Trying And Failing To Cancel US Cellular Over Text Message Rate Increase

“Did you hear any success stories from readers who tried to cancel their US Cellular contracts over the 5 cent increase on text messages? I forwarded the notice to my mother (who is usually quite talented at dealing with customer service) and she attempted to cancel three US Cellular contracts held by our family, but was met with a definitive “no” in two different attempts….”

“The reps claimed that early termination fees would only be waived if the increase affected obligatory charges (such as the voice plan).

-John”

We haven’t gotten any stories but here’s what we think.

If she doesn’t have a text messaging plan, then the charge is obligatory.

Perhaps the front-line reps are as to how standard contract law works. Tell your mother to try asking to speak to retentions. The advice offered in this post about doing the same thing for Sprint may be a good reference.

(Photo: scentzilla)

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  1. Raven.Nights says:

    Not surprising. US Cellular has some of the worst customer service I have ever dealt with. I had a week before I could renew my contract, low and behold my phone stopped working, They refused to let me resign and get a working until that week was up, luckily someone finally was more committed to keeping a customer than losing one and they let me resign. Their phones are at least 9-12 months behind the other carriers and in my opinion are the worst cell company in America. Yes even worse than AT&T.

  2. TheIowaKid says:

    You will not be able to cancel service because of this. It is an add on, unlike other carriers, so its something you can take off and not be charged for. If you want to learn more, HowardForums has a thread on this topic.

  3. Tortfeasor28 says:

    I was able to cancel my contract over the issue of the price increase yesterday (6/27). I initially called the evening of 6/26 but was unable to get anywhere even after escalating the issue to a supervisor. They finally told me I could not escalate further due to the time of night (9 p.m.) and that if I wanted to that I needed to call back during business hours. The next day I did just that.

    When I called back the next day I initially spoke with a front line CSR. That went nowhere so I asked to speak with her supervisor. I gave him my account number and explained how I wanted to cancel w/o a penalty to the change being materially adverse to me. As soon as he protested that my contract would not cover such changes as the text messaging was just an add on, I quoted him the addendum clause of the contract as well as paragraph 7 of the consumer info code which is posted on their web site’s front page. The supervisor put me on hold for about 5 minutes and came back telling me that he was giving me a $150 credit to my account and that I could cancel if I want, port my number, or just take the credit and finish out my contract.

    I am an attorney, and so maybe I scared him a little when I told him exactly what I did for a living, or maybe I was just forcefull enough in the way I presented my argument. Who knows… Either way, iPhone, here I come!

  4. curmudgeon5 says:

    I have a question about the legal foundation behind these rate changes. Intuitively, it would seem to me that if you have a contract, whatever prices you agree to are in effect for the duration of that contract. The company shouldn’t be able to change the terms of the contract at will during that period. (I am quite sure that I couldn’t announce to my cell phone company mid-contract that I had decided to change what I was willing to pay.) So how is this even legal? Do the contracts typically include a clause permitting them to do this?

  5. Raven.Nights says:

    @TheIowaKid: I don’t know how true that is roger, other carriers have the ability to take off text messaging completely. I did it on AT&T recently, when adding Emergency Roadside Assistance, I somehow deselected my text message package and it disabled messaging completely on my phone. And when AT&T raised their text message rates, quite a few people still had success canceling their contract, even though it’s an “add on”.

  6. US Cellular does have crappy customer service, and my friend had the same experience with phones as you did raven.

    If they didn’t have free incoming I’d be dead and broke. 1000 minutes a month and 90% of them are incoming (work).

  7. jorywoah says:

    As a former US Cellular CSR Rep, I would like to add that you *should* be getting transferred straight to a retention rep quite soonly after you mention anything re: a contract or cancellation.

    As you know all CSRs are different, especially depending on the day and their mood – so the best advice I can give is if you don’t get far with one, do try again…although be cautioned as they are supposed to be pretty detailed when noting your account, so assume whoever you talk to at least has the jist of what you have recently called about if they look.

  8. TheDude06 says:

    They may be the worst tech-wise, but they are also MUCH cheaper than the national carriers. I think its because they still sell “non-nationwide/regional” plans.

    P.S. HATE the new site layout

  9. Chese says:

    This is why I use a carrier with no contract. Makes life much easier.

  10. redbird_guy04 says:

    US Cellular seems to go in waves. I had them several years ago and despised them. After trying Nextel and Verizon, I decided to switch back to US Cellular. They have provided great service, however I have found that a relationship with a local service center will get you much farther with them than will calling their customer support. I have called and not received the greatest support, however making a stop at the local store netted great results!

  11. mistaketv says:

    The Customer Service Agreement says:

    “Your “Agreement” includes (1) these Terms and Conditions, (2) the Service Order (“Service Order”)”

    and

    “Amendment. We may change the terms of this Agreement at any time by providing you with notice. If you do not agree to the proposed changes, you may cancel your service without incurring an early termination fee by notifying us within 30 days from the time you receive notice. If you use the Service after the 30-day period, you agree to be bound by the changes.”

    I would say if your paperwork lists the per-use messaging rate at .15/sent, you would have a good case for canceling without fee due to changes in the Agreement, part of which is the Service Order, which is the thing they print out (and you sign) with rate information when you sign up. Even if it doesn’t say that specifically, I would think by going through the proper channels, you might be able to cancel without the ETF. Start with “Customer Relations,” their retention department, and then escalate, escalate, escalate. If need be, contact executive customer service by contacting or emailing corporate.

  12. mistaketv says:

    The following is the exchange I had with U.S. Cellular customer service regarding canceling without ETF over the text message rate increase:

    I wrote:

    I understand that you are changing the terms of my Customer Service Agreement by instituting a new per-use messaging rate of $.20 per message sent. When I signed the Service Order, it was with the expectation that text messaging would be $.15 per message sent. As this is a material change in terms, I would expect to be able to cancel my service without being charged an early termination fee, per the “Amendments” section of the CSA. Is this the case, that I may cancel this line without an ETF?

    They replied:

    Thank you for contacting our Online Customer Care Department. We regret any confusion or inconvenience regarding the increase in per text
    messaging overage. You are correct in your statement of U.S. Cellular allows our consumers to disconnect within 30 days of making a change to their service based on the bylaws of each agreement. However, keep in mind services is defined as a monthly service which must be paid in order to be a U.S. Cellular consumer. The monthly service which we are referring to is your minute package. The text messaging package is an optional vertical feature that may be changed or removed at anytime[sic] and is not a necessary requirement of continued service with U.S. Cellular and therefore the bylaw is not applicable.

  13. Chris Coyier says:

    I just got off the phone canceling my account with US Cellular, my attempt at using this was met with failure as well. $150 flat charge. Motherfuckers.