Dems Probe Niantic on Pokémon Go Data Usage

Democratic ranking members from various committees and subcommittees are probing Pokémon Go developer Niantic on the impact of its wildly popular app on consumers' data usage plans.

One veteran game player suggested it was not a data-heavy application, but it is being played heavily across the country as any trip to the park or strip mall will attest.

The legislators cite reports of users maxing out their monthly data usage plans in a week of playing, and "complained of eating through an entire family plan within a few days."

In a letter dated July 19, Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) framed the issue:

"Pokémon Go has quickly become the biggest mobile game in U.S. history and within a week of its release has surpassed the average daily usage of popular social media platforms including Instagram and Snapchat.  Third-party testing has found that a typical Pokémon Go player uses 10-20 megabytes of data per hour of play and that serious users playing for several hours per day could use up to two gigabytes of data per month, leading to concerns that consumers could quickly consume their monthly cellular data allotment." 

THey asked the company the following questions, and they want answers by Aug. 9.

1. "Are there best practices that Niantic follows to minimize the amount of data consumers use when playing Pokémon Go?

2. "Has Niantic worked with wireless carriers to ensure that consumers are not unexpectedly hit with large overage charges? [The letter quotes T-Mobile CEO John Legere reporting that Pokemon Go users data usage had quadrupled in the past four days. T-Mobile is zeroing out the game from its usage plan for a year].

3. "Does Niantic conspicuously warn consumers before they start using the app about how much data the app consumes?

4. "Does Niantic have any mechanisms in place to make sure consumers are made whole in the event they are hit with an unexpected overage charge resulting from the use of the app?"

Related: IT Industry Group Calls for Workplace Ban On ‘Pokémon Go’

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.