A Simple Business Ethics Problem
AT&T advertised unlimited data plans that weren’t. That sentence tells you everything you need to know in terms of business ethics. Telling someone you are going to provide a service and then not is wrong.
And it is not wrong in just one way. It’s fraudulent misrepresentation. AT&T lied to get customers to pay for a service that wasn’t going to be provided. That’s fraud. It’s a basic violation of contract law.
Usually this would be cured by a lawsuit but since the Supreme Court has made class actions suits very difficult to bring, that leaves as the only sheriff in town the FCC. The word is they are going to fine AT&T a hundred million dollars.
I don’t think that’s right. My first problem is that as far as I can tell no one knows how much money they gained by the illegal act. Punishment should as much as possible be proportionate to the crime. (Take the Charleston church shooting – in that case there is simply no proportionate punishment possible. But this is a business crime.) This is about money and money is quantifiable. Perhaps a multiple – five times or ten times what was taken?
And what’s more I am curious. Who in AT&T thought this was a good idea? I think when a business does something wrong, those making the wrong decisions should have their name in the official documents and thus in the newspapers, the television, the Internet, etc. Public shaming is a useful tool. More importantly, when a corporate executive is climbing the ladder, an internet search showing a few little bumps in the road might slow that process to a crawl – it’s called justice. And it might actually discourage people in these brackets from breaking the law. As long as the only calculation is whether or not you make money and can afford the fine, breaking the law is just another corporate strategy to be used whenever applicable. But putting people in a bad light because they do illegal things, that’s not part of the game and they’re not going to think it’s fair because after all, “It’s just money!” No, it’s not. Lawbreaking violates morality and there should be punishment for this, public punishment.
It is time to change the rules. Because it is obvious that corporate criminality is never going to be stopped by fines. There has to be more.
A&T Loses Big In First Net Neutrality Case | ThinkProgress
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to fine AT&T $100 million for misleading customers with unlimited data plans.
An FCC investigation found that AT&T violated the transparency requirement under the 2010 net neutrality rules by offering “unlimited” data plans and surreptitiously throttling, or slowing, customers’ mobile internet access without telling them. The case does not involve the FCC’s newly published net neutrality rules passed earlier this year.
“Consumers deserve to get what they pay for,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Wednesday news release. “Broadband providers must be upfront and transparent about the services they provide. The FCC will not stand idly by while consumers are deceived by misleading marketing materials and insufficient disclosure.”