Reader Escapes Verizon Contract Without ETF, Even Though He Has Text Message Plan

Until now, we’ve been telling people trying to escape their cellphone contract without early termination fees based on a raise in text message prices that it’s necessary that they don’t have a text message plan. However, reader Mtman says he used a novel argument to get out of his Verizon plan, even though he did have a text message plan!

See, the whole argument hinges on arguing that the price hike constitutes what is known as a “materially adverse change to contract.” Under established contract law, you cannot simply change the terms of a contract in a way that harms the other party. Doing so gives them an opportunity to declare the contract void, and not bound by any of its terms, like a $175 fee for leaving service. A materially adverse change is one where it could be argued that had the change be in effect at the time of signing, the other party might have decided to not sign the contract.

Now, as the change in Verizon text message prices was for the default rate, the rate you pay if you’re not in a text message plan, Verizon has been saying that it doesn’t adversely affect subscribers in a material way if they’re on a text message plan. But Mtman was able to successfully argue that it does. Here’s how he pulled off this negotiation coup:

I was currently in a TXT message package, and they claimed that It did not have a materially adverse effect on me. I countered and claimed that my contract was with verizon via any plan, and not just one. When I signed my contract, I knew that a text message would cost me X, but now these terms have changed, and because I can move around in the future, it could have an adverse effect on me moving forward, that the past circumstances have bearing on future financial effects. I argued for about 15 minutes, and then they let my lines go.

Mtman then went and got an iPhone and signed up with AT&T.

Though he writes it kind of confusingly, what Mtman is saying is that it doesn’t matter that he is in a text message plan now, he wasn’t in a plan at the time of phone purchase, and the cost of the default rate could have been a guiding factor when he made his initial purchase decision.

Perhaps he just got likely and got a weak rep or just wore his down, but with a $175 jail-break fee, the tactic is definitely worth a shot. Not just Verizon, one could apply the logic to any cellphone service that raised default text message rates. Give it a go and report back how it works out.

(Photo: zoomar)