Reader Escapes Verizon Contract Without ETF, Even Though He Has Text Message Plan

Until now, we’ve been telling people trying to escape their cellphone contract without early termination fees based on a raise in text message prices that it’s necessary that they don’t have a text message plan. However, reader Mtman says he used a novel argument to get out of his Verizon plan, even though he did have a text message plan!

See, the whole argument hinges on arguing that the price hike constitutes what is known as a “materially adverse change to contract.” Under established contract law, you cannot simply change the terms of a contract in a way that harms the other party. Doing so gives them an opportunity to declare the contract void, and not bound by any of its terms, like a $175 fee for leaving service. A materially adverse change is one where it could be argued that had the change be in effect at the time of signing, the other party might have decided to not sign the contract.

Now, as the change in Verizon text message prices was for the default rate, the rate you pay if you’re not in a text message plan, Verizon has been saying that it doesn’t adversely affect subscribers in a material way if they’re on a text message plan. But Mtman was able to successfully argue that it does. Here’s how he pulled off this negotiation coup:

I was currently in a TXT message package, and they claimed that It did not have a materially adverse effect on me. I countered and claimed that my contract was with verizon via any plan, and not just one. When I signed my contract, I knew that a text message would cost me X, but now these terms have changed, and because I can move around in the future, it could have an adverse effect on me moving forward, that the past circumstances have bearing on future financial effects. I argued for about 15 minutes, and then they let my lines go.

Mtman then went and got an iPhone and signed up with AT&T.

Though he writes it kind of confusingly, what Mtman is saying is that it doesn’t matter that he is in a text message plan now, he wasn’t in a plan at the time of phone purchase, and the cost of the default rate could have been a guiding factor when he made his initial purchase decision.

Perhaps he just got likely and got a weak rep or just wore his down, but with a $175 jail-break fee, the tactic is definitely worth a shot. Not just Verizon, one could apply the logic to any cellphone service that raised default text message rates. Give it a go and report back how it works out.

(Photo: zoomar)

Comments

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  1. punkrawka says:

    The argument doesn’t hold any water. Increasing the non-plan txt msg rate is MORE likely to drive you to a plan, not less. Since Mtman went with a plan when non-plan text messages were at a lower rate, no way would increasing those rates have changed his decision. Sounds like he just wore down his CSR — and good for him, since ETFs are ridiculous anyway.

  2. Ignem says:

    I cancelled my test messaging plan when I first heard about the increase, then called back a week later to cancel. I ended up having to just decline a couple of save attempts, but within about 10 minutes, they let me go without the ETF. Maybe that would work for other people too?

  3. amandajewel says:

    Perhaps a corrollary to this would be insisting that because one doesn’t have the unlimited text package (assuming one doesn’t), the fee change affects any messages you use over the limit. I wonder if that would work …

  4. cde says:

    //jail-break// //iphone//
    I get it :D

  5. cde says:

    @amandajewel: Most plans only make you pay 10 cents for message overages still.

  6. NaturalSelector says:

    I may be in the minority here, but I see this as a tad unethical. It’s obvious that this individual just wanted out of the contract so that he could get an iPhone, not because the rate change will be of any affect.

    If you don’t want to be in a contract, then don’t sign one. As much as big companies screw customers, customers seem to do it right back.

  7. darkened says:

    When I had verizon many a year ago I could not get an unlimited plan I told them 2 times to stop fucking me on text messages, the 3rd time i said fuck you and went joined Tmobile.

    So because it was important for them to figure ways to swindle pennies out of me, they lost their $80/month cell phone plan. And i refused to sign up with a 2 year contract so leaving had no penalties for me.

  8. etu001 says:

    Well I believe with Verizon you can change your text message plan whenever you want or at least month to month. You can then drop you text plan and then next month argue that the text plan is against your contract. Once one part changes part of the contract, the entire contract becomes voidable. It is interesting that the customer cannot charge/penalize Verizon for the changes. I guess it is possible to do so in court. For instance, if your business owned a large number of lines, a text price change could be costly. And if its costly enough to cause you start losing money, the business may have to drop the plan. By dropping Verizon’s plan due to the material change, it may cost the business other charges (changing business cards, getting a new plan, etc). I am pretty sure the business could then sue Verizon for damages due to the voidable contract.

  9. landmarkburger says:

    I want to try to get out of my contract but need to port my number. Should I port first, or cancel the contract first? If I cancel first, to make sure it works, what happens to the number???

  10. keith4298 says:

    Step 1) call and cancel your txt message plan
    Step 2) proceed with the script

    Worked for me.

  11. Cowboys_fan says:

    If I owned a cell company I would dump the text messages into a clause much like 411, its a pay-per-use service and prices are subject to change anytime. Its not like anybody reads the contracts before they sign them ;-)
    As for OP’s arguement, it seems valid to me. What if you only added sms to your plan for a month, or the school year?

  12. xrodion says:

    it worked out for me completely the same way… and I am happy for this site to help me out with canceling my etf being waved off.

  13. TheUncleBob says:

    When you signed your contract with VZW, you were told the PPU fee was $.15 Regardless if you signed up with a package or added it later, you were told that you could add or remove the package at any time and go back to the PPU rate.

    Changing the PPU rate, even if you have a package, does effect your ability to drop the package later and have the $.15 PPU.

    Why don’t these carriers learn and simply allow customers currently under contract to keep their older rate until their contract runs out and sign up new customers/re-sign existing customers under the new rate?

  14. Cowboys_fan says:

    @TheUncleBob:
    “Why don’t these carriers learn and simply allow customers currently under contract to keep their older rate until their contract runs out and sign up new customers/re-sign existing customers under the new rate?”

    Its too hard on a billing system, let alone the CSR’s, to charge different rates for different people. Imagine calling a CSR to find out your rates, which could be any number of prices. Would you expect to get accurate information every time? I would rather have than a standard set of fees for everybody. Also imagine how many more arguements would be brought up if people find out others are paying less for the same services.

  15. TechnoDestructo says:

    @punkrawka: It’s more likely to KEEP him there if his usage patterns change. Therefore he has been affected.

  16. tubedogg says:

    @Cowboys_fan: Are you kidding? Do you know how many different plans a company like Verizon has people on, with different base rates, overage rates, number of minutes, features (free nights, free weekends, free mobile-to-mobile, etc. etc. etc.), and the like? I would wager there are likely more people on grandfathered plans than on plans you could sign up for today. It would not be at all difficult for them to create a new code every time they change the text messaging rate, and all new customers get the new code; existing customers keep the code they were on until they sign a new contract. And it’s not even like they change the rate THAT often, in the grand scheme of things; not nearly as often as they change the details of their base plans, which causes much more stress on a CSR and the billing system, since that involves many more components than a simple code indicating what the customer’s text message PPU is.

    You are way underestimating what the billing system for VZW (and any other cell phone provider, for that matter) is capable of.

  17. Caroofikus says:

    If you think about it, it has an adverse affect even if you have a text plan. What if you go over your plan messages? Then you pay the extra rate for overage, which is higher than it was upon signing.

  18. medalian1 says:

    Thanks, I was just able to cancel my two lines. Stick it to the man.

  19. PermanentStar says:

    @landmarkburger:

    On the subject of porting – port first, if the company cancels your line, they will not turn it back on to port the number back out – and porting does have to be done when the number is active with your old carrier.

    Believe me – it would be easier to argue that the $175 ETF they charge for the port needs to be removed than it is to argue that they should now turn your phone back on so you can bring your service to another carrier.

  20. rwalford79 says:

    Point blank and simple…

    Even with a TXT Message plan, if you DO NOT HAVE UNLIMITED plan, and the PER MESSAGE RATE changes at anytime, and it changes your “OVERAGE” rate, then yes, you are free to leave your contract. It is concidered a materially adversive affect.

    But wouldnt it be a materially adversive affect if you lowered your minute plan and couldnt a company fine you a fee for that one too? I know sprint used to in the past. If you UP your plan, it was nothing. If you DOWN your plan, you were charged $150 cancellation fee of that plan, and restarted service with a new contract.

  21. xthechaostheoryx says:

    I had no luck with all of the advice from above. 4 CSRs, 3 Managers and even a Assoc. Director all told me flat out no, all because I have a text package. I was told the rate increase is not the same for people with text packages, because their overage price is not increasing. I canceled the text package and will try again tonight, lets hope it works!

  22. xthechaostheoryx says:

    IT WORKED! only took me 3 more CSRs and 2 more managers, then fighting with the last manager (very calm and polite though) for about 20 minutes before I wore her down and she finally said “fine, you wont be charged an ETF, anything else I can do for you”. Be patient, stay to your point, in my case that I signed up at .10/text, cancelled my text package(2 days ago) at .15/text, and on march 1 it would be .20/text, so it will adversely effect me.

    iPhone here i come, woohoo! now let’s hope they dont drop a 3g iphone soon!

  23. ahempton says:

    I sent them an e-mail and they told me the same thing–that I have a text message plan–but they offered to give me a credit of 40 cents.

  24. pytbnty says:

    I did not know that they changed the rate for text messages and I really never pay that much attention to my bill. I have a 5 phone family plan and I was wondering why it went up a little. I am very upset with this 50% increase especially since my daughter has been texting her friends. She wants me to sign up for a plan but it is still outrageous for the plans. Do you all think that it will help me get out so I can just get a pay per use phone for her and just drop our coverage all together?

  25. macateco says:

    Hello All I need help. Back in November 2007 I signed the El Paso-Juarez Mexico area plan with Verizon Wireless since I live in EL Paso, Tx and I work in Juarez Mexico. I went with an indirect dealer and I was told that the plan was great for people that usually goes to Juarez. The service in Juarez is Horrible maybe 85% of the time I do not have signal and I called the 1800 number and I was told that since June 2007 the Mexican Company cancelled the contract with Verizon and Verizon can’t use Mexican antenas anymore that is the reason for the poor signal. I was also told that this plan is not offered anymore because of that reason and they were very angry with the indirect dealer that sold me the plan. I was so frustraded that I cancelled the line and now they are charging me the early termination fee. I thing it is not fair that they told me one thing and the plan just did not worked. ANY HELP HOW CAN I FIGHT THEM?

  26. zulfishah says:

    One more IMPORTANT point I want to make… I had the same problem, and I have (had) a verizon text message plan. But what got me out of it (and i haven’t seen this mentioned before) was that the text message rate increase actually impacts *receiving* (not sending) international text messages, which goes up from $0.15 to $0.20. So if you’re someone who sends / receives international messages alot (and i was), this is the best get-out clause. Now hello to the iphone! :)

    The part I’m referring to is in question 5 of the
    “Text Messaging Price Increase” FAQ on verizon’s website.

  27. domino_angel says:

    I have an awful old razr. I got aggravated with Verizon when they told essentially told me that there is no technical support for my phone. Several angry phone calls later- about miscellaneous things- I started looking for a way out of my contract. After finally finding this page, I called Verizon and successfully argued my way out.

    I have a text message plan, however I argued that this contract change still applies to me because I have not always subscribed to a text plan, and may not always subscribe, in which case I would then be subject to the new charges. In addition, I pointed out that although I have not yet received international text, that does not preclude me from ever receiving them. This stumped the rep, and she quickly transferred me to a supervisor.

    After finally getting an acknowledgement that I could quit the service, the supervisor I had been transferred to began trying to save my business. He asked what I was going to switch to. He ended up offering a much more expensive phone than I was looking at with T-mobile, and at a MUCH better price than listed for. I don’t have much love for T-mobile, so it ended up being an offer I couldn’t refuse.

    I got: The new pink Venus by LG, a 6 gig micro sd, some sort of headset (the supervisor said it was for music) the verizon music manager CD and USB cable, Car Charger, the standard charger and other in-box items, as well as a bucket of 2000 bonus minutes to ensure that I won’t be going over my monthly allotment, and all for about $125. Granted, this all also comes with a new 2 year contract…but I would have been signing one for T-mobile anyhow. I figure I saved approximately $230. Sure, I could have still jumped ship, but I would have actually been out more money with the new contract, had a lesser quality phone, and been stuck with (in my area) inferior call quality.

  28. domino_angel says:

    @ahempton: you really need to CALL and talk to someone. Trust me, as a former CSR myself, emails do not make you nervous. A real person sitting on the other end making you feel stupid makes a CSR nervous. When they get nervous, they want to get rid of you…and that usually means escalating the call, or giving you what you want.

  29. domino_angel says:

    @rwalford79: I used to have Sprint, and yes, they wanted to charge an ETF if you sneezed wrong.

  30. fcastro says:

    Hi all does anyone know if this is still valid? Can I still call up verizon in April and use this script? I just found out about the increase and I am not happy at all.