said

    JP… I would like to know when are the funds being release its been so long and i know that the settlement has been confirmed on June 2,2011 the court date was March 10th so can you answer that question for me

    • Warm Southern Breeze said

      Hi Joyce! Thanks for reading, and for your question! The best answer I can give is from item #8. When would I get my benefit?

      “The Court will hold a hearing on March 10, 2011, to decide whether to approve the Settlement. If the Settlement is approved after the hearing, there may be appeals. Once the Settlement is approved and all appeals have been resolved, the Settlement Administrator will send out the benefits as soon as monies are received from the taxing jurisdictions to which your payments to AT&T Mobility were remitted. This may take some time, so please be patient.”

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