Proration Battle With T-Mobile: For Once, It Pays To Be A Pack Rat

Lured by the iPhone and the potential of less crappy reception, Chris and his wife walked away from T-Mobile and ported their numbers to Verizon. T-Mobile tried to bill them for an entire month’s service when they had only used a few days’ worth. Chris couldn’t accept this, and called up customer service. They told him that the no prorated bills rule was part of the terms of service he signed when he joined T-Mo. Boo. Funny thing, though. He had saved that original decade-old sheet with the terms of service when he signed up, and they said no such thing.

After being frustrated with T-Mobile’s poor reception in my area, and desiring an iPhone (which, for some reason, they still don’t have), my wife and I switched to Verizon when we bought new phones at the Apple Store last month. They ported our numbers over as we made the purchase, and we had our confirmation from Verizon before we even left the store.

A few days later, I went online and called T-Mobile to verify the account had truly been closed and see what the final balance would be. The recording told me the balance, automatic payment date, and confirmed the account was closed.

Four weeks later, we get a new bill for an entire month. Evidently, we ported our phone #s 3 days after the closing date on our bill; their policy is to evidently then charge for an ENTIRE month of service. A call to customer service and even asking for a supervisor brought no satisfaction. The supervisor kept telling me it was in my terms of service that I agreed to.

After hanging up, I dug up my T-Mobile paperwork. I’ve been a customer since 2002, through multiple phone upgrades. I found the only copy of Terms of Service that I was ever given; there was no mention of being charged for an entire month for a few days of service (actually, I’m not even sure if you COULD port numbers in 2002).

I ranted about this on the T-Mobile support boards (along with multiple other customers who had been caught in the same situation). I thought that was the only satisfaction I would get…Lo and behold [J] from T-Mobile contacted me within a day of my post and promised to look into the situation. She apologized for the customer service people, and within a day had adjusted the final bill to only reflect the days we actually had service.

Now I’m almost sorry I left T-Mobile. That’s the kind of customer service that kept me with them for all those years of lousy cell phone reception!

Well done, T-Mobile AND Chris. Taking care of former customers is a kind thing to do. And doing one’s research, then taking to forums to get a company’s attention is a great way to solve consumer issues.

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  1. Hi_Hello says:

    prorated bill. I never really expect it. But when i do get it, it’s pretty neat. when i cancel or make charges to anything, I try to time it so it’s a few days before the end of the billing cycle.

    • qwickone says:

      I don’t understand how it would be legal for them to not pro-rate the bill. They are billing for services rendered and services were not rendered for most of the month.

      I’m assuming their TOS says something about that now, but they can write whatever illegal things they want in there, it’s still illegal (assuming it’s illegal) and you’re not bound to illegal terms of a contract.

      • Hi_Hello says:

        legal or not, it just not something I though I could get.

        I figure , I’m paying a month to month bill for a month of service. If I decide to end that service before the month is up, that’s my choice. although if they don’t give me the service I paid for because of some issues not on my end, I would like some sort of refund.

        • Lucky225 says:

          And in those 3 days you had service you still had the option to use the allotted amount of minutes, texts and data included in your plan, regardless of weather or not you kept it on for 30 days. i.e. if your plan includes 650 minutes, there’s nothing stopping you from talking on the phone for 650 minutes over the course of the 3 days you had service during that month. Likewise, if you go on vacation for a month and leave your cellphone at home and don’t make a single phone call, text or use data because the phone isn’t even turned on, should you not be responsible for the bill that month just because YOU didn’t use the service that was AVAILABLE to you during the course of that month? People seem to have a hard time understanding that just because THEY didn’t use the service available to them doesn’t mean service wasn’t rendered. Calls and texts to your phone will still come through even if you don’t use your phone during a bill cycle, calls will still go to your voicemail, etc. It’s not T-mobile’s fault you didn’t use the service or you didn’t cancel before your bill cycle date.

          • icerabbit says:

            Actually you don’t inherently have that opportunity. Some TOS contain language to the extent that when you are establishing or canceling service, you don’t get to use the entire month’s allotment in that few days. I’ve been through this with some carrier migrations and service upgrades and was specifically told (as recently as this winter) that my allowed data use was n GB / 30 x n days of partial service for the number days the new iPhone was going on my account … that I would incur overage charges if I thought I could soup up several GB in the next week.

            • Lucky225 says:

              That’s more of a technicality, for “misuse of service”

              11. Permissible and Prohibited Uses: Your Data Plan is intended for Web browsing, messaging, and similar activities on your Device and not on any other equipment. Unless explicitly permitted by your Data Plan, other uses, including for example, using your Device as a modem or tethering your Device to a personal computer or other hardware, are not permitted. Other examples of prohibited uses can be found in Section 18.

              18. * Misuse of Service or Device. By activating or renewing Service with T-Mobile, you agree that you do so because you want Service from T-Mobile and not for any other purposes. You agree not to misuse the Service or Device, including but not limited to: (a) reselling or rebilling our Service; (b) using the Service or Device to engage in unlawful activity, or in conduct that adversely affects our customers, employees, business, or any other person(s), or that interferes with our operations, network, reputation, or ability to provide quality service, including but not limited to the generation or dissemination of viruses, malware or “denial of service” attacks; (c) using the Service as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections; (d) tampering with or modifying your T-Mobile Device; (e) “spamming” or engaging in other abusive or unsolicited communications, or any other mass, automated voice or data communication for commercial or marketing purposes; (f) reselling T-Mobile Devices for profit, or tampering with, reprogramming or altering T-Mobile Devices for the purpose of reselling the T-Mobile Device; (g) using the Service in connection with server devices or host computer applications, including continuous Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections or peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing applications that are broadcast to multiple servers or recipients, “bots” or similar routines that could disrupt net user groups or email use by others or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality; (h) accessing, or attempting to access without authority, the information, accounts or devices of others, or to penetrate, or attempt to penetrate, T-Mobile’s or another entity’s network or systems; (i) running software or other devices that maintain continuously active Internet connections when a computer’s connection would otherwise be idle, or “keep alive” functions (e.g. using a Data Plan for Web broadcasting, operating servers, telemetry devices and/or supervisory control and data acquisition devices); or (j) assisting or facilitating anyone else in any of the above activities. Unless authorized by T-Mobile, you agree that you won’t install, deploy, or use any regeneration equipment or similar mechanism (for example, a repeater or signal booster) to originate, amplify, enhance, retransmit or regenerate a transmitted RF signal. You agree that a violation of this section harms T-Mobile, which cannot be fully redressed by money damages, and that T-Mobile shall be entitled to immediate injunctive relief in addition to all other remedies available.

              In any event, I don’t think T-mo would charge you any overage for using all your minutes/sms in 3 days instead of over 30, but data, yeah they might be a little upset about it, but it is what it is and you’d still be able to use your data regularly as you would on any other day. Case by case basis before bitching is all I’m saying.

      • Lucky225 says:

        Not pro-rating is not illegal, your assumption is dead wrong. Pro-rating is a courtesy, but it’s not required. Furthermore his TOS from 2002 not mentioning it doesn’t matter as he continued to pay for and use the service when the TOS was updated to include the language about no pro-rations. The original TOS from 2002 likely states as most TOS do, that TOS can be changed at any time with or without notice and you have 30 days to cancel without penalty when they do change TOS, and if you don’t you agree to be bound to the new TOS by continuing to pay for and use the services.

  2. mbz32190 says:

    Is it possible they changed the terms after you joined and you agreed to them at some point? Cell phone companies like to do this all the time, and unless you cancel right after they notify you of the changes, you pretty much accept them. Don’t know if that’s the case here…

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      My guess is that’s actually the case, but a rep saw that he had the actual hard copy he had gotten way back when and saw the somewhat shaky legal (or at least shaky moral) ground and went ahead and diffused the situation.

      I would hope if it went to a jury there would be a good chance the carrier would lose if the consumer still had that original document. But I sometimes live in a fantasy land where everyone acts like human beings.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Quite possibly, but the OP reports that they told him it was in his original terms. In any case, they should be able to provide him a copy of the updated terms, if that’s the situation.

    • Greggen says:

      When I left TMo after 10 years or so I went 3 days into a new month. I TRIED to time it, but the porting to Verizon took 7 days, TMo tried the ‘policy you agreed to when you signed’ lie and I was able to prove that was not true. Had a copy of the contract.. THEN they said that they updated the TOS and despite not being in a contract at that time (was month to month for my last year or so) I ‘agreed’ to it by not canceling.

      I was so tired of a decade of TMo BS that I decide to turn the illegal cancellation fee as a ‘freedom from TMobile fee’ and have not looked back.

      Ironically, I REALLY like being a TMobile customer, had great cell service 98% of time time. I had a good grandfathered plan that worked really well for me. The PITA was dealing with their idiotic and unethical customer service.

  3. xantec says:

    Chances are the TOS he *did* sign had a stipulation that the TOS could be changed without notice at any time and that he would have to opt out of any changes or be automatically included in them. The fact that [J] did adjust the bill is a nice touch, but likely T-Mobile wasn’t obligated to. They just figured it would be cheaper to prorate the bill than being called to small claims court.

  4. SamEBates says:

    I have an iPhone with T-Mobile. Jailbreak and unlock = not difficult. You can buy them like that. I pay $30 a month with T-Mobile for 100 minutes of talk, unlimited messaging and “unlimited” data. Data is a little slow, but it’s a cell phone, I don’t expect it to be as fast as a computer’s internet connection. For an extra $10 I could get unlimited talk, but I don’t need it.

    • Tegan says:

      My 4G phone on Verizon is actually faster than my (reasonably fast) Uverse connection at home if I’m getting full bars. Not trying to troll I promise, just saying that we’re past the time where cell/mobile broadband automatically has to be slower than traditional internet service.

  5. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I would be inclined to tell them to shove it. Pay the 3 days. If any collection agencies send letters tell them it’s disputed, pound sand, do not report it to any collection agencies or you’ll sue. If they do… sue.

    • Misha says:

      Uh, did you read all the way to the end? The situation has already been resolved in the OP’s favor.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        I guess I was thinking for those of us that are either not pack rats or horribly disorganized and couldn’t have pulled the original TOS. It sounds like the OP was able to resolve this in a much less hostile manner…

        The fact they want to charge for 30 days of service instead of 3 ticks me off, no matter how well they were able to resolve it.

        • Lucky225 says:

          The service is billed on a monthly basis, based on the plan you chose. The fact that you decided to cancel 3 days after the month does not mean the service was not available to you, no one forced you to cancel 3 days after you bill cycle, and service was technically still available had you chose to remain the full month, furthermore you’re usually paying for an alloted amount of minutes, data, texts etc, all of which can be used within those 3 days. So if [J] signed up for, for sake of argument I don’t know t-mobile’s actual prices vs plans, but let’s just say he was paying $50/month for 600 minutes talk time and 1000 text messages in a given month. Let’s say [J] used 600 minutes of talk time and 1000 minutes in 3 days during the current bill cycle. Should he get a pro-rated bill when he actually USED the service? Let’s say you leave for vacation for 30 days and forgot your cellphone at home, you haven’t made any calls, texts or used data for that entire 30 days, should you be able to tell T-mobile to “pound sand” because you didn’t use service that month? Terms of Service are in place for exactly this reason, T-mobile isn’t a charity, there in the business of making money, they price their plans affordably in a manner that allows them to extract maximum profit for the service they provide, just like any other mobile provider does, and should do.

  6. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Doesn’t getting a new phone trigger new paperwork and a revised TOS?.. or was he still using the same phone from 2002?

  7. Blueskylaw says:

    Fighting for your contract rights; the new contact
    sport brought to you by T-Mobile, a family company.

  8. Nathan says:

    This is likely the relevant section of the oldest ToS T-Mobile has on their site, from December 2004:

    “You will be charged for Service and other features on a monthly billing cycle basis and we may change your billing cycle at any time. You agree to timely pay in full each month all charges and fees associated with the Service, including without limit, monthly recurring Service charges…”

    Along with:

    “You may cancel Service for any reason by providing us with notice (we may require up to 30 days)” and “After the Term expires, you become a month-to-month customer but are still subject to the Agreement, as modified.”

    It doesn’t mention prorations because the bill isn’t prorated; it was agreed to be paid in full each month. The 30-day notice requirement is so that T-Mobile can set the cancellation to occur at the end of the currently billed cycle.

    The newer ToS, which are agreed to by continuing service after the change takes effect (December 2011) are clearer about it:

    “You agree to pay all Charges we bill you” and “You can request that we port your number to another carrier, and Service for that number will be terminated when the porting is complete. If you port your number, you will be responsible for all usage and Charges through the end of your current billing cycle.”

  9. balderdashed says:

    “Well done, T-Mobile…”? How do you figure? Customer leaves because of poor reception, receives three days of service but is charged for a full month based on Terms of Service to which he apparently never agreed, calls customer service to no avail, talks to a supervisor to no avail, then T-Mobile contacts him after he rants on support boards. And for this T-Mobile gets a gold star? Not in my book (though I suppose, compared to AT&T and Verizon, if corporations are people, Sainthood might be in order.)

    • Lucky225 says:

      He did agree to it, by not cancelling within 30 days of the terms being updated. There was no requirement on T-mobile’s part here to honor the pro-ration, they decided to do the “right” thing.

  10. GaijenSoft says:

    In Canada, our telcoms can change the ToS at any point without telling you. It has to be printed on the back of the bill. The way they get you out here is you are basically agreeing to these new terms the moment you make a payment.

    In Canada, payment = consent of terms. It’s sad.

  11. maxamus2 says:

    I’ve had T-Mobile since 1999, never had a problem and since I am a long term customer they give me HUGE discounts. If you’ve been with them for years just ask for the discount, I get 25 to 30% off every single month, it would be extremely hard for me to change as it would cost a lot more.

  12. webweazel says:

    “And doing one’s research, then taking to forums to get a company’s attention is a great way to solve consumer issues.”

    Or tweeting….or EECB corporate….

    A better way of solving issues is a company having CS people who actually give a damn and are able to think and are able to actually do something to fix the problem. Instead, we deal with them being pushed to get your sorry ass off the phone ASAP so their times don’t go down, not allowed to do anything but bald-faced lie, blow smoke up your ass, make you talk to the hand, and then transfer you to dial tone. And they wonder why we’re mad?

  13. Lyn Torden says:

    Hmmm. And I just signed up to T-Mobile.

  14. Fragmental says:

    This says that you have had multiple phone upgrades and you’ve been with them for a long time, meaning you have paid multiple phone bills since signing up. ITherefore, aside from being unhappy about it, there is really no merit to this argument. You agree to a new set of terms of service every time you commit to a new contract (read that again, “commit to a NEW contract”). Digging up an old contract is sort of irrelevant. That’s like demanding to pay no more than $2.99 for a big mac combo meal at McDonalds because that is how much it cost when you first started going there twenty years ago. Their “terms of service” change over time too.

    Another note, any carrier can change their terms of services, rates, restrictions, etc. any time they want regardless of your contract agreement. The moment you pay your next bill after they do that, that constitutes your agreement with the change. Of course, if you don’t like the change, you also have the right to void the agreement entirely without penalty, as you can claim a breach of contract on their part.

    T-Mobile customer service is generally pretty awesome, and consistently rated to be the best in the industry, but you should realize that they were just really nice to you here and owed you nothing.

  15. zyphbear says:

    Actually, I had this practically identical situation myself just a couple months ago. I switched from T-Mobile to Verizon since T-Mobile’s signal had been dropping and calls were dropping all the time (Going on for more than a year with no fix). I ported my number on the 18, newest bill before had ended on the 12, but they wanted to charge me for an entire month’s bill. I tried sending them messages on Twitter, which they first said I need to call them. So I did, they said they can’t do anything. I sent another message on Twitter, they said to chat with them, so I did that too. Still got no where. I finally just said I do not recall agreeing to this since I had an acct 9+ years and finally they had me send them an email to a special Escalation area with some info, (including Twitter handle), and they finally called me about it and prorated it correctly. My final bill went from $95 to $22.

  16. JaundiceJames says:

    Not so fast, Consumerist! You’re giving T-Mobile too much credit. What happens to the people who just pay the non-prorated bill or allow themselves to be bullied?

    Fixing a crooked bill isn’t good corporate behavior. Good corporate behavior is not allowing crooked charges to begin with. They’re padding their profits with these “mistakes” and crooked practices.

    And this whole thing misses the point that, even for the people who have the no-prorating clause in their contract, it’s a fundamentally unethical practice to sneak something into the fine print that allows them to charge for a service they didn’t provide. No company should be allowed to charge for days of service they don’t provide.

    Here, it happened to me and someone I know. In my case, it took a complaint to the FTC to get it resolved:
    http://jaundicejames.com/2011/08/20/t-mobile-is-running-a-scam-against-customers-who-leave/

  17. soj4life says:

    But I bet that they will prorate you when you update from one plan to another.

  18. ciara says:

    being a t-mo customer i consistently run in to horrid telephone csr’s – each time i have posted on the forum i have been met with top notch service and a very quick fix… the people who trained the web reps need to re-train the phone reps. in fact even the supervisors on the phone reps (which i have repeatedly had to escalate since 1st level reps are not educated in their promotions and policies), would be just as short and unhelpful. recently i won at their vip contest – 2x – so 100. in gift certs at target – but the win page was busted – when you clicked the ‘submit’ address link after winning it took you to the homepage where it would error that you’re only allowed to play once a day…. i called t-mo – nada and a super offered me 20.00 credit – insulting… no offer to fix the game for others — or i could contact e-prize… i did -3 x – and they finally offered only 10.00 claiming i didnt win (it was a tic tac toe slot game – i had screenshots to prove i won)… so finally the reps on the forum were apologetic – and credited my account my winnings — and could see that eprize lied to me – and others over the course of the game.

  19. PollyHaerk says:

    I don’t like this practice any more than the next person, but throwing T-mobile under the bus about this is a little one sided. Chris is bound to the Terms of Service in effect at the last time he renewed his contract, most likely an upgrade. He may not have received a copy of them and they could have even changed since then, but the wording of the contract he signed in 2002 is long gone.
    A great bit of valuable advice for this “proration weary” customer will be to make sure that the next time he decides to switch wireless companies, he will need to port out on or very near the end of his billing cycle. ATT, Sprint ,Verizon and Tmobile stopped prorating bills for departing customers a while back. Further, if he decides to leave Verizon 1 or 2 days into a billing period, be sure to write back with how verizon responds to the same requests for credits.