Cingular Foils Reader’s Attempt To Break Contract

Reader Corey wants to break out of his Cingular cellphone contract without fee, but is having trouble.

They just won’t let him.

Even after he tried everything in, “Break Your Cingular Contract Without Fee, Thanks 2 Txt Msg $ Raise.”

Read his story inside…


Corey writes:

    “Given the information contained in their TOS and the CTIA Consumer Code, I called Cingular Customer Service to terminate my contract agreement without being subject to the ETF. The representative I spoke with insisted that text messaging WAS NOT something I subscribed to, that it was a feature of my service and that I could not avoid the ETF. She also used this as an opportunity to sell me an upgrade for a text messaging package that I do not want or need.

    I asked the representative if someone could use Cingular text messaging without being a Cingular subscriber and she stated that they could not. So I asked if Text messaging wasn’t something I subscribed to, why is it that only Cingular Subscribers are able to use it? She had no legitimate answer for me.

    Based on her logic, Cingular Text messaging is one of the numerous services I currently subscribe to as a Cingular customer.

    I then inquired if she was familiar with the CTIA Consumer Code and I offered to read #7 to her, but she was not interested. After talking in circles with her for approximately 10 minutes, I got extremely frustrated and hung up the phone. She was clearly reading from a script regarding this matter; I can only assume Cingular is getting many calls regarding the price increase.

    I question if this is price increase is a well timed opportunity to increase revenue as the upcoming season of “American Idol” begins in a few weeks. Certainly this is a price increase that not many people will probably notice being mentioned on their bills. For those customers that do notice, it is a chance to up sell them into a text messaging package that they probably don’t need.

    This text messaging 50% price increase is exorbitant (how can a few bytes of text cost so much in comparison to what Cingular charges for voice minutes & for data?) to say the least and clearly changes the Terms of Service that I agreed to. Given the language of your TOS and the CTIA Consumer Code, I don’t see how your company representative can deny that there is a clear and distinct price change to my subscription.

    Cingular calls text messaging a service in their own “Cingular Nation GSM” plan terms and conditions:

    http://www.cingular.com/cell-phone-service/legal/plan-terms.jsp

    The terms for text messaging are listed under “Wireless Data Service Terms and Conditions” in Section II.
    “ADDITIONAL TERMS FOR SPECIFIC DATA SERVICES Text, Instant Messaging and Multimedia Messaging”

    This experience has completely changed my opinion of Cingular and makes me wonder what other price increases Cingular customers can expect in the future.

    Will I soon be charged $5.00 every time I want to access my voice mail?

    Will I be suddenly charged for long distance calls?

    These are also considered features by Cingular.

    Simply put, Cingular cannot increase rates anytime they want without allowing consumers the option to decline the increase. They have changed the terms of the contract that me and millions of customers have agreed to and they should not be able to get away with this.

    Many have been able to get out of their contracts, but not me.”

Corey then tried again. He wrote,

    “This time they claimed that they can change the price of any feature at anytime and the wording is in the terms & conditions.”

Try calling back and trying your attack again. If they’re reluctant, try escalating to a supervisor. Keep driving your points home, even if you repeat them several times. Dealing with these people is like an extremely frustrating video game, sometimes you gotta just keep hacking away.

Now we ask, did you ask them to point to the part of the T&C that says this?

UPDATE: To this, Corey says:

    “They told me to go here: http://www.cingular.com/cell-phone-service/legal/plan-terms.jsp

    They claimed that the passage located under the main heading of “Wireless Data Service Terms and Conditions”

    then subheading “I. General Terms & Conditions Applicable To Cingular Data Services…”

    then about 75% of the way towards the bottom of that section there is in bold font “Changes to the terms and conditions:”

    It reads “These terms and conditions may be changed from time-to-time.”

    Then it refers you to http://www.cingular.com/medianet for the latest changes to the t & c. There is no such price increase notice there and when I pointed this out to the supervisor I was speaking to, she said that is because the change doesn’t take effect until 1/27. Total bullshit.

    The section of the T&C they referred me to is the same one I mentioned to you earlier where it refers to text messaging as a “service”, not a “feature”.

    The Cingular Terms of Service, as you quoted on your blog, state that if they changes the price of services you can exit your contract without a ETF.

    They keep calling text messaging a “feature” and not something I subscribe to but I picked up Cingular’s rate plan brochure in their store today and the rate plan has “included features”: text messaging at $.10 along with all the usual stuff like nationwide long distance, caller ID, voicemail, etc.

    So basically according to my experiences on the phone, there is nothing stopping them from suddenly charging whatever they want for voicemail access or for caller ID. They have basically told me that I my contract only covers the amount of minutes I agreed to at the price I agreed to.”

You’re right Corey, this is bullshit. Yes, they MAY change the terms of service, but then you MAY also exit the contract without fee. The former doesn’t preclude the latter.

We don’t know what else to say except to call back and if they try this tact on you, tell them they’re wrong and insist, insist, on being let out of contract without fee.

Eye of the tiger!

— BEN POPKEN

RELATED:
We Interview Cingular About Cancelling Over Text Message Plans
What Cingular Tells Customers Canceling Over Text Message Rates
Break Your Cingular Contract Without Fee, Thanks 2 Txt Msg $ Raise

Comments

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  1. YoshidaSauce says:

    Apparently Corey wasn’t using his “Warrior Gaze” when he hung up the phone. Oh and contracts suck.

  2. Corey, I wonder if you could record a conversation with Cingular? I have a feeling that if we get a sound bite of Cingular CSR’s being douches it might tip the scales in your favor from the bad publicity factor…

  3. kerry says:

    It really chaps my ass when an intelligent, well-informed consumer like Corey produces copious evidence to back up his rights and still gets a runaround. Yes, Cingular may change your contract terms at any time, but the consumer is protected against changes he or she does not wish to live with. Yes they can charge more, but if they do you can leave without penalty. If they’re no longer bound to the contract you signed, you’re no longer bound, either. You are not required to accept their changes to your contract.
    Also, IIRC text messages are carried over the voice network, not data, and thus don’t count as a data service.

  4. The_Truth says:

    Also Corey may want to point them to the consumerist, escalate it to a supervisor and do the same thing, be sure to get their names so that the next update can include these details..

    Whats that Cingular? hundreds of thousands of people are reading about how crap you treat your customers…. oh dear…

  5. nullset says:

    Corey,

    Hvae you tried the executive support line?

  6. NeoteriX says:

    Quick question: This talk of cancelling out a contract. When people opt to do this, are they trying to quit without the penalty fee, or are they trying to just get out from the terms of the contract while maintaining service?

  7. Solo says:

    Cingular can argue at nauseam what constitute service vs feature in their contract, but the point is Corey signed up for a specific set of features at a specific price, locked in a contract.

    Cingular changes the terms of the existing contract, breaking the contract. Otherwise it’s not a contract, it’s a one way agreement that Corey will be milked for all his money for as long as specified in the “contract”.

    There is nothing hard to understand in there. Cingular changes the rate, the contract is broken.

    FTC, Attorney General, BBB, FCC, whoever is willing to register a complaint should get one on this one.

  8. logie-al says:

    Something Ive noticed is that Cingular has taken away the ability to send text messages from their website. You have to send an e-mail message to the person. The text messaging from the web page was a useful feature if you were unable to use a phone, didn’t have a signal or something of the like. I went to use it the other day to send a message because my phone’s keypad was broke and found this change out the hard way.

  9. cbear says:

    Just some quick thoughts here. I happen to be a Cingular CSR, and I’m going to briefly play devil’s advocate:

    -CSRs and their managers have been told flat out by the company that this change does not waive the ETF as specified by the contract. We aren’t “playing hardball”, we aren’t trying to trick you out of something we know you deserve

    -my manager pointed out to me when I questioned this that several other, similar price changes have gone through this year alone, neither of which resulting in ETFs being waived (price increases for directory assistance calls and wireless phone insurance)

    Now, the terms “service” and “feature” I’m sure differ in ways only the legal department can make sense of, and trying to mince words in this way with a CSR is probably not going to get you very far. If you do choose to fight this out, I can only recommend you stay on the line as long as you can, and escalate as high as you can. Calling over and over again trying to find a sympathetic ear is what we call “rep shopping”, and I can all but guarantee that any rep who knows you’re doing it will stonewall you. Also, I would play up outrage over the price increase, rather than seem like you’ve been waiting for an excuse to cancel, and now you’ve found one.

    To those of you who do try, though, I wish you luck.

  10. I think it’s bull that people who don’t use a feature are trying to get out of a contract for something they don’t even use so are not affected by!

    Maybe if you used text messaging you could have a case, but you don’t even use the feature so it is not impacting you! You got your phone at a discounted rate so keep your contract and quit when it’s over with rather than taking advantage of oppurtunities that should be used by people who are actually affected by the service!

  11. Ben Popken says:

    NeoteriX, when we talk of canceling, we’re talking about getting out of contract and ending service.

    Cbear, that may be, though members of Howard Forums and FatWallet report success using this method. Granted, it will take much tenacity and pugnaciousness, but it can be done. Your point is apt, though, that escalation is key.

  12. acambras says:

    logie-al — I ran into this problem too, but after a lot of looking elsewhere on Cingular’s website, I found the solution. Send an e-mail to:

    **********@cingularme.com

    with the cell area code & phone number in place of the asterisks I’ve put above. I like to do this because I type faster on a computer than I can text on a phone, and when I do it from work it actually looks like I’m working. ;-)

    BTW, the recipient of your message can just hit reply and his/her text message will go to your e-mail. Technically, you don’t need a Cingular account or even a cell phone to text Cingular customers. Keep in mind, though, that the recipient will be subject to text charges (or these msgs will count toward his/her allowance if s/he has a certain # of free msgs per month).

  13. coreyk72 says:

    Cbear-

    The difference between this text messaging increase and directory assistance or insurance is that in the rate plan brochure in my possession, text messaging at a rate of $.10 is listed as an “included feature” of the plan. It is quite specific and clear.

    Based on Cingular’s claim in this matter, they can suddenly start charging for all the other “included features” of my rate plan such as: nationwide long distance, call waiting, voicemail, and caller ID.

    Consumers are being taken advantage of with this rate increase. Text message rates should be DECREASING as it costs next to nothing for Cingular to send over their network. This is a text book price gouge.

    Furthermore, it is a dumb marketing move on Cingular’s part. If they lowered the cost of texting to next to nothing, imagine how many people would migrate over to their service from Verizon, T-Mobile, etc. Instead, they are chasing people away with a 50% increase!

    Corey (the guy who’s experience is being followed here)

  14. bravo says:

    I called Cingular to get the lowdown and they seemed really steadfast in their refusal to allow me to cancel my contract without an early termination fee. I really only “threatened” to cancel b/c I wanted a deal on a new phone and escalated the call one level. But, since my text messaging usage typically works out to a few dollars a month, I guess I’ll just deal with the extra $1-$2 per month that this hike will end up costing me. Cingular has the best coverage in Atlanta (for me) at least where I’m located, so I didn’t really want to leave anyways.

  15. lazyazz says:

    I hate the whole AT&T/SBC/Cingular incestuous conglomerate. I was under SBC’s domination for over 10 years and hated them from day one. As long as I have a choice I will never pay for service from it or any of its inbred offspring, no matter how many millions it spends on changing its name.

  16. acambras says:

    Yeah, lazyazz, although I’m doing all right with Cingular (for now — knock on wood), but I’m not crazy about AT&T/SBC (I have their DSL with my home phone service). I’ve thought about getting rid of them, ditching the home phone altogether, and getting internet elsewhere, but I’m not sure who I could deal with besides Comcast, who I also find pretty loathsome.

  17. silverlining says:

    Trying to call a part of your plan an “included feature” instead of “service” seems a very, very suspect legal loophole to increase costs while not allowing the customer to cancel their contract. Just a couple of thoughts…

    * Have you checked with your State Attorney General’s office? Maybe I’m very lucky, but in my state, the AG’s office is an amazing consumer advocate and they offer stellar support. They also offer the ability to file a complaint against companies (again, this could vary state to state, but that’s how it works in MN).

    * I’m also a big fan of escalation. Start with phone requests (or several, as you have), and keep great notes on your interactions (as you have). Then, when that doesn’t work, send a detailed, business-sounding letter clearly stating your case and then attaching all relevant documentation–the fatter, the better. The more that the company knows you’ve got your sh*t together and are serious, the more they want to just get it resolved before it escalates to a lawsuit.

    Also, you might point out that at this juncture, you’ve really got two issues with Cingular. One issue is the original problem, and the other issue is Cingular’s failure to rectify the situation despite repeated attempts, and the time/money you’ve sunk into trying to reach a resolution.

    On the letter, cc your state attorney general’s office. States are starting to regulate/standardize cell phone contracts more often, and I’m sure Cingular doesn’t want to be held up as a case study that a NY state law is needed to allow consumers to back out of an agreement when the terms change. Also, Cingular’s legal department then needs to decide if it really wants to tussle with a state AG’s office or just let you go on your way.

    Finally, regarding using email to send a text message: I’ve used teleflip.com with a lot of success. It’s free and works with all major carriers, as far as I know. You just email your message to ******@teleflip.com where the asterisks are the 10-digit cell number, no characters between the numbers.

    Just a couple of suggestions. Hope it helps. All the best!

  18. Negative says:

    I can’t wait to leave Cingular. I left Verizon for them because at the time I thought Verizon was bad but now I regret my decision.

  19. lazyazz says:

    acambras,

    I ditched the chain connected phone and only use mobile/Skype. I have TimeWarner cable modem but with the TW/ComCrap/Adelphia clusterfuck, will have ComCrap on 1/1/2007 – we will have to see how that works out.

  20. bravo says:

    Someone should try to get the NY State AG’s office involved. They’re typically very pro-consumer. Hopefully Spitzer hasn’t totally checked out already.

  21. acambras says:

    Even if Spitzer’s gone, Richard Blumenthal’s still the AG in CT. Like Spitzer, Blumenthal is a pro-consumer pit bull.

  22. bigroblee says:

    Just out of curiosity, why are you all so eager to break a contract you willingly went into? Like the feeling of getting over on a major corporation, or is this just the excuse you were looking for to jump ship? Oh, and Michael, WTF are you thinking, that you will find another carrier that won’t charge you for incoming text, or for that matter will keep prices static forever? If you hate contracts people, there’s a simple solution! Stop accepting the discounted phones, don’t be a cheap fucker, pay full purchase price, and get service with no contract! Simple, huh? Although, last I checked, Cingular, Verizon, and T-Mobile will only give you the unlimited mobile to mobile and nights and weekends minutes with a minimum of a one year contract. Good luck. Next time, again, DON’T ACCEPT THE DISCOUNTED PRICE ON THE PHONES, and then you can go no contract.

  23. AlwaysPonder says:

    Bigroblee – Why so eager to break a contract I went into willingly?

    1) I was lied to when my old Blue phone died and told I had no other option but to go Orange – I know better now, but then I actually thought that the service reps were the best source of accurate information.

    2) Daily dropped calls, weekly failed calls…and I use less that 500 min/mo

    3) Lousy customer service – refused to resolve #2 issues for the past year & a half.

    4) The contract specifically says that if they raise the price during the time of the contract, then I can leave without penalty.

    BTW – I was on ATT for 2 years >>off contract

  24. Jobeleca says:

    I’m an AT&T employee myself and while I’m definitely sympathetic to your position, (and agree that the price hikes, with the exception of the insurance hike caused by increased rates of fraud, are ridiculous and price gouging), the bit in the contract only really applies to items that you pay a monthly service fee for, not anything that used to be free or anything that is pay-per-use.

    However, just this very week are some new items that are EXTREMELY customer friendly, if you have equipment issues and still have problems after receiving defective replacement equipment (they’re refurbished after all) then you have the option to have the ETF waived IF AND ONLY IF you want to buy a brand new phone through any sales channel and sign a new two year contract, you can also now have the ETF waived for service issues that we have been unable to resolve over three months (btw, you have to work with us all the way in going through the tech support process & us still fail to make ANY improvements in your service)