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‘AT&T’ Faces Class Action Over Undisclosed “Administrative Fee”

AT&T denied all the allegations saying “the lawsuit is wrong.”

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AT&T has been slapped with a class action after alleging failing to disclose a $1.99 administrative fee to its customers.
AT&T denies the allegations. Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Telecom giant AT&T is in the center of a class action suit that alleges the company of charging customers more than their advertised rates. The complaint claims that the carrier has been charging an undisclosed $1.99-per-month “Administrative Fee.”

The lawsuit was filed by AT&T customers Ian Vianu and Irina Bukchin, and they are now seeking to raise the complaint to a class action that includes customers who have been fraudulently and sneakily charged by the company from in California. An injunction has also been filed to compel the company to stop charging clients with the contested Admin fee, and as well as an order forcing AT&T to pay damages, restitution, and legal costs to the class.

According to the complaint, the company is prominently advertising a monthly flat rate for all their postpaid subscribers, and the almost-two dollar fee is undisclosed in all their ads.

“AT&T prominently advertises particular flat monthly rates for its post-paid wireless service plans.” But after customers sign up, the telco “covertly increases the actual price” by tacking on the “bogus so-called ‘Administrative Fee,” reads the lawsuit filed Thursday in US District Court for the Northern District of California.

They hide the charges deep down the bill

The lawsuit alleges that the telecom giant is purposely hiding the charge in parts of the bill that are hard to find for users to have a hard time of noticing that the charge exists.

“Making matters worse, AT&T deliberately hides the Administrative Fee in its billing statements. In AT&T’s printed monthly billing statements, AT&T intentionally buries the Administrative Fee in a portion of the statement that: (a) makes it likely customers will not notice it; and (b) misleadingly suggests that the Administrative Fee is akin to a tax or another standard government pass-through fee, when in fact it is simply a way for AT&T to advertise and promise lower rates than it actually charges,” reads the complaint.

“Thus, by AT&T’s own design, the printed monthly statements serve to further AT&T’s scheme and keep customers from realizing they are being overcharged,” it read further.

The fee description is hidden “deep within” AT&T website

While the admin fee description has been included by AT&T “deep within its website,” the complaint alleges that it was designed in such a way that customers are less likely to find it.

“Not only does this description fail to constitute adequate disclosure of the Administrative Fee, but it also serves to further AT&T’s deception and scheme by suggesting that the Administrative Fee is tied to certain costs associated with AT&T providing wireless telephone services (interconnect charges and cell site rental charges),” said the lawsuit document.

Nonetheless, the complaint also says that in the event that the description listed on AT&T’s website is actually accurate, “it would merely reinforce that this undisclosed fee should be included in the advertised monthly price for the service because those are basic costs of providing wireless service itself, and thus a reasonable consumer would expect those costs to be included in the advertised price for the service,” reads the document.

AT&T costs says the fee should have decreased

The contested admin fee is not new coming from AT&T. It was first introduced in 2013 at the rate of $0.61 per month and has raised it three times. The complaint questions why the company has been raising the rate when if the company’s cost is to be considered, the rate should have decreased over time.

“Moreover, on information and belief, the fee is not tied to the costs that AT&T’s buried description suggests. This is corroborated by the fact that AT&T has repeatedly increased the amount of the monthly Administrative Fee since the fee was first imposed, while during that same time period the stated costs that the Administrative Fee is purportedly paying for (i.e., interconnect charges and cell site rental charges) have actually decreased according to AT&T’s financial statements,” the complaint adds.

“In all events, AT&T should clearly disclose the Administrative Fee and should clearly and accurately state the true monthly prices for its post-paid wireless service plans in its price representations and advertising. AT&T has failed to do so, and continues to fail to do so.”

When pressed for comments, the only response of AT&T to the lawsuit was: “The lawsuit is wrong. This is a standard fee, and we disclose it to our customers.”

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama. I also own a cybersecurity blog called Zero Day.

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There’s A Flame-Throwing Drone You Can Buy, And It’s Completely Legal

The flame-throwing device can actually be used for industrial purposes other than burning people to the ground

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Throwflame

An American company from Ohio called Throwflame is selling a drone attachment that allows users to spew fire in the air; it may not be the safest idea, but it can serve a practical purpose.

The flame thrower attachment is called TF-19 Wasp and can easily sound like a nightmare waiting to happen. The TF-19 Wasp gets its name from nature’s very own venom-stinging insect that could inflict pain with a single poke.

Throwflame sees that their latest product responds to a growing market need and can serve as an industrial solution in many applicable ways other than the morbid idea of burning people randomly—still a possibility.

According to an interview with Quinn Whitehead, Throwflame’s founder, by Gizmodo, people can purchase the attachment for recreation, agricultural use, and lighting stuff with limited access.

Throwflame calls TF-19 Wasp a “game-changer for clearing vital infrastructure, igniting remote vegetation, and eliminating pests.” But the flying fire dispensers are also useful for “nest elimination” and to “clear debris from power lines” with the convenience and safety of “remote ignition of aerial and ground targets.”

The company even said that the drone attachment could be used in domestic settings such as lighting barbecues to clearing the garden of weeds or cats.

More significantly, people have been attaching flamethrowers to drones for years now, and power companies do use them to clear trash and debris off of high voltage wires. It’s safer and more efficient than sending a human up in a cherry picker to pull off the garbage, Gizmodo reports.

“It’s definitely a unique concept,” Whitehead says in an interview with Gizmodo. “But any new technology is a little bit scary at first. You think back to when drones first got commercialized and popularized—they were cheap enough for the average person to buy—there was a lot of concern about privacy issues and people flying them all over the place, and swarms of drones blocking out the sun. But in hindsight, it’s kind of an overreaction I think.”

Comparatively, Elon Musk’s The Boring Company started the idea of recreational flame throwers with its Not A Flamethrower, a handheld fire-spitting gun, that gained popularity among younger consumers and has made an appearance in popular YouTube channels such as David Dobrik’s and Jeffree Star.

According to Musk, all of the 20,000 Not A Flamethrower guns offered were sold out. Meaning, there are 20,000 people with flamethrowers in their homes but, so far, we haven’t heard anyone use it to harm others intentionally.

Meanwhile, Throwflame said that only half of its customers pick up their products for recreational purposes, while the other half use them for agricultural work or lighting stuff where access is limited by foot or vehicle.

Throwflame even assured customers that their product is federally legal and is not considered a weapon and users are still required to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in addition to local ordinances.

The company’s FAQ says that “Flamethrowers are legal and unregulated in most counties. Chances are, we can ship to you.”

As of the moment, the four-pound TF-19 Wasp flamethrower drone attachment is available for purchase to the general public for $1,500. According to the company, the device can easily hold up to a gallon of tank fuel that should last users 100 seconds of firing time with a 25-foot (7.62m) range.

It burns through a mixture of petrol and diesel, although the company also offers napalm thickener – one scoop per gallon of 50:50 petrol-diesel mixture.

The company also offers a napalm-compatible standalone flamethrower called XL18 for more intense tasks. It provides a 100-foot (30m) range and can carry up to 3.3 gallons (12.5 liters) in its tank but will come at a higher price tag amounting to $3,000.

Depending on the drone used, users can have a visual input on their remote controls for farther distances and other hard-to-reach locations.

Furthermore, the device can convert your existing drones into a flame thrower menace or purchase the company’s recommended drone, which is a DJI S1000, which the basic kit costs another $1,500 but can go as high as $5000 for a full kit.

Throwflame says it’ll soon begin selling fully-assembled drones for $1,000 to $10,000, depending on what customers are looking for.

Orders placed on Throwflame’s website will ship in 2-4 weeks. The company will also build customized drone packages but will take an extra 1-2 weeks to accommodate the customization for user requirements.

“The WASP will be available for purchase on July 18, which is the anniversary of the beginning of the Great Fire of Rome under Emperor Nero in [the year] 64,” Whitehead said.

And if you act fast, Throwflame’s throwing in a free shirt for the first few purchases.

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Netflix Investing In Originals Amidst Second-Quarter Loss

Netflix originals are starting to pay off for the streaming giant despite the subscriber loss in the past quarter.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Netflix reported a tremendous loss in its subscriber growth based on the latest second-quarter report of the year, which price increase, the brewing streaming wars, and lulling content all contributed to the streaming company’s plummet. However, Netflix can’t do anything about the first two problems; hence, it’s putting more money in its original content instead.

According to the quarterly report, Netflix lost 130,000 subscribers from the United States—a first for the streaming platform since 2011. Furthermore, only 2.7 million paying customers globally were added in the second quarter, which is not a small number but falls way behind the projected 5 million users.

Netflix stocks dropped by more than 10 percent before the market closed on the day the report came out—equating to around a $17 billion loss from its market value, analysts say.

Notably, the subscriber count loss can mainly be attributed to the price increase the streaming giant implement — an increase from $1 to $2 — which was announced at the start of the year that went into effect a few months after.

The platform is also looking at an imminently decreasing range of content that it can offer to its loyal subscribers, as the streaming wars begin to bleed Netflix dry and consequently, its subscribers in the process.

Specifically, the streaming giant is facing a large problem in its home country due to the looming oversaturation of streaming sites that will soon be available for all US citizens.

WarnerMedia, Disney, and Apple are all launching their own streaming services within the next few years, and they’re bringing their original content with them and taking them out of Netflix.

In recent reports, Netflix will soon be losing several heavily watched licensed series including fan favorites, and most watch TV series Friends and The Office to competitors WarnerMedia and NBC Universal respectively.

In perspective, Disney+ will be involving Hulu and ESPN in its list of available services on top of successful production houses such as Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel for the general price of only $6.99 a month. Netflix’s basic plan is currently at $9.

Meanwhile, WarnerMedia is also launching HBO Max that will certainly feature pop culture icons such as Game of Thrones.

If more than anything, both products could easily persuade US customers in subscribing to their service and away from Netflix.

As of the moment, Netflix has over 60 million paying subscribers in the United States, and the company is confident that it can get that number climb up to 90 million.

However, with the streaming wars looming, Netflix is not taking any chances and are already looking at solutions. Primarily, the streaming giant is looking to get more original content on its platform.

Now, there are permanent studio sets that have been purchased for Netflix to produce films and TV shows faster. It is also putting lots of money behind US shows and movies, signing hundred-million-dollar deals with high-profile showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy.

Based on recent reports, the effort is paying off as Netflix continues to break records with its original movies and TV shows. One, in particular, was the recently released Murder Mystery movie that featured the tandem reunion of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Anniston. According to Netflix, who seldom releases viewership statistics, it grossed over 73 million views from household accounts worldwide — more than Netflix’s entire US base.

Stranger Things 3, a Netflix original series that launched in Q3, attracted 26.4 million unique viewers in the first four days of its release in the United States. It was “the most-watched Netflix original series [that] we’ve ever analyzed,” according to Nielsen data.

There’s also more in store this quarter with one of its biggest shows, Orange Is the New Black returns for its final season with Season 7. Variety said that the all-women prison drama series have at least accumulated a massive 105 million users that have watched an episode of the show.

Related: Netflix Originals Is Going Asian

Netflix is also looking to expanding its demographic outside the US and into other markets like Asia and Europe. Thus, it plans to continue ramping production of more original content to cater to these new customers.

Three shows in particular: How to Sell Drugs Online (Germany), The Rain (Denmark), and Quicksand (Sweden) have all found big audiences outside of their native region.

Theodore Anthony Sarandos Jr., the chief content officer for Netflix, said that each show has garnered around 12 to 15 million global viewers and that “they’ve been deeply relevant in the home country, and travel the region very, very well.”

In its letter to shareholders on Wednesday, Netflix said that while its US paid memberships were “essentially flat,” the company expects it to “return to more typical growth” in the third quarter. It expects to add another 7 million subscribers in Q3.

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2.2 Million More Patient-Victims Of AMCA Data Breach Came Forward

Clinical Pathology Laboratories blamed AMCA for not providing them enough information back in June.

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Photo: Thirteen Of Clubs Follow | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

A month after the medical collection portal owned by the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) fell victim to a data breach that has affected more than 20 million of their users from different blood testing laboratories and medical institutions around the country, a new AMCA partner lab came forward and said that their clients were also affected by the data breach.

According to Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL), 2.2 million clients may have had their names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, dates of service, balance information, and treatment provider information stolen from the previously reported data breach involving AMCA.

Last month, data were stolen from users of the AMCA payment portal that was used to pay for laboratory fees by more than 20 million victims. These data include their names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and other bank details.

The list of impacted testing laboratories includes Quest Diagnostics (11.9 million patients), LabCorp (7.7 million patients), BioReference Laboratories (Opko Health subsidiary, 422,600 patients), Carecentrix (500,000 patients), and Sunrise Laboratories (undisclosed number of patients).

This time, Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) says that an additional 2.2 million victims of the data breach come from their client list, and another 34,500 patients had their credit card or banking information compromised.

The company blamed the late announcement from CPL to AMCA for not providing them with enough information regarding the breach when it was first disclosed in June.

“At the time of AMCA’s initial notification, AMCA did not provide CPL with enough information for CPL to identify potentially affected patients or confirm the nature of patient information potentially involved in the incident, and CPL’s investigation is on-going,” said the company in a statement.

As of today, it is still unclear whether AMCA nor its partner companies have reached out to their clients to personally notify them about the data breach. Back in June, AMCA first disclosed that only 200,000 clients had their data compromised. However, reports from its partners have confirmed that the victim tally reaches 20 million.

AMCA and partners were slapped with lawsuits

AMCA, Quest, and LabCorp in June were slapped with at least 19 lawsuits concerning the data leak. More than 19 class-suite actions have been filed against the three companies for their involvement in the breach and their inability to fulfill the promise of protecting their clients’ sensitive information.

According to one of the lawyers in one of the lawsuits hurdled against the involved companies, healthcare providers are one of the most susceptible entities, but they have lackluster data protection systems.

“Healthcare companies are especially susceptible to data breaches not only because they aggregate a tremendous amount of important and sensitive data, but also because they tend to be less focused on cybersecurity protection than other industries,” said John Yanchunis of Morgan and Morgan, one of the firms who filed lawsuits against Quest Diagnostics.

Yanchunis said that these companies “know [that] they are at an increased risk and yet have not taken the proper steps to protect their patients’ data.”

AMCA filed for bankruptcy

Amid the data breach that centers the American Medical Collection Agency, the company has filed for bankruptcy and laid off more than 70% of its workforce, as cost in mitigating the impacts of the leak has to lead the company to lose a massive amount of money.

According to the company, the data breach “resulted in enormous expenses that were beyond the ability of the Debtor to bear.”

“Almost immediately upon learning of the breach, LabCorp unqualifiedly and indefinitely terminated its relationship with the Debtor,” the filing reads.

“Soon after, Quest Diagnostics, Conduent, Inc., and CareCentrix, Inc. which together with LabCorp were the Debtor’s four largest clients, stopped sending new work to the Debtor, and all terminated or substantially curtailed their business relationships with the Debtor.”

Cybersecurity experts have estimated that the company most likely to spend at least $400,000 for cyber forensics alone. Add to that the cost of IT support, severe restrictions that were put in place to protect AMCA’s network from further intrusion, looming court cases, and the loss of valuable business partners; it is most likely that the company was driven to the abyss of bankruptcy by the data breach.

Of course, to cut cost, AMCA has also laid off employees and only retained those who are significant in the legal battles it faces, including the lawsuits and its request for bankruptcy. AMCA’s current employee count is down from 113 to 25, which practically cut of 78% of its human resources. Fuchs has asked the court to consider a motion which will ensure the firm’s remaining staff will be paid during the process.

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