Cancel T-Mobile With No ETF By Complaining To The FCC

Reader Jeffrey didn’t have service on his phone with T-Mobile, so he wanted to switch to another carrier. The trouble is, T-Mobile refused to let him out of his contract without an ETF:

…just wanted you to know that I am one of the many people who can’t seem to get T-Mobile service even though I live in New York City, a major market. All my calls to the regular customer service line got me no where and they did the standard runaround: $5 credit, work with their tech team to isolate the problem, etc. I read a user comment on one of the many T-Mobile threads on the Consumerist which said to file a complaint with the FCC and, by doing so, T-Mobile will have to address the problem and report back to the FCC a resolution. So I did. (There’s an online form so it’s easy.)

About a month later I got a call from one of T-Mobile’s Executive Customer Service Representatives. I was ready to argue, I’m pretty tired of the whole situation and deal with them, but he was very pleasant and got me out of the contract without an ETF without much complaint.

Just wanted to thank you for all your help! I probably would’ve eaten the fee if it wasn’t for your site!

Hey, that’s neat. To file a complaint with the FCC, click here.



Edit Your Comment

  1. konstantConsumer says:

    that sucks that you had to go to those extremes. i just found the email address for the CEO of T-Mobile and let him know that i didn’t get service in my apt, despite the best efforts of the tech support people. within a few hours, the head of something or another called me and let me know that they were waiving the cancellation fee.

    i was really impressed that they were so helpful.

  2. darkclawsofchaos says:

    wow, the government was competent, then again, the FCC is one of the few competent agencies out there, sometimes to competent

  3. rolla says:

    yeah, tmobile and at&t are pretty bad in NYC. good for him!

  4. MickeyMoo says:


    Perhaps a little less so when Colin Powell’s son was running it…

  5. Walrii says:

    Wow. It really shouldn’t take filing a formal complaint to the U.S. federal government to get them to do things the RIGHT way.

  6. bumba says:

    I live in the middle of San Francisco and I get barely any coverage with my Sidekick. Just switched to an iPhone on AT&T and I have full coverage. T-Mobile didn’t want to hear any of my complaints and kept pointing me toward their coverage maps.

  7. levenhopper says:

    But wait, all of these cell phone companies have either 14 or 30 day “trial-run” periods.

    Are you seriously telling me that he didn’t realize he didn’t have service until he was 100% under contract?

  8. bumba says:

    @levenhopper: What if they moved and had an existing contract? Not everyone renews their contract every time they move.

  9. JustIcedCoffee says:

    that’s what I always think when I read these EFT/No Coverage issues.

  10. elduque says:

    And what if you have great service and have to move cross country only to find out that service sucks in your new home?

  11. Ecoaster says:

    Everyone I know with Tmobile that moved, etc. and were then out of a good home service area left the contract, no problem.

    I’ve never, NEVER, had a problem with Tmobile in NYC. I wonder what kind of phone he was using.

  12. siskamariesophie says:

    I filed the complaint with the FCC so hopefully they will resolve my issue with T-mobile as well. In our case, we moved (still under 12 month contract) to a different city with supposedly awesome coverage. In our downtown apartment, I have to press the phone against the window to get 1 measly bar. Since I have decent reception out on the street, say 14 floors below, I am not allowed to cancel w/o incurring the termination fee.

  13. Trowble (XBL/PSN) says:

    Oddly enough, T-Mobile gives me pretty good service and I live in NYC. However, where I am in Astoria, Queens I think there’s a T-Mobile tower no less than a mile away from me.

    Still good to know on how I can bail out of my contract if service does so happen to go haywire on me.

  14. yg17 says:

    @siskamariesophie: If you read your contract, T-Mobile (and probably every other carrier) states that coverage isn’t guaranteed indoors since things like building materials can have an effect on coverage. If you get fine reception when you go outside, no carrier would even think about letting you out ETF free

  15. Myotheralt says:

    @siskamariesophie: It comes down to: is your reception good enough to finish out the contract or would you save headache by paying the etf and moving on?

  16. chicagojohn says:

    @yg17: I have sprint and just moved to a building where coverage stinks… while researching the issue with cust. service. They mentioned several times that the only place they don’t guarantee service was inside the home.

    I’m surprised that TMobile let the original poster out of his contract when they could have tried to talk him into getting “hotspot @home” or a phone that’s compatible with it.

  17. statnut says:

    @Trowble: Nice to see another Astorian here. I use T-mobile as well, and have no problems with it. In fact, it was much better than Verizon, when I had it last year.

  18. tizod says:

    I moved to NYC from LA where TMob worked great. Not so much when I got here. I had a Blackberry Pearl and posted an add on Craigslist in LA offering the phone if someone took over my contract. Less then a week later I transfered the responsibility to someone else and was out of TMob without any ETF.

  19. FMulder says:

    Why are cellphones somehow to be exempt from having to work in your home?

    Since when would (and why should) it be even considered contractually acceptable when you can’t use your cell phone in your home, when we ALL to whatever extent use, and expect to be able to use, our cell phones at all.

    Why are some folks such big advocates for corporations that they’d chastise a person for daring to want to return, without penalty, a phone that doesn’t work in their home? Really? So mean-spirited?

  20. el_smurfo says:

    Strange. I recently visited NYC and had no coverage holes anywhere south of Central Park. Perhaps certain phones like the KRZR just get better reception? I get 4-5 bars just about everywhere in my small SoCal town…

  21. m4ximusprim3 says:

    way to make a federal case out of it. Jeez.

  22. cerbie says:

    @noasalira: at home, you can have a land line. Done.

    Still, they simply cannot guarantee service inside of any building. If you have a cube of conductive stuff stuck into the ground, with you in, and the tower outside, well, you’re not going to get good service, if any. As long as our building materials are made of conductive materials (steel and aluminum, mostly), this will be an issue.

    IMO, having the contracts to begin with is the biggest part of the problem.

  23. noremac says:

    i just did what the first comment detailed and i was out of my contract (with a good reason) in 30 minutes.

    They were very helpful and i was very pleased with the experience. More so than the 18 months of service that sucked.

  24. 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.

  25. jewely1781 says:

    The following was an article I found (title and one paragraph)…

    T-Mobile USA, A CareerTV Close-up

    Headquartered in Factoria, Bellevue, Washington, T-Mobile USA is currently the fourth-largest wireless carrier in the U.S. market with approximately 27 million customers as of August 2007. In addition to mobile phone service, T-Mobile also operates WiFi hotspots in the United States and Europe. In the USA alone, it operates over 8,000 (as of December 22, 2006) T-Mobile HotSpot locations for Internet access – including such locations as airports, airline clubs, Starbucks coffeehouses, Kinko’s, Borders Books and Music, Hyatt and Red Roof Inn Hotels.

    Let’s say Half belong to messaging plans….and this is a very rough calculation…

    This leaves 14,000,000 people (I’m rounding up because some go over their allotted text plans). If just 1 text is sent on each of these phones to people who are NOT TMobile customers already-TMobile gets $1,400,000. If all the people receiving are T-Mobile customers already-this earns them $2,800,000, because they not only charge for sending-but for receiving as well. Lets say half of those receiving are T-mobile…This still gives T-Mobile $2,100,000…per text.

    But lets face it…many people send and receive more than one text a month. Lets say an average person wihtout a text plan, texts about 30 a month. So, multiply 2,100,000 by 30! THIS IS $63,000,000! They are charging roughly $63,000,000 a month more from consumers than what their website states they are supposed to be charging! Why have I been the only one to find this???

    I don’t understand how a company can do this.