Settlement of IPad Data Class Action Approved

     (CN) - Attorneys who settled claims of "a classic 'bait and switch' fraud scheme" involving unlimited data plans for iPads will recover more than $1.5 million in fees, a federal judge ruled.
     Apple launched its 3G-enabled iPad on April 30, 2010, with AT&T as exclusive provider of 3G data service. Though the companies pushed unlimited 3G data plans to prospective buyers, it was announced weeks after the launch that they would discontinue the unlimited data plan.
     In subsequent lawsuits against Apple and AT&T Mobility (ATTM), consumers claimed that the promise of an unlimited 3G data plan induced them into buying more expensive, 3G-enabled iPads, which cost $130 more than iPads without 3G.
     U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte forced most of the plaintiffs into arbitration, but a plaintiff named Joe Hanna, who never accepted AT&T's arbitration agreement because he never bought an iPad data plan, was allowed to proceed.
     After Hanna filed a first amended master consolidated complaint, AT&T moved to strike the class allegations or deny class certification. The wireless provider claimed that class certification was improper since the court allowed Hanna alone to proceed.
     Whyte refused, however, agreeing that the case should proceed to discovery.
     Whyte ruled there was "no basis to assume that the availability of the unlimited data plan in particular would have been material to all class members."
     This past fall, Whyte granted preliminary approval to a settlement that required Apple to pay valid claimants $40 and required AT&T to take $20 off alternative data plans, for up to one year, that the claimants may choose.
     Claims related to 3G-capable iPad bought on or before June 7, 2010, were due Feb. 3. Whyte gave the settlements final approval in separate six-page orders Tuesday.
     The Apple order reflects that five class representatives will also each receive $1,000, and that class counsel will take home $1.5 million in attorneys' fees.
     AT&T is set to pay class counsel $17,200 for expenses, plus up to $232,700 in attorneys' fees.
     "As of the effective date, the class representative and all ATTM non-subscriber settlement class members shall be forever barred from bringing or prosecuting, in any capacity, any action or proceeding that involves or asserts any of the released claims against any released person and shall conclusively be deemed to have released and forever discharged the released persons from all released claims," the order states.