T-Mobile Backtracks On That Whole “Too Bad Your House Burned To The Ground” Thing

Last week, we told you about the woman in Texas who lost her house to a wildfire, and whose T-Mobile phone wouldn’t work when she relocated to a new town. At the time, T-Mobile was refusing to waive her early termination fee, instead suggesting that she just give the phone to a friend or relative for the duration of the contract. Perhaps it was the patriotic spirit of the holiday, but it looks like T-Mobile has had a change of heart.

The customer’s son Mike alerted Consumerist to how he and his mother had been given the run-around by T-Mobile, and how the company was apparently willing to lose Mike as a customer over the nitpicky matter of an early termination fee.

Our attempts to get someone — anyone — at T-Mobile to clarify company policy were fruitless, but at some point after Mike’s story appeared on Consumerist, a “T-Force” customer service rep wrote to him:

Firstly, I am so very sorry to hear about your parent’s terrible loss. I know that the last thing you would want to deal with during such a trying time is multiple calls to customer service over the remaining contract. I am glad to know that no-one was injured and that your folks have a new home already. In regards to their service with T-Mobile, I would love to look into this matter and see what I can do about that contract for them. After suffering an involuntary move and losing everything, I am sure that they have larger concerns at hand.

Mike then provided the rep with his mother’s account info and received the following good news in reply:

Under the circumstances, we will be more than happy to take care of this early termination fee for you. You should not see anything regarding a cancelation fee on your next bill. I can’t thank you enough for you incredible history with T-Mobile and for sticking with us.

Once again, I am so sorry for what you and your family have gone through; hopefully this can remove a little stress from the situation.

This is great news for Mike and his family, though we’re still unclear whether this T-Force rep was following company policy or if they are just being nice because Mike wrote to Consumerist and posted about it on his own blog. We have made another attempt to get a clarification from T-Mobile and will update if anyone decides to reply.

Meanwhile, Mike, who had said the whole experience had turned him off T-Mobile says he will now give the company “the benefit of an in-store visit when my contract runs out at the end of the month.”

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  1. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    “we’re still unclear whether this T-Force rep was following company policy or if they are just being nice because Mike wrote to Consumerist and posted about it on his own blog”

    Gee, I know which one I’d vote for……..

  2. PragmaticGuy says:

    I doubt it was the “patriotic spirit” of the holiday as T-Mobile is owned by Deutsch Telecom.

  3. Invader Zim says:

    I realize that it is sad that someones house burnt down but unless tmobile burnt their house down I dont see them as being obligated to do anything. Would the same premise work for car payments, house payments, credit cards…no. SO yeah it is extremely nice that Tmobile did that.

    • Chuft-Captain says:

      It really doesn’t matter. Almost all contracts that are for a location-based service or amenity include terms that say you can get out without a fee if you move outside the area covered.

    • Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

      Your comparison doesn’t work – there’s no reason your mortgage, credit cards, etc wouldn’t still work just because you were forced to move due to your house burning down. Cell service, unfortunately, is indeed dependent upon location. Did they have to do anything, no, but once they saw it in the media and getting publicity maybe a suit figured out it looked like a dickish move and decided to reverse it. I think, in that case, PR face save is a more appropriate description than nice gesture.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Given the wording on the contract you are right, but your car will still work at a new address, credit cards, etc.

      The best one you mentioned was house payments. If it was a mortgage that is correct. What if someone is living in a leased house. Are they required to pay rent on the non existent house?

      • msbask v2 says:

        It depends on if this situation is covered in the lease. Some will have specifications for what happens in the event the house is unlivable.

        If the landlord is smart, however, they have insurance that pays their rental income while the house is being repaired.

    • msbask v2 says:

      No, it doesn’t work because if your house burns, you do have to keep paying your mortgage.

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        Most mortgage companies require insurance for this very reason. So in practical terms, no, you don’t have to keep making payments if it burns down unless you are a rare case.

  4. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    I went to read their terms and conditions (as most wireless contracts I have read actually cover moving out of the service area). The terms make no mention of this so I can see that T-Mobile was right at the beginning.

    Now what really caught my eye were the 3 different unlimited plans. All start with “Unlimited data on the T-Mobile network”, and then go on to say for different things. The only differences in the three plans were different data caps. 2GB, 5GB, and 10GB, or in other words 3 different definitions of unlimited that aren’t unlimited.

    Ugh.

    • NeverLetMeDown2 says:

      The data is unlimited, the amounts are how much data you get at “4G” (really 3.5G, but that’s a different issue) speeds.

  5. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Most wireless contract would let you cancel without fee if you moved out of the service area, but that seems to have changed across the board in early 2011.

    Although I can see some motives. Buy expensive phone knowing you are about to move, move, cancel, sell phone on ebay, and profit.

  6. Pre-Existing Condition says:

    I still don’t understand why this wasn’t lumped into the overall HO claim.