Can You Sue Your ISP For Slow Internet, Throttling, Or False Advertising?
No one is a big fan of their Internet service provider (ISP). While services have improved over the years, Internet providers started as the most hated industry in America. In many parts of the country, your local ISP effectively constitutes a monopoly and many of these businesses exploit this position ruthlessly. You might be wondering if it’s possible to fight back in response to poor service. Can you sue your ISP for slow internet, fraudulent advertising, or throttling services? The answer is maybe.
Can You Sue Your ISP For Slow Internet
Slow internet is one of several cases of service-related issues you can use to take your ISP to court. However, preparing a legal challenge against your ISP isn’t something that you should take lightly. You’ll need to understand the process and prepare diligently to maximize your chances of success. This starts with exhaustive documentation of issues that pertain to your complaint, attempts to resolve it with your ISP, and finally, an informal FCC complaint. If this doesn’t pressure them to correct the matter, then a formal complaint and legal action is the final step.
When You Can Sue Your ISP For Slow Internet And Other Issues
There are many specific cases where you can sue your ISP for poor service. For instance, cases of false advertisement surrounding internet speeds can be successful. However, there’s a lot of nuance to assessing the normal latency and inconsistency of an internet connection versus dishonest action on part of your ISP. For example, an ISP that advertises “speeds up to 100 mb/s” will not and cannot be liable if speed isn’t always 100 mb/s. It’s the nature of internet connectivity that speed fluctuates, which is why advertising language uses the phrase “speeds up to”.
Of course, there are other occasions where advertising is obviously fraudulent. If your plan says “speeds up to 100 mb/s” and your internet tends to hover around 20 or 30 mb/s by default, you would certainly have a case. Overall, proving dishonest behavior by your ISP is something you prove by degrees. There’s no precise number that demonstrates dishonest behavior, but higher and higher levels of underperformance will gradually strengthen your case.
Other issues are clearer cut, such as fraudulent charges. Virtually everyone has some experience with hidden fees and billing mistakes. However, sometimes an ISP will refuse to refund you after charging you for a service you never asked for. In this case, proving guilt on part of your ISP is a simple matter of collecting enough evidence.
Unfortunately, it will be hard to fight cases where an ISP throttles specific services. While this was illegal in the past due to net neutrality, it’s permissible under post-2018 FCC guidelines. This could change in the future, but it’s the way things are for now.
Can you sue your ISP? Over slow internet? Yes. Over website-specific throttling? No. There are many other potential motives for litigation, but you’ll have to talk to a lawyer or read the FCC guidelines to know whether or not you have a case.
Steps To Take Before Suing Your ISP
The first and easiest step along the path to taking legal action is contacting your service provider. First, you should tell them about your problem and request that they acknowledge and resolve it. If they do neither, then it’s time to begin amassing evidence prior to filing an FCC complaint. Record conversations with your ISP when it’s legal to do so and log any text-based conversations. For that matter, request that your ISP provide you with records of your communications via email.
Next, you need to build your case itself. If you took their service on a promotional deal promising high-speed internet, you need to keep any relevant materials and documents. In addition to preserving the price the ISP offered you, it’s essential you can prove the terms and duration of the deal as well. This is true for all plans but less important when you’re using a standard deal. This is because when you can point to the terms of your extant plan, it’s hard for the ISP to deny them. In comparison, denying the terms of your promotional deal is easy when you lack any proof.
Then start taking and recording internet speed tests at various times of the day. To build a strong case, you should be using the best possible connection and minimize competition from other devices. The further you go to optimize your speed, the more conclusively you prove that your ISP isn’t providing the internet speeds they promised. You should take screenshots with timestamps to further your case and demonstrate the consistency and accuracy of your evidence.
How To File A Complaint
Once you’ve tried to resolve matters with the ISP and built your legal case, you’re ready to send your legal complaint to the FCC. Their web portal offers a fairly straightforward process, which requires your email and information regarding your dispute. From here, the FCC will process your complaint and forward it to your provider. This is generally the point where an internet service provider starts to back down and seek to resolve your issue.
If they resolve your issue successfully, then all’s well. If they make some small effort that fails to rectify your issue, then you should pass that information along to the FCC. If the ISP does nothing, then they’re in violation of the law which requires them to follow up with you and the FCC within 30 days of an informal complaint. In this event or if they fail to meaningfully resolve your issue, it’s time to file a formal complaint and take them to court.
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