Script For Escaping Cingular Contracts Without Fee, Based On New Arbitration Clause

UPDATE: We added case law to throw back at Cingular if they try to argue the change in arbitration agreement is not a material change.

Early termination fees suck. Here’s step by step script for escaping your Cingular contract over the new arbitration clause, without paying a fee.

We’ve got :
• Script of step by step points to argue
• CEO’s phone number
• Source documents for your reference
• A slew of Cingular corporate contacts
• A big picture of the Cingular “Jack” with a screw in his butt.

We’re not sure if it will work but this information comes to us courtesy of a very disgruntled customer who says he used it to cancel his contract after 8 years of service. He writes…

[Photo: crmudgen23]


    “Why all this… well I asked to be grandfathered or credited for the difference (about 1 buck per month) for the 10–>15 cent text message difference till my contract ended in early 2007. I was told I can’t read, threatened with collections (Hmm.. I’m on automatic billing), and told Cingular would NOT credit me for airtime even though they called me on my wireless phone. Enjoy.

    Signed, an 8 year customer who never missed a payment.”


Note: You can also use this method to get out of your yearly contract and switch to a month-to-month.

STEPS

1. Go to the top/bottom/middle of your January bill. Note this section.

“NOTICE OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION AGREEMENT IN CONTRACT. We are pleased to advise you that Cingular has revised the ARBITRATION CLAUSE in our standard Wireless Service Agreement to make it even better for consumers. The revised arbitration clause can be found at www.cingular.com/disputeresolution. This revision is effective immediately.”

2. Call Cingular customer service. 1-888-CINGULAR.

3. Say to the rep, “Can I ask you a question?”

4. They say, “Yes.”

5. Refer to the text below. Ask, “Does this arbitration clause applies to me?”

“DISPUTE RESOLUTION BY BINDING ARBITRATION, Please read this carefully. It affects your rights.”…”Any arbitration under this Agreement will take place on an individual basis; class arbitrations and class actions are not permitted.”

6. Cingular will say yes.

7. Say, “I was also reading this section 7 in the CTIA policy found on your website.”

8. Read this aloud:

“Provide customers the right to terminate service for changes to contract terms. Carriers will not modify the material terms of their subscribers’ contracts in a manner that is materially adverse to subscribers without providing a reasonable advance notice of a proposed modification and allowing subscribers a time period of not less than 14 days to cancel their contracts with no early termination fee.”

9. Say to the rep:

“Losing my ability to be part of a class action lawsuit removes a legal right. Therefore, preventing me from being part of a class is an adverse effect. My bill says *This revision is effective immediately*. I was not provided a 14 day or greater period of time before this modification goes into effect. Therefore, the CTIA policy permits me to terminate service without an ETF due to the implementation of these changes.”

10. If the rep argues that the arbitration change is not materially adverse, cite this:

“In Cunningham vs. Fleetwood Homes of Georgia, reported at page 611 of the third Federal Reporter, volume 253, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that arbitration clauses are material terms to a contract.

(Cunningham v. Fleetwood Homes of Georgia, Inc., 253 F.3d, 611 (11th Cir. 2001))

(The case is available here
For extra reading material, see below:

[13]Magnuson-Moss’s treatment of informal dispute resolution mechanism clauses in warranties is consistent with general contract law, in that arbitration clauses, like other kinds of forum selection clauses, are generally considered material terms under state law variants of the Uniform Commercial Code. See Coastal Indus., Inc. v. Automatic Steam Prods. Corp., 654 F.2d 375 (5th Cir.1981) (finding unilateral insertion of arbitration clause per se alteration of the contract under state law); General Instrument Corp. v. Tie Mfg., Inc., 517 F.Supp. 1231, 1234 (S.D.N.Y.1981) (finding forum selection clause materially alters contract for Connecticut corporation); Lorbrook Corp. v. G&T Industries, Inc., 162 A.D.2d 69, 562 N.Y.S.2d 978, 980 (1990) (discussing addition of forum selection term as material alteration to prior agreement); see also Michael A. Stiegal & Debra J. Williams, The Battle of the Forms: UCC Section 2-207, in PLI Commercial Law & Practice Course Handbook Series Order No. A4-4297 at 6 (1990) (stating that “[i]t is generally recognized that a ‘forum selection’ clause ‘materially alters’ a contract within the meaning of U.C.C.

2-207″).

(To understand what a forum is go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbitration_clause)

“An arbitration clause is a commonly used clause in a contract that requires the parties to resolve their disputes through an arbitration process. Although such a clause may or may not specify that arbitration occur within a specific jurisdiction, it always binds the parties to a type of resolution outside of the courts, and is therefore considered a kind of forum selection clause.”)

10: Revel in your canceled contract.

11. Be sure to ask them to “note the account” for the cancellation, and secure some kind of confirmation/cancellation number. Wouldn’t to go through all that work only to find a rep lied to you just to get you off the line.

12. If you’re not quitting entirely, just switching from yearly to month-to-month, you can also ask for these codes to be added to your account:
Request transition to rate codes
• “NAG4″ – “/NAT P 1000R UM2M” – It’s 1000 rollover anytime minutes for $39.99. It does NOT include night/weekends, but for just $8.99 you can add them on 7pm-7am. You must add the feature from the web account, don’t ask them to do it.
• “/200BONUSMINUTES” – If you’ve had a really nasty experience the system allows adding on as part of your (compensation) plan, 200 extra rollover mins every month.
• Ask to be added to a FAN (Foundation Account Number), tell them to find you one, hit the Fortune 500 list of companies if you need some suggestions. Percents off monthly bills are generally 10%-15%. If you get a FAN added to your account, you can get 10-30% off new equipment / accessories through business customer care. They have to ship it to you (stores are clueless/problematic).

13. Getting the run around to get paperwork, mail copies, or come to the store?

Calm down, take a few breaths and read this in a bland tone and request not to be interrupted:

“I have a few question and you will be provided with an opportunity to answer after I have stated my full thought”

“You claim I entered into this contract orally over the phone. I wish to use the same method of contact for this cancellation. Forcing me to mail, fax, or come into the store with documentation or come in person seems to be a purposeful attempt to block my cancellation request. I expect you to honor my preferred method of contact in completing this cancellation. Will you accept my preferred method of contact and assist me?”

They are unlikely to say no. If they do, reference CTIA policy section 8:

“Provide ready access to customer service. — Customers will be provided a toll-free telephone number to access a carrier’s customer service during normal business hours.”

“Additionally, your website provide a variety of contact methods. It says I can contact you directly via chat, email, phone or in person. I choose to use the this phone conversation to complete my cancellation request, will you assist me?” (Link is http://www.cingular.com/about/contact-us/contact-us.jsp)

LAST WORDS

* If they won’t cancel the contract, escalate to a supervisor.
* If they say, “He/She’s busy, can they call you back?” Ask to be put on hold, as they will probably never call you back.
* If the above doesn’t get you anywhere, try pitching your case to the executive customer service team attached to CEO Stanley Sigman’s office at 1-866-220-8446. Read this post to find out how executive customer service works.

Stanley T. Sigman – President, Chief Executive Officer
3051 Bienville Blvd
Ocean Springs, MS 39564
1-866-220-8446 – President’s Office

* You could also try the corporate contacts listed in section D below. You’d be surprised what people will do to get a phone to stop ringing on their desk.
* Put on your warrior gaze. They don’t let pussies escape their contract without paying an early termination fee, you gotta fight for it.
* If the rep tries to steer you away and point how awesome the new arbitration agreement is because they pay for your legal fees, or in anyway tries to reroute the conversation, just keep insisting on step 5. As many times as necessary.
* If one rep won’t let you cancel, hang up and try again. You may get someone nice… or weaker.
* It took our original tipster 7 tries with calls lasting 45-60 minutes each before he successfully canceled without termination fee.

Good luck!

— BEN POPKEN

APPENDIX:
A: Notice of dispute resolution by binding arbitration
B: Sample bill
C: CTIA Code
D: Slew of Cingular Corporate Contacts


A: NOTICE OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION BY BINDING ARBITRATION

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/cingular1-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=696

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/cingular2-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=696

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http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/cingular6-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=696


B: Sample Bill

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/cingularbill-thumb.jpg?w=522&h=696


C: SLEW OF CINGULAR CORPORATE CONTACTS

Need some extra numbers to call after trying customer service or 611 ??
About 35 direct numbers to people’s desk and cellphones in the corporate offices. For an up-to-date list, go to
http://cingular.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=contacts

Letters to Cingular can be addressed to:

Cingular Wireless
5565 Glenridge Connector
Atlanta, GA 30342
Main phone number: 404-236-6000

Media Relations Contacts
National Contacts

Media relations planning and strategy, principal company spokesperson
Mark Siegel
Executive Director Media Relations
404-236-6312 (office)
404-374-2799 (wireless)
Email: mark.a.siegel@cingular.com

Corporate initiatives, marketing, sports-oriented sponsorships
(To apply for sponsorships, please go to http://www.cingular.com/sponsorship. Please do not email or call about applying for sponsorships as funding decisions are not made by public relations)
Clay Owen
Senior Director Media Relations
404.236.6153 (office)
404.538.0124 (wireless)
Email: clay.owen@cingular.com

Public policy initiatives, regulatory and legislative issues
Rochelle Cohen
Senior Director Media Relations
202-419-3007 (office)
202-341-5967 (wireless)
Email: rochelle.cohen@cingular.com

Consumer offers, handset/product initiatives, youth programs,
sponsorships (non-sports related)
Jennifer Bowcock
Director Media Relations
404-236-6319 (office)
404-213-1204 (wireless)
Email: jennifer.bowcock@cingular.com

or

Kelleigh Scott Beal
Manager, Media Relations
404-236-6321 (office)
404-285-0172 (wireless)
Email: kelleigh.scott@cingular.com

Business-to-business initiatives, industry analyst program
John Kampfe
Director Media Relations
973-637-9387 (office)
908-432-3473 (wireless)
Email: john.kampfe@cingular.com

Technology and network initiatives, industry analyst program
Ritch Blasi
Director Media Relations
973-637-9449 (office)
908-512-1760 (wireless)
Email: ritch.blasi@cingular.com

Hispanic and Diversity Public Relations
Maria Schnabel
Director, Hispanic Public Relations
404-236-6432 (office)
404-401-7477 (wireless)
Email: maria.schnabel@cingular.com

Regional Contacts
Please refer to specific states

Northeast Media Contacts

Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington D.C.
Alexa Kaufman
Director Regional Public Relations
301-489-3610 (office)
301-742-0888 (wireless)
Email: alexa.kaufman@cingular.com

Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City
Ellen Webner
Director Regional Public Relations
973-637-9357 (office)
201-532-7292 (wireless)
Email: ellen.webner@cingular.com

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Upstate New York
Kate MacKinnon
Director Regional Public Relations
781-690-5057 (office)
508-498-5547 (wireless)
kate.mackinnon@cingular.com

Northeast Regional Backup
Susan Ramsey
Director Regional Public Relations
973-637-9467 (office)
203-722-1145 (wireless)
Email: susan.ramsey@cingular.com

Southeast Media Contacts

Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi
Dawn Benton
Director, Regional Public Relations
404-236-5305 (office)
404-202-6335 (wireless)
Email: dawn.benton@cingular.com

Florida
Kelly Starling
Director, Regional Public Relations
561-775-4259 (office)
561-301-1414 (wireless)
Email: kelly.starling@cingular.com

Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina
Laurie Parker
Director, Regional Public Relations
615-221-3690 (office)
615-202-3463 (wireless)
Email: laurie.parker@cingular.com

Southeast Regional Back-up
Caroline Crowe
Director Regional Public Relations
678-867-4330 (office)
404-808-8254 (wireless)
Email: caroline.crowe@cingular.com

Central Media Contacts

Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska,
North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin
Chris Comes
Director Regional Public Relations
847-765-3602 (office)
312-282-0539 (wireless)
Email: chris.comes@cingular.com

Kansas, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan
Tara Traycoff
Director, Regional Public Relations
314-543-6435 (phone)
314-809-6112 (wireless)
Email: tara.traycoff@cingular.com

Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas
Frank Merriman
Director Regional Public Relations
469.229.7613 (office)
214-538-3496 (wireless)
Email: frank.merriman@cingular.com

Central Region Backup
Meg Frainey
Director Regional Public Relations
469-229-7784 (office)
214-497-6072 (wireless)
Email: meg.frainey@cingular.com

West Media Contacts

Arizona, New Mexico, Northern California, and Reno
Lauren Garner
Director Regional Public Relations
Phone: 925-819-5362 (wireless)
Email: lauren.garner@cingular.com

Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming
Mike Broom
Director Regional Public Relations
425-580-7710 (office)
206-390-5993 (wireless)
Email: michael.broom@cingular.com

Greater Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Hawaii
Art Navarro
Director Regional Public Relations
562-468-6520 (office)
949-300-1329 (wireless)
Email: art.navarro@cingular.com

West Regional Back-up
Mike Broom
Director Regional Public Relations
425-580-7710 (office)
206-390-5993 (wireless)
Email: michael.broom@cingular.com


D: CTIA Consumer Code for Wireless Service
“Knowledge is power. Use it wisely.”

Cingular is proud to announce its newest commitment to customer service and wireless quality–the adoption of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) Consumer Code for Wireless Service. We are equally proud that Cingular was the first nationwide carrier that CTIA awarded the right to use the “Seal of Wireless Quality” in our advertising, store collateral, etc., since we were deemed to be in compliance with the Code.

On Sept. 9, 2003, Cingular joined forces with the CTIA and other wireless industry leaders to declare its support and implementation of the Consumer Code as a new voluntary standard for customer fulfillment. The Consumer Code defines 10 customer policies that are founded on three principles: (1) Provide consumers with information to help them make informed choices in selecting wireless service; (2) Help ensure that consumers understand their wireless service and rate plans; and (3) Continue to offer wireless services that meet consumers’ needs. As part of the adoption of the Consumer Code, Cingular and each signatory of the Consumer Code will be able to display a new CTIA Seal of Wireless Quality Service.

“The Consumer Code for Wireless Service formalizes much of what Cingular has been doing for some time now, and we are pleased to announce that we already meet and, in some cases, exceed all principles of the code,” says Cingular Chief Executive Officer Stan Sigman. “We will continue to improve customer communications efforts to ensure our customers are always well-informed, and to make certain we continue to provide wireless service that is the best fit for each of our customers.”

To provide consumers with information to help them make informed choices when selecting wireless service, to help ensure that consumers understand their wireless service and rate plans, and to continue to provide wireless service that meets consumers’ needs, the CTIA and the wireless carriers that are signatories below have developed the following Consumer Code. The carriers that are signatories to this Code have voluntarily adopted the principles, disclosures, and practices here for wireless service provided to individual consumers.
The wireless carriers that are signatories to this Code will:

1. Disclose rates and terms of service to consumers.
For each rate plan offered to new consumers, wireless carriers will make available to consumers in collateral or other disclosures at point of sale and on their Web sites, at least the following information, as applicable: (a) the calling area for the plan; (b) the monthly access fee or base charge; (c) the number of airtime minutes included in the plan; (d) any nights and weekend minutes included in the plan or other differing charges for different time periods and the time periods when nights and weekend minutes or other charges apply; (e) the charges for excess or additional minutes; (f) per-minute long distance charges or whether long distance is included in other rates; (g) per-minute roaming or off-network charges; (h) whether any additional taxes, fees or surcharges apply; (i) the amount or range of any such fees or surcharges that are collected and retained by the carrier; (j) whether a fixed-term contract is required and its duration; (k) any activation or initiation fee; and (l) any early termination fee that applies and the trial period during which no early termination fee will apply.

2. Make available maps showing where service is generally available.
Wireless carriers will make available at point of sale and on their Web sites maps depicting approximate voice service coverage applicable to each of their rate plans currently offered to consumers. To enable consumers to make comparisons among carriers, these maps will be generated using generally accepted methodologies and standards to depict the carrier’s outdoor coverage. All such maps will contain an appropriate legend concerning limitations and/or variations in wireless coverage and map usage, including any geographic limitations on the availability of any services included in the rate plan. Wireless carriers will periodically update such maps as necessary to keep them reasonably current. If necessary to show the extent of service coverage available to customers from carriers’ roaming partners, carriers will request and incorporate coverage maps from roaming partners that are generated using similar industry-accepted criteria, or if such information is not available, incorporate publicly available information regarding roaming partners’ coverage areas.

3. Provide contract terms to customers and confirm changes in service.
When a customer initiates service with a wireless carrier or agrees to a change in service whereby the customer is bound to a contract extension, the carrier will provide or confirm the material terms and conditions of service with the subscriber.

4. Allow a trial period for new service.
When a customer initiates service with a wireless carrier, the customer will be informed of and given a period of not less than 14 days to try out the service. The carrier will not impose an early termination fee if the customer cancels service within this period, provided that the customer complies with applicable return and/or exchange policies. Other charges, including airtime usage, may still apply.

5. Provide specific disclosures in advertising.
In advertising of prices for wireless service or devices, wireless carriers will disclose material charges and conditions related to the advertised prices, including if applicable and to the extent the advertising medium reasonably allows: (a) activation or initiation fees; (b) monthly access fees or base charges; (c) any required contract term; (d) early termination fees; (e) the terms and conditions related to receiving a product or service for “free”;(f) the times of any peak and off-peak calling periods; (g) whether different or additional charges apply for calls outside of the carrier’s network or outside of designated calling areas; (h) for any rate plan advertised as “nationwide,” (or using similar terms), the carrier will have available substantiation for this claim; (i) whether prices or benefits apply only for a limited time or promotional period and, if so, any different fees or charges to be paid for the remainder of the contract term; (ij) whether any additional taxes, fees or surcharges apply; and (j) the amount or range of any such fees or surcharges collected and retained by the carrier.

6. Separately identify carrier charges from taxes on billing statements.
On customers’ bills, carriers will distinguish: (a) monthly charges for service and features, and other charges collected and retained by the carrier, from (b) taxes, fees and other charges collected by the carrier and remitted to federal state or local governments. Carriers will not label cost recovery fees or charges as taxes.

*** 7. Provide customers the right to terminate service for changes to contract terms.
Carriers will not modify the material terms of their subscribers’ contracts in a manner that is materially adverse to subscribers without providing a reasonable advance notice of a proposed modification and allowing subscribers a time period of not less than 14 days to cancel their contracts with no early termination fee.

8. Provide ready access to customer service.
Customers will be provided a toll-free telephone number to access a carrier’s customer service during normal business hours. Customer service contact information will be provided to customers online and on billing statements. Each wireless carrier will provide information about how customers can contact the carrier in writing, by toll-free telephone number, via the Internet or otherwise with any inquiries or complaints, and this information will be included, at a minimum, on all billing statements, in written responses to customer inquiries and on carriers’ Web sites. Each carrier will also make such contact information available, upon request, to any customer calling the carrier’s customer service departments.

9. Promptly respond to consumer inquiries and complaints received from government agencies.
Wireless carriers will respond in writing to state or federal administrative agencies within 30 days of receiving written consumer complaints from any such agency.

10. Abide by policies for protection of customer privacy.
Each wireless carrier will abide by a policy regarding the privacy of customer information in accordance with applicable federal and state laws, and will make available to the public its privacy policy concerning information collected online

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Can this be used to cancel a contract, but continue on a month by month basis?

  2. Meg Marco says:

    We think so, yes.

  3. Yoni K says:

    is it possible to use this just to get out of contract, but keep my service on a month-to-month basis?

  4. droppedD says:

    i’m about to try to cancel my Cingular contract. This together with the other headaches i’ve had should do the trick. I’ll try to record the conversation(s) for posterity.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    droppedD

    I’d be interested in hearing how it plays out (either by way of audio, or a text summary).

  6. jook says:

    is there any reason the steps are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7? I ask only because it makes it difficult to go back and look it over from the bullet point that says to keep insisting on step 5. After a moment, I realized it was the third five, but still…

  7. ajlak_68 says:

    And this is why I love consumerist

  8. rubberpants says:

    Power to the people!

  9. droppedD says:

    i’m on hold with a CSR right now (via skype, because my @#$#@ cell phone doesn’t work inside my house, 100 feet away from a major road. which is why i want out). Couldn’t get recording working, but the gist of what was said so far was “i’m very dissatisfied with my service quality, and i want out. I don’t want to waive my RIGHT to a jury trial, even if you say ‘it’s better for me.'” Then she put me on hold, then came back on to say that her manager disagrees with that being grounds. to which i explained, “I do not want to waive my right,” and read her back the CTIA agreement. Now i’m on hold yet again.

    We’ll see what happens now.

  10. droppedD says:

    the CSR stood firm after 3 trips to a supervisor on “the change is not materially adverse, so as long as we notify you we can change the terms whenever we want.”

    This is fucking ridiculous. I’m not really interested in spending several days wrestling with various CSRs and corporate officers… I’m just gonna try to offload my remaining 5 or 6 months of Cingular contract to some poor sucker who wants in for an iPhone.

    All I want is a cell phone that will work inside my house and not charge me 15 cents for a text message. Is that too much to ask? Verizon and TMobile can manage it…. why can’t cingular?

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    so as long as we notify you

    Isn’t the point they have to give you 14 days notice, and they don’t?

    BTW, the original post makes these seem easy as pie…like the rep will go “oops, you caught us! Clever customer! Allllllright, you win.”

  12. conedude13 says:

    Dear God,
    Why can’t there be this type of thing for verizon wireless customers?

    Love
    Conedude13

  13. droppedD says:

    “Isn’t the point they have to give you 14 days notice, and they don’t?”

    If you read the clause, that whole deal is only if it’s *materially adverse* changes to the contract (and if it is, even if they do give you notice, you have 14 days to cancel). Their claim being that only means things like, they raise their rates for services. Apparently not including text messages.
    Gr.

    I suppose they could change the arbitration clause to “your right to jury trial is now replaced by a contest of juggling, judged by a midget in a dress,” and they would still stick by their guns on it not being “materially adverse.”

  14. jut says:

    I’ve just spent 2 hours with different levels of CSRs trying to get out of my contract. It was a mess. And a joke. Sort of a jokey mess.
    Finally on each call they gave me some type of hurdle that I couldn’t bypass, like the need to have my original signed contract in hand, or that I needed to go into a brick-and-mortar store, or claiming the computers weren’t working to pull up information they needed.
    I finnally on each call had to inform them that I would be escalating this to executive customer service, which seemed to instill a little fear in their hearts (but not enough to get them to cave). However I can’t imagine ECS team is going to be all that excited to help with a couple hundred identical compllaints from Consumerist readers.

  15. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s incredibly sleazy anytime a corporation tries to remove your ability to be part of a class action, or a trial by jury.

    If they do the former, it’s so they can confidently screw you of *just* enough money to make it not worthwhile to sue them to do the right thing. Class action status gives the same economies of scale to consumers that companies have, thus evening the playing field.

    If they do the latter, it’s because they know that, in the cold light of day, they know that what they’re doing is wrong and the average person will call them on it.

  16. unchilangoblanco says:

    I was just able to *successfully* opt out of my Cingular contract (with 1 year remaining) without paying the ETF. It took a couple of tries with different support people, but finally I talked to a young woman who waived the fee very easily – pretty much no questions asked; I just mentioned the fact that regardless of how Cingular wants to define “optional” or “feature,” the basic pay-per-use text message service was an integral part of my package from day 1 (not to mention the fact that it is not “optional” if I can’t choose which messages I want to receive). She was very friendly and helpful, but didn’t seem to know a lot about the legal stuff. My advice to anyone else trying to opt out and waive the fee: call Cingular and press 0 before anything else (even before entering your wireless #) so that you get connected with “generic” support – you’ll probably have better luck with one of them than with the “customer loyalty team” that you’ll get if you go through the menu and select that you have questions about closing your account.

  17. Baz says:

    …we need one of these for Verizon!

  18. Ben Popken says:

    Glad that people are giving this info a shot. I’m sorry that Cingular is lying, jut. The only thing I can think of is to say, “You’re lying. Do it.” or “That’s a crock of shit. Just cancel the account.” Call them out, see what happens. Don’t forget to keep records of who you speak with. Also, it would be great if people recorded their cancellation attempts using this method.

  19. Hahaha, stick it to em! Cingular… eat a dick!

  20. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Should we expect an explination of this from a Cingluar rep, like what happened with using the texting charge increase to cancel?

  21. I get a combined electronic bill from SBC/Cingular and I didn’t get a separate mailer nor did I get an electronic “insert” in my online bill for January, so does that mean I can cancel because they didn’t even give me notice?

  22. Koston says:

    When did this go into effect, I signed a new contract on the 28th of Dec, was this effective Jan 7th?

  23. Wow, you guys did your homework on this one. Nice work!

    (Makes me glad as hell I got away from Cingular years ago–!)

  24. robdew says:

    Hmm, hasn’t cingular already settled class action lawsuits with most of their customers before?

    Maybe this is sophistry, but I would be inclined to say “I have (or know people who have) materially benefited from class action lawsuits against Cingular in the past. I have not materially benefited from arbitration nor do I see how Cingular can prove that I can without some immediate material benefit. You are adversely affecting me by removing a past source of revenue with a future source that has no provable source of revenue.”

    Another angle might be to hire an attorney and use their new arbitration provision to dispute the change in contract terms. After all, my read is they pay all attorney and filing fees unless the Demand is “frivolous or brought for an improper purpose”.

  25. FLConsumer says:

    Some states do not allow for the removal of consumers’ legal rights. I believe Florida is one such state, although I’ve never investigated it highly. Any sleazy lawyer could find a way to sue Cingular on your behalf, contract or no contract anyway.

  26. Charles Duffy says:

    I took a different tack on this (not because I particularly want to get out for other reasons — I seriously believe that the ability to engage in a class action is an important consumer protection — and while their old clause also purported to waive the ability to engage in class actions, this one is more likely to be enforcable): Cancel outright, and get in touch with Legal to get the fees reversed. This is risky, because I have three lines and the cancellation fees are thus $525+tax&c; however, I’m quite confident (as is my friend the lawyer I talked with the other day) that I won’t have any trouble winning this one in Small Claims.

    The letter I sent to Legal (attached to the stock notice form they provide) follows:

    My Cingular Wireless bill covering the period from 11/29/2006-12/28/2006 included a new dispute resolution clause. While this updated arbitration clause is generally very fair, it requires that I explicitly waive my right to participate in class action suits, which I am utterly unwilling to do. (Further, the updated arbitration agreement appears to be more likely to be widely enforceable than the old one, which has been disregarded in class-action cases in several jurisdictions and which thus would not have been as likely in practice to impact my rights).

    I contacted Cingular’s customer service, and was initially connected with Michelle Bryant. I asked that I be allowed to opt out of the updated arbitration clause, and that (failing that) my account be closed without penalty. Michelle initially held that the arbitration clause was separate from the contract as a whole and that a change to the clause did not constitute a contract change; however, after further validation, she acknowledged that the arbitration clause was effectively a part of the contract, and thus that a unilateral contract change had occurred.

    I was then transferred to Customer Relations representative Gracie Anaya. Gracie again informed me that I could not opt of the arbitration clause, but denied that modifying it constituted a contract change for purposes of waiving the termination fee. She directed me to the arbitration procedure which I am currently following. To avoid implicitly agreeing to the updated clause, I then closed my account with Cingular.

    Since Cingular has made what is effectively a unilateral contract change (as, as Michelle informed me, it is not possible to accept a Cingular contract without agreeing to the arbitration clause), and not provided any way for customers with preexisting contracts to opt out of this change, I request one of the following two forms of relief:

    Cingular reinstates my contract under the old arbitration clause under the same terms which would otherwise have been in place, and compensates me for reasonable costs incurred in obtaining month-to-month cell phone service elsewhere during the period in which this dispute was in process, to the extent that those costs exceed what I would have paid when continuing my preexisting contract with Cingular. (This will likely include only costs for new phone hardware not locked to Cingular’s service).

    …or…

    Cingular waives the termination fee which was necessarily incurred in the process of rejecting the updated arbitration clause, or refunds said fee (and associated taxes &c.) should it already have been paid.

  27. Pssssst... says:

    Who contributed this article…it is friggin awesome. This is why I visit this site. The power always has and always should be in the hands of the consumer.

  28. armishanks says:

    Has anyone tried using the arbitration process to dispute the forced arbitration/removal of class-action ability?

    Perhaps if enough people do it, Cingular will get the message. Send a certified letter to:

    General Counsel
    Cingular Wireless LLC
    5565 Glenridge Connector, 20th FL
    Atlanta GA 30342

    Form can be downloaded from:
    http://www.cingular.com/arbitration-forms

  29. pdxguy says:

    It’s too bad that Cingular sees fit to screw with customers who seek to escape their contracts by imposing an onerous arbitration clause. A better approach, but one that I’m sure they won’t be taking any time soon, is to improve the level of customer service so that customers don’t want to leave. It’s the business approach of creating raving fans rather then ranting (soon-to-be-ex-)customers. Some business sadly just seem destined to not evolve one iota.

  30. Kromem says:

    It’d be hilarious if enough people tried this and failed to get through CSRs, then banded together in a class action suit claiming that the arbitration agreement (preventing class action suit) was not binding due to the manner in which it was applied, seeking the ETF charge and damages for time and legal expenses.

    Since the clause was included on EVERY contract, every single customer would be able to add themselves into the class action suit.

  31. synergy says:

    Does this entry keep getting edited or is there some other reason it keeps getting spit out by the RSS feed??

  32. Roosh says:

    crossing fingers for a verizon wireless contract termination scheme

  33. Ben Popken says:

    Synergy – I’ve been adding a few edits.

  34. bigbadman says:

    This is a joke and will never work unless you get very, very lucky. I can barely talk to those people for 5 mintues without wanting to kill myself let alone reciting legal passages that some dumbshit service rep will never understand. That’s the beauty of their system. Smart people can’t deal with the idiocy and dumb people never realize there’s a chance to work the system.

  35. armishanks says:

    The top of the note says, “Notice of Improved Arbitration Clause” — so doesn’t that mean that there was already an arbitration clause in force? Is this original clause available somewhere to compare? I can’t locate my original contract, but it would be helpful for someone to provide a side-by-side comparison.

  36. MikeWas says:

    Ooooohhhhh, it’s “Improved!”

    Now I feel better. They’re looking out for the consumer by depriving them of their right to a class-action lawsuit when Cingular screws them.

    Y’know, the more I think about this early termination fee scam, the more I see opportunities to apply it in daily life. Got fired? Charge your boss an early termination fee. Girlfriend dump ya? Same. Kid get expelled from school? Bill the principal. Readers unsubscribed from your blog feed? Ka-CHING!

    I love this idea.

  37. gorndog says:

    Stop feeding the animals! Don’t get locked into 2 year contracts. Reduce your cellular usage (using Skype over Wi-Fi, as an example), and reduce otherwise.

    My teen whined about me no longer buying her phone service (she wasn’t obeying the rules, no ringtones purchases, only 10 text messages/day, etc so I cancelled after the 1-year contract was up.) Now she is paying for it herself, and magically — hardly any text messages, no ringtones, reasonable number of minutes used, etc.

    My family’s cellular charges now total about 1/2 what they used to be.

  38. foughtandwon says:

    It worked for me, as far as I know. I will call in and check in a day or so, to ensure my contract was removed.

    You’ve just got to be persistant, they aren’t gonna do it just because you ask nicely the first time.

  39. Clark3934 says:

    Blah, my first post somehow got deleted, so here it goes again.

    At first everything seemed to be going well. They offered to cancel my contract for free. Great. That’s exactly what I wanted. By then they told my I had to send all 4 phones on the account back to Cingular, and I would no longer be allowed to use their service.

    I told the lady that I just wanted to cancel the contract, not the service. She told me it was impossible. I asked her if I could just cancel the contract and continue using Cingular on a month-to-month basis. Once again, she said I could not do it. I asked her how other people are able to pay month-to-month. She said that the customer is only allowed to go month-to-month once they “fulfill” a contract, and my cancellation was by no means fulfillment.

    Now that they say the contract and service are interconnected and I cannot keep one without the other, I need a new rebuttals. Has anyone else had this problem? Or more importantly, has anyone else managed to get around this problem? So far it seems like a brick wall to me.

  40. shiver11 says:

    droppedD says:
    “All I want is a cell phone that will work inside my house and not charge me 15 cents for a text message. Is that too much to ask? Verizon and TMobile can manage it…. why can’t cingular?”

    Uhh, guess what droppedD Verizon has increased they’re txt messaging fee to 15 cents ; )

    Oh and I used the latest increase to break my contract and now I have Cingular…

    Hahahaha gotta love that.

  41. lotsta88 says:

    I just talked to CSR…. she literally told me…”the CTIA consumer code is worthless… and you can take us to court if you like”

    then she offered me additional features to my service.

    What bastards!!!

  42. dowlingbi says:

    Please just remind those who are taking your money for their service that long after you have severed the relationship you will have only two ways to talk about their Company one positive and the other negative. Please ask them to think about the last negative company they can remember? Where is it today? Professional service is not being just good to the customer it is understanding what it feels like to be their customer.

  43. gokartsrus1 says:

    Well APPERENTLY, the original contract reads:


    “YOU AND CINGULAR AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN YOUR OR ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. “

    so what is the claim this script makes?

  44. SirWillae says:

    I tried this today. The CSR made it clear there was no way on God’s green Earth that I was getting out of my contract. They added a twist which I had not read on this post. They said that the change to the arbitration clause does not affect customers currently under contract. They claim it is just an advance notice to customers who will enter in to a new contract with Cingular. I was also told that Cingular is not allowed to alter the terms of the arbitration clause while the contract is still in effect.

    After spending a decent amount of time on the phone with the CSR, her supervisor came on the line (note that I did not ask to speak to a supervisor). He repeated what I outlined in the paragraph above. I spoke with him for a while and continued to get the party line. So I asked to speak with his supervisor. He told me there was no one else I could speak with.

    Finally, I asked to receive a statement in writing that the change to the arbitration clause does not apply to my contract. The supervisor said he would be happy to provide such a statement and that it will be in the mail by next week. I’m sure he doesn’t have the authority to make such claims, so I’m not really sure what (if anything) he’s sending me.

  45. 9macks says:

    These monopoly types got in a bad habit many years ago – stealing. Breaking the habit is tough; just ask Willie Sutton. Thanks, for the tools for legall escape.

  46. marvinlzinn says:

    I just learned about Consumerist, and saw the article about Cingular contracts. I rarely have time to read the whole article, much less to spend that much time with the telephone company. But I appreciate your business and hope to learn about more subjects you have.

    In my case, with NEXTEL, I cancelled one number (formerly had four) by simply refusing to pay the bill. The penalty was $250, so I subtracted that from each payment of the other number and wrote to headquarters that I would not pay for what I cancelled, no matter what their rules were.

    In a three months and phone calls to me at home I refused to answer, the penalty was deleted by NEXTEL. I still use the other number, three years later, but refuse to sign up for another year.

    marvin

  47. mytime34 says:

    Cingular has stated that because they post the new clause on their website, that this is suffucient notification. The CSR told me that since they offer it online they do not have to send out emails, mail or phone anyone. I told the lady I do not log into the site except to pay my bill and when i did the notice said it took effect immediatly. She informed me again that the notice could be read online and that meets the notification criteria. They would not allow me to wait on hold for a supervisor.

    I am in the process of calling back again.

  48. mytime34 says:

    Well they are really good at doing whatever they want. I talked to 3 suprvisors and got 3 different answers. First one told me nothing could be done your basically SOL. The second told me I have to submit in writing my complaints and third one told me that even though the wording has changed it does not change the agreement with cingular. I told the lady that i do not agree to the revision and she told me it doesnt matter because that nothing has changed, only the wording. I also asked about the advanced notice and she said since this revision doesnt change the agreement it doesnt apply. I asked than why they would put the notice on the bill and she said to let the consumer know that the wording had changed to make it easier to read.

    I will be sending and calling the Corp Execs about this.

    Any help would be great.

  49. Shellfishy says:

    I made an attempt at this yesterday. 3 CSR calls and threatning to email/call the CEO’s office, I finally got through to a supervisor who was willing to listen to me without calling me an idiot. (I kept getting, I’m not a lawyer but… my reply, I went to law school, I know what this means)

    I was asked, how does this effect me materially? My response: Money is the most material object on earth, and you are taking away my right to sue you in class action or by jury trial for money.

    I was also told, this is the same arbritration clause that was in the original contract I signed. I then asked him, if it is the same, why were you forced to send it out to all customers again. In section 1 paragraph 3 of cingulars arbritration clause it states: “You agree that, by entering into this Agreement, you and Cingular are each waiving the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action.” The key word that got my contract canceled was “by entering into this agreement” I restated that about 10 times on the phone saying that I am entering into an agreement, agreement is another word for contract, so therefore, they are entering ME into a new contract without giving me the opportunity to sign. That is grounds for a lawsuit right there, If given the chance I would NOT sign on the line and termintate my contract. But since I can’t sign on the line and you are making me enter into a new contract by written notice, I am giving verbal notice of denial of said contract. The man on the phone was silent for a long time. Then agreed I was correct. I have been a cingular customer for about 6 years, but somehow my contract was renewed to 2 years last August when I changed my service plan. I was able to get my contract down to 6 months, so I only have to deal with them for another 4 months. Better than nothing.

    Hopefully that will help anyone who is still trying to get out of their contract. Also… Ask which location you have. I have found Salt Lake City, and Nevada CSR’s are very difficult to deal with, whereas the eastern and Mid-Western locations are much more willing to listen and negotiate. Good Luck!

  50. darjon says:

    We have been lied to since day one about one
    thing or another dealing with our (3) phones that we unfortunately signed up for in June of 06. First, we were told our bill would be much less than the service we had, $120.00 a month-now it is over $150.00. All three of my family members CLEARLY told representative we ALL wanted insurance on phones only to find out while on vacation, only one phone had, not the one that had a screen malfunction and then were told, insurance would be put on all phones,(not yet and there would be no charge for repair. We are still refusing to pay the $149.00 charge
    for this repair. We want out NOW!!

  51. sbess says:

    We signed up originally for 2 lines for $89.00 a month. With fees and taxes and God knows what else, we are paying $127 a month and not using the phones near as much as we were before.

    They will not work with us to change our fees and even if we lower our minutes by half, we will still be paying only 20 dollars less a month. What rip off!

    I went to Nextel to check rates and they told us we could get out of Cingular contract easily because of the text message increase. Said they signed up former cingular customers recently who had no problem cancelling on this basis. Is there anyone who did this recently? I am curious to find out if this is really the case.

    I am really starting to HATE cell phones.

    We are going to try to cancel this weekend and probably go with T-Mobile.

    Bess :^(

  52. redbarronny says:

    Originally I was with ATT. I will always respepct them since they offered me a cell phone while i had poor credit at the time. I fell sucker for the Cingular ptich when they took over and signed. I have regretted it since. Customer servie ( great with ATT) sucks with cingular. Glad my contract is finally up after numerous calls to the CSR reps about the dropped calls and poor phone they tendered me ( Motoral V220) So i will be saying my goodbuys to cingular shortly . Am now looking at other carriers ( hopefully better customer service) Wish ATT well and they have a lot to overcome the poor customer relationship which Cingular has established .

  53. dwj119 says:

    sbess, very interesting, having another cell phone competing cell phone company do all of the leg work for you to get out of a contract early. Have you had any luck with this?

  54. falcon241073 says:

    I know this is an older post, but I have a question pertaining to it. Now that Cingular is the “NEW” ATT, can I get out of my contract? I did not sign a contract with ATT, I signed with Cingular.

  55. rosalee1234 says:

    I’m sure that this will not be posted since it will go against what the consumerist is posting. For the person that wanted out of his contract but did not want to return his/her equipment, the contract was based on the free or reduced price on the equipment, you get a free or reduced price, Cingular gets an agreement that you will stay long enough to recup the cost (same for any cellular company). For all of you who think that the .15 change is not fair or legitimate, next time you want to change the price plan that you agreed to when you signed the contract you want out of because Cingular changed the price of the text messages, stop and think about it you are requesting and being allowed to make a change to your plan to either cover your usage or lower your bill. Basically, to keep the m2m you are supposed to etend you contract but I dontknow of anyone that does extend it when cusotmers change the plans. Cingular could say sorry but you cant change until the contract expires but you will be responsible for your overages until then.
    To verify the legitimacy of this website’s statements consider this: Yes the 200 bonus min feature is avail in the system, but no Cingular does not apply it unless you are a former at&t wireless moving to Cingular plans and only then under certain eligibility standards, the 39.99 1000 um2m was for retention only and is not available to placed on an account, if it is on your account it is not eligible for the 7-7 8.99 therefore you will get an error if you attempt this. AS far as signing a contract with Cingular and now is the new ATT, the company ownership did not change, only the name, even if ownership changes the new company would have bought the contract ad yes that is legal. AS far as Nextel stating that others got out of the contracts, dont bet on it,besides I used to have Sprint, i had to eat the etf just to get out of a contract and the only reason i wsa under contract was because i added early nights and weekends for 5.00 extra, i never got a new phone at a discount to extend my contract for 3 years only the 1st phone I got. My contract got extended everytime I sneezed at my account.

  56. sdirge says:

    One thing about trying this, make sure that you are still in contract before you launch a hour long diatribe about how the arbitration clause is evil, unconstitutional, and was invented by satin. You will feel really stupid when the CS rep comes back and says sir, you are already out of contract you can cancel any time you want!

  57. ji20y says:

    Hi,

    just a quick question. So around August 2006, I went to Cingular (because thats what my family has always used) and signed up for service. I already had a phone I wanted to use and therefore did not need to purchase one from them. Unsurprisingly, they still forced to me sign a two-year contract.

    A little more than a month ago, I added the 500 text messages for 5 dollars a month deal to my contract. Does this mean that because I added something on to my contract and clicked the “I agree” button whilst doing it that I am now ineligible for contesting my contract with the nifty little argument listed above?

    Thanks for any help you guys can give me.

  58. BaconVonBacon says:

    It’s also worth noting that you cannot legally waive your right to a trial by jury. It’s in the constitution. All this means is that you have to *try* binding arbitration.

    Not exactly relevant to what you’re saying above, but any clause by any company that says you cannot sue or have a trial by jury *will* be shot down by a judge should arbitration fail and you care to sue.

  59. xplnlife says:

    Am I the last remaining, old school, at&t, tdma customer still around?

    I am currently battling with Cingular. I have a plan with 1050 minutes, free mobile to mobile, unlimited night weekends, and is month to month. It is a DIGITAL ADVTG 350 rate plan from back in the day. It currenlty costs me $39.99

    Cingular has so far offered me a plan that is $39.99 that has roll over and 450 minutes plus 200 bonus minutes (big woop) and a new KRZR phone for free. This is NOTHING in comparison to what I have now.

    I also asked to remain month to month. They claim this is impossible. I am so flustered.

    How can I get what I want and deserve? I would so apprecialte any advice about how to stick it to them the way they are trying to stick it to me.

    please come to my rescue. I promise to update you all on my progress with my battle.

    Have a splendid day

  60. xplnlife says:

    I am an old school att customer with tdma.

    I have a DIGITAL ADVTG 350 plan that includes 1050 MINUTES, mob 2 mob, unlim night and weekends for $39.99. I am now on a month to month contract.

    I have been battling with cingular/att to get a comparable plan that is also MONTH TO MONTH. I have been offered 450 mins w/ 200 bonus and a free new KRZR phone for 39.99. I was told month to month is not an option.

    This sucks lily white butt in my opinion.

    I am looking for advice on how to get what I want from this company!!! Does anyone have any experience with this situation.

    ARG. save me.

  61. Kryai says:

    I called cingular today and spent 2 hours on the phone but to no avail. The supervisor claimed that he had a document or email (something that he read) that said the changes to the arbitration clause were not materially adverse. That in fact it has always been the case that you could not enter into class arbitration or class-action suits and only on an individual basis. He claimed the only changes were in fact entirely beneficial to the consumer (that cingular would cover all arbitration they deemed non-frivilous… haha? maybe you can arbitrate whether your arbitration claim is frivolous?) He would not give any further avenues to pursue this and that in fact I would have to sue them. I’m trying to find the exact text of the previous arbitration clause. While I’ve taken consumerist at its word and reputation on the veracity of the claim I think I need to get a copy of the old terms.

    Is there anyone with a copy of the terms that could take a picture with a camera and upload them somewhere? I’ve found my original contract but for fun they reference the actual terms in a supplemental that I can not locate. I’ll keep trying to find it but if anyone has a copy I would really appreciate it.

  62. Pesco says:

    IT WORKED! I still can’t believe it. It only took 20 minutes from when I dialed to the point they said they will waive the early termination fee. I think this has something to do with it: [www.publicjustice.net] It’s a ruling on July 12, 2007 by the State of Washington Supreme Court that finds that the “class action waiver is unconscionable because it effectively denies large numbers of consumers the protection of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA)”. Funny, I’ve never lived in Washington, but it seems this might have forced a national policy change by AT&T/Cingluar. I’m sure they know the arbitration/class action change is undefendable now, and that court action is going to spring up all across the country if they don’t let people bail.

    I started my phone call as usual, tried to tell them the original reason I wanted out. Of course they didn’t budge. So I started at Step 1 (see top of article). I got to Step 5. I said to AT&T rep, “Are you familiar with what I’m talking about?” Of course, answer was “no”. I said, “Then I’d better speak to your supervisor.” I was put on hold. Five minutes later he came back and said that they’re waving the early termination fee, I never even talked with a supervisor. Skip to Step 10!!! (The second Step 10, actually… the one that says “Revel in your canceled contract!”) I’ve set up a cancellation date to give myself time to look for a new phone!!!

    You guys rock!

  63. flacmonkey says:

    Apparently, AT&T is has stopped allowing this method of escape. I went through all the support levels, including the President’s office, and the will not wave the fee. I have been told that if I disagree, then I will need to go to arbitration. The representative from the President’s office claims that the change in arbitration rules helps their customers and does not hurt them.

  64. bilbo5 says:

    Well, crud. I switched to paperless billing in Oct. 2006, probably a month before the arbitration clause discussed above was mailed out in print :(. Sadly, when I now go on-line to view my bills from the months of Nov. 2006, Dec. 2006, and Jan. 2007, conveniently for AT&T/Cingular, there is no mention of the arbitration clause anywhere! Perhaps this means that individuals who opted for paperless billing prior to Nov. 2006 are not subject to the arbitration clause? (Or perhaps this is just AT&T/Cingular covering their arses for foolishly making the clause effective immediately?) Bugger.

  65. anrima says:

    BILBO5,

    I was able to successfully get out of it even when I was on paperless billing – I requested a paper copy of the bill be sent to me. Also note, I did this in May of 07, because it did affect me.