Washington State AG To T-Mobile: Not So Fast With That ‘No-Contract’ Advertising

Last month, we pointed out that while T-Mobile’s new pricing schemes are a lot better than the standard handset subsidy/contract model in the United States, it’s not perfect, and it’s not totally commitment- and contract-free. The Attorney General of Washington state agrees with us. They got T-Mobile sign a court order that applies nationwide and lets customers get a full refund on their handsets and plans if they believe that they were misled into signing up with T-Mobile.

It’s true that you can get T-Mobile service that’s completely commitment-free as long as you bring your own device or pay in full for your device on the day that you take it home. Customers who buy a new device on an installment plan have other obligations. Instead of a contract, they sign an Equipment Installment Plan binding them to T-Mobile for phone service as long as they still owe on the phone. Instad of an early termination fee, they have to pay the balance on their phones in full if they want to ditch the carrier. This is a lot more consumer-friendly and intuitive than the current system of phone subsidies, early termination fees, and two-year contracts, but customers are still tied to the carrier and sign something that looks a lot like a contract.

“My office identified that T-Mobile was failing to adequately disclose a critical component of their new plan to consumers, and we acted quickly to stop this practice and protect consumers across the country from harm,” the Washington state Attorney General said in a statement.

T-Mobile disagrees with their assessment, of course, but agreed to the attorney general’s terms. In a statement, they noted, “While we believe our advertising was truthful and appropriate, we voluntarily agreed to this arrangement with the Washington AG in this spirit.”

If you bought your phone between March 26 and April 25, 2013 and want to ditch T-Mobile, you can get things started by calling 877-746-0909 or 611 from your T-Mobile phone.

Attorney General says “No Dice” to T-Mobile’s deceptive “No-Contract” advertising [Press Release] (via NBC News – Thanks, William!)