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Monthly Archives

October 2014

AT&T Sued Over Throttling Data Speeds

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ftc-sues-att-for-data-throttlingThe Federal Trade Commission has accused the second largest wireless carrier in the country of “throttling” users’ unlimited data plans. The FTC alleges in a law suit filed this week, that AT&T has been selling unlimited plans and then reducing the speed of data heavy users by as much as 80 to 90 percent.

AT&T has been throttling users data speeds since October 2011 and impacts any user who surpasses a data threshold as low as 2 GB in a month. This data threshold can be reached in just seven hours of streaming HD video, according to AT&T’s dedicated data calculator.

The FTC said the throttling has resulted in slower speeds for users on 25 million occasions to the point where speeds were comparable to dial-up Internet. On average, 3.5 million users experienced slowdowns for about 12 days per billing period, which prompted thousands of complaints about the wireless company.

AT&T has responded calling the allegations “baseless” and asserted that throttling was a measure necessary to manage the company’s network resources. “We have been completely transparent with customers since the very beginning,” said AT&T’s general counsel, Wayne Watts. “This program has affected only about 3 percent of our customers, and before any customer is affected, they are also notified by text message.”

It’s one of the FTC’s most aggressive lawsuits for Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, a former corporate lawyer who assumed the position last year. By challenging one of the nation’s largest wireless providers, Ramirez is ruffling feathers with sister agency, the Federal Communications Commission, which typically handles issues with telecommunications despite being a bit too chummy with wireless corporations and often seen as not aggressive enough in regulating the wireless corporations practices.

“AT&T promised it’s customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” Ramirez said. “The issue here is simple: unlimited means unlimited.”

While the FTC is seeking financial damages that could result in AT&T unlimited data users being repaid for having their usage restricted, AT&T is merely telling it’s customers to use their phone’s WiFi capability or switch their data plans if they are unhappy.

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Gas Prices Lowest Since 2010

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gas-prices-lowest-since-2010The average price for gas at pumps across the U.S. is $3.08 per gallon, the lowest average price since late 2010. It’s the first time in four years the average of gas prices has been as low.

Prices fell 18 cents for regular grade gasoline, according to a bi-weekly survey conducted on October 24th. Crude oil prices have dropped due to a surplus in global supply and weak demand over the past few months. Survey publisher and president of Trilby Survey, Trilby Lundberg, cites a plunge in crude oil prices as the reason why we’re seeing some relief at gas stations.

Gas prices have been decreasing steadily in late 2014 and are likely to continue to decline as oil production in the U.S. and internationally are expected to increase. “The crude oil price cash has been passed through by refiners,” Lundberg told Bloomberg News. “Retailers will probably be pressed to pass through at the pump a few more pennies of price-cutting sometime soon.”

For 2014, the highest national average for gas prices hit $3.72 in May and is 29 cents lower than May 2013. Currently, the highest average price was recorded in San Francisco at $3.45 per gallon, while Memphis had the lowest price at $2.73 per gallon.

The U.S economy is likely to gain more than it loses from cheaper oil. Lower prices at gas stations give consumers more disposable income to spend at restaurants and on vacations, in addition to reducing costs for several businesses across the country. Price drops will deliver a welcome lift to American consumers and retailers heading into the 2014 holiday season.

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Citibank To Increase Monthly Fees

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citibank-fee-increaseIf you currently have a checking account with Citibank, expect to see a little more of your money go towards your monthly fees. The bank has announced that fees for their Citi Rewards checking accounts will go up from $20 to $25 per month beginning in January 2015, while the basic Citibank checking account fee will increase from $10 to $12.

Citibank announced a fee hike and changed balance requirements on certain checking accounts just three years ago, which makes the upcoming increase even more surprising. There are still avenues to avoid incurring these fees, but much like the last fee hike Citi imposed, the requirements will also change.

Previously, an account holder could waive balance fees by keeping a certain amount of money in their accounts that would include lines of credit, credit card and loan balances, and mortgages. These will no longer go toward the minimum balance, making it difficult for the average monthly balance to meet the required amount.

Citibank’s website explains what account holders must to avoid the new service fees. Basic checking account holders will need to make one direct deposit and one qualifying online bill payment each month. They must also keep a combined average balance of at least $1,500 in their checking and savings accounts. The Citi Rewards account won’t require a direct deposit or bill payment, but will required at least $15,000 minimum combined balance between savings and checking to avoid fees and earn a waiver when using non-Citibank ATMs.

The new fee hike and balance requirements will make Citi one of the most expensive places to handle your banking. For comparison, the average fee for a non-interest bearing account, similar to Citi’s basic account, is around $5.26 per month, while Citi will begin charging $12.

It’s still an option to avoid fees altogether, says Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “Free checking accounts with no strings attached are still available at many credit unions and community banks and online banks,” he said. “You just need to shop around.”

Like this blog? Share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.  Also, be sure to sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter Financial Consciousness. And join the conversation on Facebook where we’ve grown together and act as a community to promote financial healing.

Embrace Inspiration

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embrace-inspirationHave you ever found yourself wanting to do something, but not knowing where to begin? Maybe you have the skills, the passion, the drive and the chops to write a book, but you have absolutely no idea what you want to write about. Or maybe your current job no longer suits your personality or needs, but you have no idea what else you would do instead.

Believe it or not, this is a good problem to have though many people get too caught up in the “not knowing” to embrace the massive opportunity. But before I get into the advantages of this situation, I first want to dissect the psychology behind it.

Back in 2004, psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book called The Paradox of Choice where he argues that the more choices one has, the more difficult it is for one to make a choice. Schwartz even goes so far as to say that current abundance of choice we as Americans are experiencing may be leading to depression.

Does this ring true in your life? How often have you left a store disappointed because you could only get four items and not six? Or maybe you’ve felt that pull of longing while you’re on your final days of vacation because you couldn’t visit all the places you wanted to. Read More