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AT & T Vexes DOJ, American Idol Fans

Thu, 01/15/2009 - 8:39am
Evan Koblentz

It’s been a week of minor annoyances for AT&T, having run-ins with two groups you don’t want to anger: the Department of Justice and frustrated teens.

On the legal front, AT&T agreed to pay $2 million to avoid trial for allegedly violating court orders last spring to separate customer data in divested markets and for illegally using that data to gain subscribers.

“It is imperative that companies fully abide by their court-ordered obligations in order for our settlements to be effective in preserving competition and protecting consumers,” said Deborah Garza, acting assistant attorney general in the antitrust division.

The divested markets – two markets in Kentucky and one in Oklahoma – were part of the FCC’s consideration when approving AT&T’s $5.1 billion acquisition of Dobson Communications last year.

Meanwhile, frequent texters and American Idol fans called out AT&T this week for sending text-message spam. The New York Times said AT&T did not charge recipients and noted a simple opt-out method, but the controversial matter is whether AT&T had the right to send messages in the first place.

The form of such messages is illegal in Europe but not in the United States, the newspaper noted.  Text spam in general is a hot topic. In the United States, it’s related to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the better-known CAN-SPAM act.

AT&T’s stock dipped yesterday morning and again this morning, in both cases swinging back up soon after.

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