Update: Reader Escapes Tmobile Without ETF Because He Has No Service

Victory has found the reader reader who couldn’t get any calls on his Tmobile phone, and yet they wouldn’t let him leave service without paying the dreaded Early Termination Fee. First he called the Retentions department number we gave him. They said they would cut the fee in half, but still charge him. “Considering the amount of time I spent on the phone, they should be paying me,” wrote Evan. Then one of Tmobile’s PR people stepped in, waved a magic wand, and now Tmobile is doing what they legally should have done all along, let Evan go without charging an ETF.

Since Evan’s story posted, we’ve gotten comments and emails from other readers in the same boat. To those folks, we say keep escalating to supervisors or executive customer service (try 1-425-378-4000) and demanding that your consumer rights be respected. I would really like to hear what logic these customer service reps are trying to use to justify still charging you a fee for a nonfunctional service. Just keep a firm grip, that their contract is not legally enforceable if they’re not fulfilling their end of the contract, and thus can’t legally work you over with any punitive termination fee clause in it.


Edit Your Comment

  1. AceKicker says:


    I honestly don’t know what their mentality is going after people for a couple hundred bucks (a drop in the bucket for them) while risking bad PR that could cost them thousands or more.

  2. Imaginary_Friend says:

    I don’t even have to read the story. I’m just here to comment on the sheer awesomeness of that graphic. WIN!

  3. pylbug says:

    I am curious if this was no service whatsoever, or just no service during certain conditions. I work in a skyscraper in Chicago, and get no reception whenever I’m at work. When not at work, I can get a signal. But conditions are such that for most of my waking hours, I have no cell service. I’ve contacted T-Mobile about this problem more than once, and they’ve replied with long, wordy emails about how I need to do troubleshooting and technical analysis of their network, fill out long forms and get back to them after doing a bunch of technical homework. I ignored them, because I’m not a T-mobile technician — I pay to have a service, which they can’t deliver. I told them what the problem was, and they replied by essentially telling me it was my problem to track and report back to them. If they want me to troubleshoot their service, they need to pay me – not make me pay them. Nonetheless, they wouldn’t cancel without charging the termination fee. I had little choice but to ride out the remaining year and a half of my contract with them, never getting calls during business hours on any work day. Ever. I hope this post helps other people in my situation avoid paying for, literally, nothing from T-Mobile.

    Now I’m trying to decide which carrier will be able to provide the service I pay for not only at street level, but on the 42nd floor in the heart of a major city, too. It’s ridiculous, because there are serious complaints about all of the carriers in this area. Any suggestions on which carrier to go with instead of T-Mobile in Chicago? Consumer Reports says it’s between Verizon and AT&T. I don’t care for either one of them, and feel like I’d almost be better off not having a cell phone so that being unreachable costs less than it does now.

  4. Buran says:

    @Imaginary_Friend: Yeah, I’m laughing too. I passed the link to people who don’t even read this site or haven’t heard of it because of the picture.

  5. Cameron Fredman says:

    I pity the fool who has to pay the early termination fee.

  6. rabiddachshund says:

    I understand the need for an ETF because we sign a contract stating that we’re basically going to give them so much money over a certain period of time and they’re counting on that money to stay in business. When we cancel the contract, they’re essentially losing money, so I have no problem paying an ETF if I have to cancel, but if they’re not providing a service, then we should not have to pay an ETF.
    Thank you Consumerist, for making life just a little bit easier.

  7. pigeonpenelope says:

    PYLBUG: if you don’t do the troubleshooting required, how are people going to know what the problem is to fix it? you have a bad attitude.

  8. Daniels says:

    Don’t sign wireless contracts?

  9. ionerox says:

    PLYBUG: Ya’know, sometimes the material that keep buildings upright, like cement and metal, also keep cell phones from getting a signal. I used for work for a bank, and if I was in the safe-deposit vault I couldn’t get a signal on my phone at all, but if I were out in the lobby I could. So is that the service provider’s fault?

  10. sommere says:

    I’d call retentions/exec cust service and (when they don’t waive the fee) threaten to call Sen. Klobuchar’s office to give her more evidence that cell phone companies are abusive in their use of early termination fees.

    T-Mobile should give you a fair deal (either they provide service or don’t charge you) or there should be a law requiring them to do so.

  11. trujunglist says:

    I lived in Chicago for 4 years. One apt was on the 30th floor. At that time I had Cingular and it worked just fine, although I think Cingular’s customer service is the worst I’ve ever dealt with. I had a prepaid plan which I highly recommend NOT getting from Cingular, although now things may have changed. Due to the crappiness of their customer service and their complete inability to work with their own system, I switched to Verizon which I have had absolutely no problems with. It really was amazing that they couldn’t put minutes on my phone without verifying who I was, needed me to go through some sort of verification process over and over, couldn’t verify me, and I’d end up in the same loop over and over. All I wanted was 20 dollars worth of minutes and I’d end up on the phone for literally hours and hours at my office trying to work it out so I could call someone while at home.

  12. trujunglist says:

    I’m not quite sure I follow your logic, so I guess bear with me… You’re saying that if you opt to leave a contract early for whatever reason then they lose money, yet if you want to get out of the contract you won’t be using their services, so they’re not really losing anything other than the fact that you would have been paying them. It’s not like they’re going to give you $200 worth of service once you opt out.
    The reason they have ETFs is because of subsidized phones, which is also a shitty move because the phones I’ve gotten for free have all been complete crap. These days you can get a PC for $200 but you can’t get a phone that can barely call people? Yeah, I believe that, considering the iPhone, chalk full of features (but still missing some) is only $400. They probably come out ahead by like $150 for every ETF they get considering how goddamn terrible the free ones are.

  13. calvinneal says:

    I thought this thread was about TMOBILE!

  14. ericshmerick says:

    That photo is solid gold. I can’t stop laughing.

  15. STrRedWolf says:

    Take a look at TMobile’s coverage map before you go! Their coverage is so thin in the Baltimore/DC area that you would be nuts to go with them. Compare AT&T with them and you’ll go AT&T. TMobile needs a lot of investiment in their network in the US.

  16. mprice says:

    T-Mobile screwed me big time. I tried to get out of my contract after seven months but they wouldn’t let me. Their answer: Because I had service in my HOME they wouldn’t waive the ETF. I freelance in film and TV in the NY tri-state area so every day I’m on a different location. There were a few different times when I had no service but I lived with it. Then I had to go up to Kent, Ct for a week and I knew – and T-Mobile knew because I called them beforehand and they confirmed it – that I would have no service there. So I went to AT&T and got a new phone.

    When I tried to cancel and explained to T-Mobile my freelance situation, and that I would now be paying $40.00 more per month and that it wasn’t a frivolous switch, and that my wife would be keeping her service, the man I spoke to said no problem, he’d waive the ETF. My mistake was that I didn’t get his name or #.

    Then I got the bill and the $200.00 charge was on it. After a series of escalating phone calls, all of which were on record except, strangely enough, the first call that waived the fee, they turned it over to a collection agency. That’s when I gave up and paid. Now I warn everyone to stay away from T-Mobile.

    Their argument was that, since I had service in my home, they couldn’t waive the ETF. I argued that I didn’t need service in my home since I have a land line, and that I was totally dependent on my cell phone on location (as a freelancer). They said I had a contract with them so I was required to pay but I told them, to no avail, that a contract is between two parties and that they were in breach for not providing me with service where I needed it. The last conversation I had the woman was oh, so sympathetic, listened carefully, then said “So how would you like to pay that?” I hung up.

  17. rwalford79 says:

    One of my favorite things that T-Mobile does is tell people who have no service in their homes, or even outside their homes, or even down the street from their homes…

    Okay, lets get in detail.

    Anyone know where San Francisco is? I thought so, its pretty big and covered with ALMOST 100% coverage. Apparently in the Mission District (predominantly low income Latin area), T-Mobile provides little to no coverage (by little I mean, spotty 1 bar at best, with “connecting” times that make twine and can look good). A friend of mine, as well as myself had issues in the house, down the street, and for the most part, ALL of 24th Street betwen Potrero and Mission were greatly unusable uncovered coverage.

    With the same RAZR phone (unlocked) we tested T-Mobile against AT&T, guess what? 850GSM on AT&T worked, and 1900GSM T-Mobile DID NOT!

    After multiple calls to T-Mobile about possible termination, we were all told that T-Mobile was installing towers in that area within 90 days, and our coverage should be acceptable. Well 1 year later, guess what…. STILL LACKING COVERAGE.

    My friend waited 7 more months before finally cancelling service. She said to them “matter of factly” that she wanted to cancel. They offered her like 2500 minute plan with T-Zones and Texts for like $45, but she kept saying, “No thanks! I cant use those minutes where I live and shop anyway, so Im going to pay $95 to AT&T”

    Needless to say, she, her sister and I all went different directions. One has ATT, I have Helio (Sprint guarantees coverage in SF and Ive had NO PROBLEMS SO FAR), her sister, while still with T-Mobile for another 10 months, is in negotiations with our friend to do a massive family plan, which I might join later on.

    No one should pay an ETF. I think carriers should RECOGNIZE that with all the dropped calls, and missed call connections that there is issues and those accounts that have that problem should be cancelled free of the ETF.

  18. rwalford79 says:

    I left T-Mobile too. I went to Helio, they offered me UNLIMITED EVERYTHING on a 3G network, for the same price I paid on T-Mobile.

    My contract ends 2-14-2008 for T-Mobile, till then, the bill is already late (lack of full funds to pay), but I dont think they would charge me an ETF for the next 15 days, cause if they did, it wouldnt look good on their PR. 3 times late in 5 years, all times except this no later then 2 days…Yeah, I have a case.

  19. jewely1781 says:

    This is for those that are tired of getting stuck with charges that don’t belong to them. I noticed my T-Mobile bill going up in price each month, so today, being tired of paying more than what I signed on for, I started to do some research on our bills. Apparently T-Mobile raised the price of our text messaging WITHOUT informing us. We have kept every single piece of paper T-Mobile has sent to us over the last two years…we use one of the phones for business so we had to keep any and all documentation for expense reports and taxes. We never received any “insert”. On top of this, for the last year of our service, we have had dropped calls, static on the lines, no service, etc. We have called many times to get the technical problems resolved-even went as far as purchasing new phones (at full cost) for both lines and replacing sim cards-and still-the service is below par. As far as the texting goes-I did my research and then looked at our plan online…I signed in, clicked on “Plans”, went to the bottom of the window and clicked on “See Other Included Services”, went to the bottom of the next screen and clicked on “More Information About Services”, On the next page…First paragraph under the heading “ALL PLANS” If you read the first couple of lines-you will see that T-Mobile themselves say that text messages are only supposed to be 5 cents a text. This is for ALL PLANS-Not just for mine. Yet they are charging everyone more! As far as I am concerned-this is deplorable-and earns them MILLIONS of dollars a month!!!!! A month-not a year or more. Think on it-every one of their customers is paying more than what they say they actually are charging. I called T-mobile and explained that we were very unhappy with the service and now we find out that our Text cost went up. I spoke to a lady and explained what I found on their website and started to ask why they were charging me more than they themselves state the charge is supposed to be. And here I have been paying more for TWO YEARS!!! She said this was a tax, I said no it isn’t-read the paragraph. She put me on hold for a few minutes. When she came back, I asked what would they do for me since I have been paying more than required for 2 years. She didn’t know-so I asked for a supervisor. It took a few minutes-but I got one. . She came back and actually thanked me for finding the “typo”. She couldn’t believe that no one had found it before. She even confirmed the “typo” with her supervisor and then their business department. When I did get the supervisor, she was very defensive. I wasn’t-I was actually pretty nice. I explain everything again, and I ask her-what was T-Mobile going to do for me since I have been paying over their own rates for the last two years. She states that she has documentation that we received the insert explaining about the Text rate change. She stated that I HAD to have received the insert. I told her I was more than willing to send her every paper I had for the last two years, it isn’t here. Unless I signed it and gave it back (which if I had received it and they had asked me to at the time-I probably would have), she cannot say I received it. I am not a dishonest person-I would take a lie detector test to prove we never received it. She refused to give any-she only offered me a rate of .10 cents for our texts for the last month, but as of right now-I am officially notified that my rate of texts from here on out would be 15 cents per text. I couldn’t believe she said that-I repeated “So you are saying, as of right now-you are officially notifying me?” She said yes. If that is the case-I should be able to cancel my contract because I am just now officially informed of my text rate change, and since we are still having service problems after trying everything they suggested, we no longer want to keep the service. We especially don’t feel that we should have to pay even more for services that we are not happy with. She said no-and I said-but you stated yourself that people had 30 days from the time of discovery to cancel their contracts without an ETF if they did not approve of the rate change, and you just “OFFICIALLY” let me know of my rate change. She started to get a little more rude now and told me she could not waive the ETF. I explained that this didn’t make sense, from what she herself said in the beginning of the conversation. We keep going round in circles repeating the same points of view. I asked to speak to her supervisor. She told me they weren’t there but she would have them call me. I have “print screened” the page with the 5 cent text rate-with the date of 2-6-2008, so they can’t say it didn’t exist. If 5 cents per text was on their site and I saw it-they should honor it, and have it retro-active for the last 2 years. I just feel that they are cheating everyone, and they aren’t even letting anyone know about it. We shall see what happens.