AT&T Reps Don't Know Own ETF Policy

8 out of 12 AT&T customer service reps don’t know their company’s own early Early Termination Fee (ETF) policy. Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer Reports, called up AT&T to inquire about the policy and got several different answers. Some said that the ETF was halved after the first year of contract, while others said it went down each month. In fact, while AT&T has talked about switching to a pro-rated ETF, they haven’t yet. Whether you cancel service 1 month into or one month before the end of contract, it will cost you $175. Consumers Union called the other major cellphone providers too, and they gave out the right information. Couple this news and the story yesterday about reps giving out wrong information about upgrading to a new iPhone locking you into a new two-year contract, and it plum looks like AT&T has a serious front-line rep training problem.

AT&T Sales Reps Gave Wrong Info On Termination Fees In Test [Smart Money via DSLReports]
(Photo: epicharmus)


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  1. MDSasquatch says:

    5 years ago, I head over to Gramma’s house for Halloween, the grandkids have fun and we return home. Our next AT&T bill has a $25 charge for an operator assisted call to England on it; the call was made while we were at Gramma’s.

    I call AT&T to resolve the issue, and they refuse to remove the charge because ” it is a significant amount of money”. They tell me if I don’t pay, I am going to have my account turned over to collections, etc…

    I canceled the service during the same call, paid the bill and went with a local provider. A few weeks later, I get one of AT&T’s “Please Come Back Checks” checks in the mail for $30. They can’t reverse a $25 charge, but they can give me $30 to get me back.

    With logic like this, no wonder they don’t know their a$$ from a hole in the ground.

    I have done my absolute best to avoid them ever since!

  2. chrisfromnl says:

    I worked in an AT&T call center for four months last summer, and I had no idea what the ETF policy was. If anyone inquired about the policy, we just transfered to the correct department (customer care I believe). I dealt with large corporate accounts 99% of the time though, so the actual phone users calling me couldn’t really care less about the ETF, and more about the fact that we just spent 15 minutes on the phone with me trying to explain how to take the battery out of their RAZR. Seriously, one lady got her 7 year old son to do it. I just told him it was like taking the back off the remote control. He got it first try.

  3. enascar88 says:

    I checked into this a little further for all of our readers and you will never believe what answer i received. HAHA The first phone call I was advised of a $200.00 early termination fee. The second phone call was $500.00 and the third happened to be 3 different transfered phone calls and telling me there wasnt one. I love Cingular/AT&T but wow someone has to know what the correct charge should be.

  4. noquarter says:

    And the best part is that if you act on the erroneous information that a representative of AT&T gave you, according to them it’s your own fault. They can say whatever they want, and are never held responsible for it.

  5. Why 8 out of 12?

    Can’t we just say 2 out of 3?

  6. darkened says:

    @RamV10: Because 8 out of 12 implies they polled 12, instead of just 3. Since polling 3 people is completely useless. Even 12 is pretty insignificant but 8/12 shows a strong trend that is most likely not just coincidence.

  7. Ben Popken says:

    @RamV10: Because they called 12 different reps total.

  8. noquarter says:

    @RamV10: 8 out of 12 because they made 12 calls. It wasn’t a statistically large enough sample to just say 66% or reduce it to 2/3.

  9. MDSasquatch says:

    why not just say 67%?

  10. emona says:

    I just got out of my contract after 5 phone calls to AT&T. They insisted I had another 2 year agreement, I argued I only had 1 year (thus ending it last September). Because they couldn’t send me a copy of my contract, I got out without a fee.

    Not only does AT&T not know their own ETF policy, they also have no records of any contracts made before 2007 (physically signed or electronic, so says the supervisor), don’t know the proceedure to port a number and keep real shoddy call records.

    It’s amazing that place runs at all.

  11. racerchk says:

    i used to work for at&t wireless in the call centre. the calls are actually contracted to Convergys. When you call att customer service you are actually talking to a convergys employee in Canada. If you have ever read up on Convergys and how they do business you will see why at&t wireless customer service SUCKS. The training is mandatory but the instructors dont give a sh*t if you pass it or not. The majority of the time the reps were giving wrong info on purpose, making changes to customers accounts which would lock them into a long contract, etc. its really not hard to see why at&t customers are getting such poor service – anything to save a buck (poorly paid convergys employees and very poor training).

  12. noquarter says:

    @quarterly: I had an issue with them (when they were Cingular) where they couldn’t even tell me what their coverage maps were when I’d signed my contract with them. Regardless, they were positive that I was roaming, and no coverage map that I found to the contrary could change their minds.

  13. darkened says:

    @noquarter: Very clear reason that you could exit you contract with no ETF.

  14. noquarter says:

    @darkened: That’s good to know for the future, inevitable, disputes with other cell companies. But I was actually freshly out of my contract with them when they hit me with all the roaming charges. Shockingly, they kept trying to convince me that signing a new 2-year contract would make all my problems go away.

  15. Brewtang says:

    At one time, Cingular used the Pro-Rated ETF…I believe $240 over the life of the contract…$10 a month for 2 year and $20 a month for 1 year. I’ve had Cingular for 5 years and never had a problem…Now that it’s At&T we’re starting to have problems…probably going to be switching at the end of my contract.

  16. emilymarion333 says:

    I bought a new PDA on Tuesday morning from cingular, err At&T – I updated my phone. The manager of the store told me that they have switched to a pro-rated ETF.

  17. maevro says:

    I am happy with my AT&T service. I can always get them to waive fees and work with me.

  18. Snowblind says:

    I guess the ETF policy is “Whatever the suckers will bear”.

  19. PermanentStar says:


    Coverage maps are generalized…any time you use another carrier’s tower, you’re roaming – even if you’re well within your coverage area according to the map. The carrier whose tower you’re using will charge AT&T for you using the tower, and they pass the charges to you. Yes, it sucks, but that’s why they could be confident that you were roaming even if you were within the coverage area. Set the phone to home only, and it should only be able to pick up services from AT&T’s authorized towers.

  20. Major-General says:

    And here I was thinking it was like Verizon, who when you call will claim that what you read on the website isn’t true.

  21. FightOnTrojans says:

    @maevro: Yeah, AT&T is kinda bass-ackwards, but they’ve generally treated me good.

    a) one time, they were overcharging me by $20 every month for about a year. I called and told them about it, they said they would fix it, and nothing. I continued paying the bill minus the $20 overcharge and continued to call. The extra just kept piling up until I finally got a supervisor that knew what she was doing and it got all sorted out and the extra charges went away.

    b) getting towards the end of the month recently, and I noticed that my family was going over on the minutes, again. I called to get my options. I ended up upgrading my family plan to the next level and the CSR gave me 700 more minutes for the current month (which was going to end in 5 days) for free.

    c) upgraded the in-laws cell phones in December, and of course they waited until the 30-day return/exchange period had expired to tell me that they didn’t like the phones that they had personally selected. Grrr… however, due to the upgrade in plan described above, all the lines are eligible for an upgrade in phones. SCORE! They’re getting new phones, and we’ll just keep the other ones as back-up (they were only $18/each).

  22. Difdi says:

    IANAL, but…if the guy on the phone can accept a service contract, that is, you say you want to sign up and they sign you up, would that not make them an agent of the company, rather than merely some schmuck answering the phone? If they’re an agent, then what they say on the phone about contracts *is* the contract, providing you can prove it later on (which is why being able to record phone conversations is so useful, and why so many companies hang up if you try to).