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Straight Talk Sued Over Hidden Limits on "Unlimited" Service

Tracfone's Straight Talk Wireless brand advertises "Unlimited Talk Text and Data" for $45 per month. However, as many Straight Talk users have discovered, the data isn't really unlimited. There have been countless cases of Straight Talk customers suddenly finding that their data isn't working. When they call the company they are told that data has been suspended for violations of Straight Talk's Terms of Services. However,  Straight Talk support representatives are unable or unwilling to tell users what uses are prohibited or what the user did that put them  in violation.

The Straight Terms are quite vague and basically allow them to terminate the data service of any user who uses too much data with out defining how much is too much.

I don't believe it's economically viable for an MVNO to provide truly unlimited data for $45 per month. But it's still false advertising to promote a service as providing "unlimited data" when there are in fact limits.

San Francisco attorney Michael Sobol of the firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein has filed a class action suit against Tracfone, which is a division of Mexico's America Movil - the fourth largest mobile operator in the world. The suit accuses the company of "breach of contract, breach of faith, unconscionability, unjust enrichment, deceptive trade, unfair competition and consumer law violations". The suit asks the court to order Tracfone to pay unspecified compensatory damages to customers and to issue an injunction. The suit also names Wal-Mart, which is the exclusive retailer of Straight Talk phones and service.

I have no idea if this suit will be successful although I hope it will. Straight Talk's misleading advertising is bad for consumers and for competing MVNOs that are put at a disadvantage by fairly disclosing the limits of their plans. As far as I'm concerned the use of the term "unlimited" should to be restricted to services that truly have no limits and I don't think very many, if any, cell phone plans really have no limits on data usage.

Source: Courthouse News Service

35 comments:

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  1. I knew they would be sued for false advertizing sooner or later. What about net 10. They are not unlimited like they say they are either.

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    1. Agreed, NET10 is almost as bad although at least they admit a 1.5 GB cap on AT&T BYOD. If Straight Talk loses the suit or settles for a substantial amount I'm sure NET10 will be sued too.

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    2. The lawsuit will not target Straight Talk, it will target America Movil the parent company of Straight Talk and Net 10 so both will be affected by this lawsuit.

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    3. The Law firm will place an law suit on America Movil the parent company of both Straight Talk and Net 10. Not each one individualy.

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    4. I am not a straight talk user but I do no this that there is no clear written amount on thier service plan and those of you on here to say read it and understand. Unlimted is defined as such no limit therefore assumption is plan. They can cut you off when ever they feel like it. Does that make it right NO execptions should have clear aamounts listed which they do not. They pray on the low income with words like unlimted for 45.00 and in our modern world of eletronics and everything using data this is false no matter how you look at it. I use Verizon and have for years and they had unlimted data until I upgrade and I lost it. But I know what I pay for and that the difference these companies do not tell you they decided and from one month to the next it gets smaller and smaler how do I know because my fixed income parents have that phone and was the only contact with family. LIARS LIARS make sure you know before you spout off these companies cheat and lie

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  2. TOS says they can discontinue service at anytime for any reason (especially for abuse). Businesses are allowed to refuse service to anyone. No case here...

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    1. Point missed, Nick. Shilling, maybe?

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    2. I agree with Nick that TOS defined Unlimited in a way that allows ST to discontinue service. Pageplus had not done that when they were sued and lost. I will never buy America Movil products or services because of their business practices, but I do not feel sorry for people who agree to contracts without reading or understanding them, then go crying to government or lawyers to bail them out. Grow up and accept responsibility for your actions. ST thrives in part based on plenty of ignorant customers who can't read or are too lazy to, and only seem to care about price.
      Class-action lawsuits are very expensive and time-consuming, so I expect a settlement of some kind.

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    3. texrat: contract is pretty straight forward. If you entered into a contract, you need to READ and UNDERSTAND the terms of the contract. Unlimited is probably a defined term under the contract.

      Also, if you don't like the terms of the contract, then don't enter it. What you cannot do is make your own assumptions about the terms mean, and then proceed to sue due to ignorance of the defined terms and conditions.

      I don't like Straight Talk but I do support contract law.

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  3. Normally, I would be really sick of lawsuits but this one really is merited. America Movil is really flagrantly misusing/abusing the unlimited terminology in its "unlimited" plans. I'm honestly surprised the Department of Justice didn't get involved.

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    1. Matt: Unlimited is a defined term per the contract. The DOJ is not going to interfere with contact law unless there is a public policy issue.

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  4. To avoid any confusion and misunderstanding the FTC should prohibit the use of the word "UNLIMITED" in advertising. All wireless Co. will be required to specify exactly how many minutes/text/data is allowed, and if its truly unlimited (which only the carriers themselves provide, and never their MVNO's) it will be something like 43200-minutes/100 trillion-texts/ 1000-terabits/data a month.

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    1. Bans are for losers and lawyers. Just ask Bloomberg, who lost his second appeal on the soda ban. His lawyers want more, to appeal again. Once the gov starts banning words, it will enjoy it so much that it won't stop. There are at least 40 synonyms for 'unlimited.' You think the marketing people won't use them? Within a few years, all words will be banned in contracts (after all, some people can't read. Not fair!). Companies will have to use internationally-approved pictograms, like those cute road signs and car dash labels in Europe. Think cave paintings (so simple, even a caveman can understand a cellphone contract!).
      Speech is too PC now; next stop, contracts?

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  5. TF wants it both ways,it's unfair for consumers and TF competitors.

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  6. @Nick, great.business ethics,not.

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  7. When I read this story my first thought was "they should be sued!" They say unlimited, but then limit you. When you call to ask what their limit is they say they can't tell you. Straight talk was the WORST company I have ever dealt with in ANY industry. Truly awful and the worst (and most misleading) customer service I've ever experienced. I hope the class action lawyers contact me, I'd love to testify against them!!! I'd pay my own way to travel to California to testify against them.

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    1. If enough people discontinue the use of there service they will go out of business. Try T-mobile they have unlimited plans and tell you when they throttle your phone back.

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  8. Have you been injured by Straight Talk - WalMart ? You are entitled to compensation..!!

    Call 1-800-Sakolov Law Firm

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  9. ST will fight, "the class" will fight back. After about 1 year, ST will finally agree to amend the TOS, settle for millions. The millions will probably equal a refund of $1.98 to each former subscriber on record in the past 5 years and the case will be over with the big winner being the lawyers!

    The fact the TOS are extremely vague, gives "the class" a lot to argue about. Good luck, class.

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    1. I agree. I would like to see video of some ST customers who were "harmed" testify in depositions that they did not understand something like "ST can discontinue service at any time for any reason." So vague - so confusing. Then, under oath, they have to admit that they did not even read the contract. "Too long. Too confusing." That would be good entertainment.

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    2. Yes, because you are much smarter than a lawyer.

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  10. People need to exercise COMMON-SENSE when dealing with anything that has to do with America Movil(aka Tracfone). Technically on the surface it is a false claim. Then comes the "fine print". Many people get arthritis of the brain when it comes to reading it.
    There is enough press with subscriber complaints against Carlos Slim's telecom giant.
    You get what you pay for.

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  11. What?!??!???

    StraightTalk is NOT Unlimited?!??!???!

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  12. There are limits to what caveats the fine print can say, whether or not anyone reads it. You can't describe something as "fireproof" that burns like gasoline despite an asterisk that reveals it actually is very flammable. Even if you make someone sign a disclaimer that absolves them of all liability you can sue and win if the owner of the product or service is negligent in how they described it or operated it. As a non-lawyer but a professional wordsmith I would think that the plaintiffs have a strong case that Straight Talk is using deliberately misleading wording that doesn't mean what it says.

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    1. 1) Wordsmith......LOL
      2) Carlos Slim has more than enough $$$$$ to dish out
      3) Deliberately misleading...you have to prove the deliberate absolutely.

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  13. Straight Talk is not talking straight about itself. It started in the feature phone days when they did not allow byod/byop (bring your own phone device) and controlled everything including the type of phones on their network (1xrtt cdma phones in the first generation of Straight Talk devices). With feature phone data, you can offer a gig or two as "unlimited" and not worry because the browsers are so crappy and the data flow so slow nobody will ever reach such limits even if they wanted to use the web. But with Bring your own device/phone and 3G and even 4G data speeds increasingly becoming the norm, the old standards couldn't meet them . The market changed and ST didn't thus they got caught up in the "unlimited isn't unlimited" vicious circle a lot of mvnos are in. If you want truly unlimited talk/text/high speed data with no caps/throttles, it's Tmobile Prepaid/Monthly plans 4G $70 plan and that's about it. Anything else is gonna have a cap/throttle or cutoff somehow somewhere, tos or not. Tracfone can afford payouts, they are in the business of suing others all the time for things like phone unlocking so they can deal with a little taste of their own medicine.

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  14. Carlos Slim (The World's Riches Man) vs A Small Time Lawyer.
    I put my money on The World's Riches Man. People should try reading the
    T.O.S. before they spend their money. I knew what the terms were on Straight Talk before I brought my phone. How? A minute Google search. There will be no money changing hands for Straight Talk customer's. Just more of these things ****** on the T.O.S.

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    1. This is about public relations, not David vs. Goliath. Something like this can be very damaging to a corporation's reputation and the last thing Carlos Slim wants is his big brand damaged. My guess is that not even the richest man in the world will be able to control the spin. Really, the only option America Movil has is to settle without admission of guilt. In a short while, the collective public's memory will fade and it will be business as usual.

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  15. Straight Talk isn't lying when they say it's straight-talk, because there is no data, only talk ha!

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  16. They have never published a set cap because they're isn't one. You have to keep in mind that they use services from att, Verizon, sprint, and T-Mobile. Each company has different criteria for what constitutes abnormal or excessive use of their data network. If you use the stock browser and follow their terms of service you won't have a problem. If you download a bunch of ringtones and wallpapers or watch YouTube then they will shut you off..... per the tos that you agreed to when you activated your device. If people can't read the simple tos then they won't read 4 sets of tos, one for each service provider, leery alone understand them.

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  17. What is your point exactly? It's called straight talk. Not Verizon talk, Sprint talk.ect...

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  18. Words mean things. Take the word "Unlimited". If the limit is 2GB, or x MB per day, or whatever, then it's no longer "Unlimited". This has always irritated me about many wireless plans. It's part of the reason I'm out of postpaid and will only ever do exclusively prepaid anymore.

    Those who say unlimited is defined in the TOS have to admit that they're basically twisting the term as is generally accepted by the public into something that generally isn't. That would be like me advertising a plan that promises 1200 minutes, but in the TOS it's really only 300.

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  19. Straight-Talk's TOS specifically points out that you'll be cut-off for constant VIDEO streaming. Yet I was cut-off once because I had an audio stream running for ~8hrs. Very vague TOS but clearly NOT unlimited.

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    1. I For one am glad they are being sued, My service was terminated once for streaming video. The word unlimited means what it says and there should be no contract terms of service crap such as they claim. I hope the bastards are put out of business even though its a good price for service if your fortunate to go a whole month without being compleately shut off un expectately. Good luck KMA straighttalk...

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