Tmobile Adds Flimsy Restrictions For ETF-Free Cancelers

Tmobile is trying to impose certain new restrictions on people trying to cancel their contract without early termination fee (ETF) over the recent text message rate increase. Based on an email between a reader and Tmobile’s executive customer service team, to qualify for ETF-free cancellation a customer:

1. Can’t have unlimited messaging bundle on your account within the past 3 months
2. Has to have been charged for text messages during the past 3 months

A materially adverse change of contract nullifies a contract. I don’t see how you can enforce restrictions on a null contract.

If you want to cancel Tmobile without ETF, here’s how. Read the comments on that story to learn tips from many readers who’ve successfully used our advice. And remember, victory goes to the tenacious.

(Photo: Getty)


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  1. MattMcKindling says:

    Anyone else had luck despite this stupid 3 month thing??

    I continued to insist that it was materially adverse, even had a supervisor agree with me, and they refused to cancel because of this 3 month stipulation.

    I am almost at the point of taking the ETF, then taking them to small claims court.

  2. SBR249 says:

    While I understand where T-Mobile is coming from with the second rule about text message usage in the past 3 months, that’s a really dick move and defies common sense.

    Just because someone hasn’t used text messages in the past 3 months doesn’t mean the effect on his/her wallet would be any less “materially adverse” if they decide to use it in the future.

  3. blue_duck says:

    I did the same thing, but with Sprint. I find that the BBB also gives them a nice, swift kick in the ass too.

  4. k6richar says:

    You know what would be a great idea, consumerist (or some entrepreneur) should start a website that takes your email and your cell phone company and email you when your phone company makes one of these changes along with a link to detailed instructions how to cancel.

  5. outinthedark says:
  6. jscott73 says:

    Yeah this whole thing stinks but if you have patience all you need to do is send and/or receive one text message a month for the next three months then cancel, assuming you don’t have an unlimited text message plan.

    I have T-Mobile and I don’t have the unlimited plan and I know I’ve done texting for the last three months. I don’t want to cancel T-Mobile but I am tempted to cancel the contract so I can get out later if I want to.

  7. iaintgoingthere says:

    @k6richar: You are a genius but not genius enough to create the web site you’ve proposed.

  8. Goutnout says:

    Does this apply if you have a plan for a fixed amount of texts? Last month I would have gone over so I called to upgrade to the next tier and she gave me bonus free texts without changing the plan. I was happy at the time but I see now this might have been a scam to keep me under contract.

  9. dawime says:

    Can you get out of contract, and remain month to month? Or do you have to move to another carrier?

  10. Geekybiker says:

    @jscott73: generally you have 30 after the notice to cancel or your accept the new conditions by default.

  11. Hawk07 says:

    T-Mobile needs to get its act together over text messaging.

    1. There’s no way in hell 20 cents can be justified for a single text message. SMS is 160 bits of data. I think a single phone call uses way the hell more than 160 bits of data, however, if that phone call doesn’t connect, you’re not charged.

    2. It is IMPOSSIBLE for customers to block/shutdown/cancel T-mobile txt messaging. So, if some jerk bombs your phone at 3 AM with 200 messages, T-Mobile will charge you for every last one of them. The reps are also real assholes when it comes to trying to get them removed and blame you for receiving them.

    3. For the PR people at T-Mobile corporate that monitor these threads, you may feel like you have a great employer, but when they jerk customers around like this you shouldn’t feel safe as an employee.

    4. Used to work at a company with a $5 million plus per year account with another major GSM provider (hmm…. who could that be?) During one of the worst contract disputes of my life, the question came up as to whether we should jump ship to T-Mobile, another GSM provider. What do you think I had to say about this? Needless to say, T-mobile didn’t earn our business that year and there was a happy ending to our contract dispute. (FTR – I have phones on each of the major cell phone carriers for my job. While they are covered by my employer, I don’t mind fighting for my employer when bogus txt messaging charges appear from the jerks at T-mobile).

  12. dubs29 says:

    Isn’t this another possible materially adverse change to your contract? It was not in the original contract and as it would nullify my ability to cancel without ETF would it not also apply?

  13. wcnghj says:

    I’d bet the CTIA will have something to day about this.

  14. Lin-Z [linguist on duty] says:

    I tried to cancel my contract and got this same answer. Since I have a text messaging plan and didn’t exceed the number of messages available in the last three months, they said no. I guess I can either run up my texting bill or stick it out til December =/

  15. PurplePuppy says:

    My sister ran into this problem. She has the lowest flat-rate “package” of text messaging and they turned her down cold because she had not exceeded her package minutes in the last 3 months. HELLO!!! If she was going over, she probably would have upgraded to a bigger package!
    So, this rate-change actually affects virtually no one since 1. Almost anyone with a text package doesn’t qualify, and 2. Anyone without a text package (like me) probably doesn’t use text much anyway and just want’s out of the contract.

  16. technopimp says:

    I called them today to find out when my contract expires (I want to get an iPhone). Before I said anything, the rep said “wow! You’re been an awesome customer for over 8 years, and we just wanted to say thank you!” As we proceeded to discuss, I was told October 25th was the date. I asked if I was eligible for the prorated ETF schedule, and was told no, since I was an existing customer. I asked them why they insisted on holding me hostage after nearly 9 years of loyal patronage, she said they are not holding me hostage, they merely require me to fulfill my part of the bargain. Seems I’ve more than done that after so long. If I was ever unsure about switching, all doubts have now been erased.

  17. ScubaSteveKzoo says:

    actually, for once I’d qualify for something. I went over awhile ago, so i upped my messaging, but only to the next plan, not unlimited. Still….i could think of better things to buy than an iphone. and i’m satisfied with T mobile.

  18. AT203 says:

    I think prior to this policy, my friend canceled without ETF, citing the text message increase. He had a text message plan, so the service rep said that he wasn’t affected. However, the text message plan doesn’t include international text messaging (i’m not sure if this means from the USA to other countries, or texts sent while actually in the other country.) So, he said that he wanted to send international texts, the prices were raised, thus he was materially affected.

  19. tgpt says:

    Kind of unrelated, but…

    I used to get “promotional” (free) texts directly from t-mobile on my t-mobile prepaid. Since I work on call and use SMS for paging at night (hence have my SMS notifier set loud enough to wake me), this was really annoying. When I called to complain they said there was no way to deactivate this.

    After a couple of calls, I explained that I understood, but that I was going to continue to call and complain every single time I got one of these messages because I figured that would make it worth their while to come up with an opt-out mechanism. I’m not sure if they’ve just stopped doing it completely or if it worked, but I haven’t gotten another one since I made that last call and it’s been about 2 years.

  20. @jscott73:
    Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I bailed out of Sprint at the great fee increase of Jan ’08. It was cancel or stay; you can’t quit your contract but keep service. I’m sure it will be the same with T-mobile: they’re not gonna play chicken with you.

    So, I bailed. Then, a few months later, I got SERO, so what can I say, I’m a sucker for the lowest price.

  21. mrdeeno says:

    I called T-mo last week to inquire about this and spoke to a nice woman concerning canceling without an ETF…I currently have a Blackberry Minutes and Mail plan which includes unlimited text messages. Turns out that I was charged in June for an MMS message I sent ($0.15), and she said because MMS messages were not included.

    BINGO! I said I then qualified for early cancellation without ETF. She checked with someone, came back in a minute and said that I DO qualify!

    I also inquired about porting my number…she said to go through the process of buying the phone and having the number ported, then call them and have them remove the ETF charge.

  22. hermanfish says:

    I called T-Mobile last week and used this as an excuse to break my contract. It seemed to work as the CSR talked to his manager and noted in my file that they would waive the ETF after I ported my number.

    As you might have guessed, the notes weren’t in my file when I called TMO back after I ported my number to AT&T. It took abotu 30 min on the phone with a supervisor, but they ended up crediting me back the ETF as I was originally promised.

    They tried to say that I wasn’t eligible because I had an unlimited TXT plan. But I kept pushing back on them since the original CSR had given me the green light.

    When I was getting my iPhone at AT&T, they were laughing about TMO’s timing for the increase since it gave a lot of people an easy out to switch carriers and get an iPhone.

  23. Mollyg says:

    It still surprises me that the Consumerist still thinks that big companies operate under contract law. The contract is whatever they say it is, whenever they say it, and if you disagree, then you can go lose the arbitration.

  24. mrdeeno says:

    I just called t-mo again (asking up to what date I can cancel without ETF). The girl said she had to “confirm” whether I qualified, because the system showed I did not. Again, I brought up the fact that I was charged my previous 2 billing periods for MMS messages of $0.15 each.

    She checked with her supervisor and gave me a cancellation date up to Sept. 1 to qualify without ETF. I made sure she noted it on my account so I would have no problem porting it, and I also have her name in case they try to revoke it. iphone, here I come!

    So for all of you that have unlimited text packages like I do, if you play it right, you can STILL get the ETF waived…I was just lucky enough to send a couple MMS messages and get charged for them, so unintentionally qualified myself before they made the announcement.

  25. as much as I hate AT&T, and hate T-Mo raising SMS rates, I’m staying with the latter, thanks. I rarely use SMS and just got an older iPhone that I unlocked to run on T-Mo. No problems… and with my call and data plan it’s $20 a month cheaper than AT&T.

    So why would I want to switch? SMS is also 20¢ at AT&T without a texting plan, so WTF? And now you can block all chargeable messages on T-Mo.

    Yeah, I get the sentiment, but unless you MUST have the iPhone 3G right away, there’s no reason to switch to AT&T from T-Mobile. I’ve been with them since it was VoiceStream and really do not have any complaints, which is rare for me.

  26. plasticredtophat says:

    I got out! WOOT! I just told them that my family could’t afford the change, and we have had our bill go up way too much, and it worked! That is all true, btw.

  27. wesrubix says:

    yeah this is a tough call. I’m satisfied with T-Mobile mostly, but I miss the flexibility of use the ATT data plan had. T-Mobile’s data is $6/month. ATT is $15. How can you go wrong? Well, T-Mobile’s is hard to use as a modem. if you want to, you pay $20 for “full” internet.

    T-Mobile does give you the most for the money for minutes and txts, but coverage in rural areas is a pain.

    I’ve taken the sms plan off my lines (two family plan lines) and I’m waiting a few days to call up and ask about cancelling (if I have to cancel immediately, or if I can have my account noted so my ETF will be credited when I port to ATT)

    I’ll let you guys know how it goes…

  28. mminasian says:

    I had this exact thing happen to me last summer when they were raising the rates and I was trying to get out of it. I didn’t have an unlimited plan, only 300/month, but because I hadn’t gone over that in the past few months, I “wasn’t eligible” for them breaking my contract. I argued for hours. I ended up giving up my phone, and having someone take on my plan through a web service which worked ok.

  29. milk says:

    @mminasian: My boyfriend was in the same boat a couple of weeks ago. He said he didn’t go over because he was responsible, and that he soon plans to be sending more than 300/month (lie). Poof, contract canceled.

  30. sonneillon says:

    Has anyone ever tried suing a cell phone company for canceling their contract early by adding material adverse conditions? Perhaps put them into collections for the early termination fee?

  31. Haltingpoint says:

    A little insight into what is going on with this situation…

    Most if not all the cell providers are saying if you are on a monthly plan you are not adversely affected. They then change the price structure of their texts to make it logical to new and current customers who do an even modest amount of texting that it is cheaper to spend $5 to get 400 texts than pay $5 for 25 texts with their .20 rate.

    Then in the next round, you have all these customers signed up with the package plan so they no longer have an excuse to cancel without ETF.

    BAM, they got you by the balls once again, just the way they like it.

    Remember, don’t sign a multiyear contract, pay for your phone, and minimize the number of holds they have on you.

  32. mrdeeno says:

    I have an UNLIMITED text plan with my BB minutes and mail plan, and I qualify to cancel without ETF (and confirmed this twice with 2 different representatives, the latest confirmation coming last night).

    The basis behind it is that T-mo is putting the burden of proof on the customer to prove they will be affected, such as a current bill (or within the last 3 cycles) that you were charged for a text message at the per-use price. You may be able to argue that you are affected even if your last bills do not have a per-use charge by saying that you plan on having per-use charges in the future, but it’ll probably take a lot more effort to argue this and succeed.

    My case was special. I was charged in my April cycle $0.15 for an MMS message to an email address (sending an MMS from my phone to my buddy’s email addy). I was charged another $0.15 for an MMS the following cycle for the same thing. I called to inquire and the first rep told me that sending an MMS from my phone to an actual email address is not covered under my UNLIMITED plan. I called again later and a different rep now told me MMS messages are not covered at all under my UNLIMTED plan.

    Being that the new rates affect not only SMS messages, but also MMS messages (and most likely MMS messages to email addresses), and the fact that I was charged for this even with an UNLIMITED text plan, they had no recourse to say the new rates would not affect me. There was some confusion from them whether I qualified or not because of the UNLIMITED plan, but once they pulled up my past bills, there was absolutely no argument and they said I qualified.

  33. mrdeeno says:


    There’s a clause in the terms and conditions that forces mandatory binding arbitration, so no suit is possible…but logically i think you can sue due to a materially adverse change in contract.

    Reason being is that once they make a change, contract is void. If contract is void, they cannot force mandatory binding arbitration on you anymore and you can then sue in court.

    I doubt it ever really comes this far, considering it will cost much more than $200 to pay and send a lawyer to court to defend a voided contract.

  34. mdmcclos says:

    I had luck cancelling a T-Mobile contract by escalating up to Executive Customer Service (800)318-9270 (Ask for Executive Customer Service Team).

    I spoke to Alejandro Edwards, and explained that my phone was being passed to a new user who was likely to send a significant number of messages. He not only helped me end my contract without a fee, but was extremely pleasant and chatted while I waited. We never even discussed contract wording.

    I try to be pleasant and make a reasonable request, and if that doesn’t work, simply escalate to someone who actually listens (Like Alejandro!)

    I just wanted to pass along a success and give a shout out to a great customer rep.

  35. wesrubix says:

    so I called up and talked to a nice guy named Jermaine. He said because the txt message rate hasn’t changed yet that I can’t cancel just yet. If I wait until Aug 29th, then I can cancel without ETF.

    Sounds a little off to me. I thought I had 30 days until notification. I’ll try calling 611 again in a little while. I don’t want to hound these people. I mean, T-Mobile has great customer service, so I’m still really torn. I just want to see if I can actually cancel without ETF and have it noted on my account. It’s nice to know your options, you know?

  36. wesrubix says:

    mission accomplished.

    I was right about Jermain’s misinformation. I can’t hold it against him. He probably thought what he was telling me was correct.

    I got a nice girl named Nicole who sounded young, polite, and energetic. Exactly what T-mobile customer service is. They’re all good people there just trying to do their jobs. And that’s how I leveled with her.

    I told her, I don’t agree with the change, because I know why T-Mobile is doing it: it’s to increase the company’s profit. And I believe there are better ways to do that than by just increasing messaging rates and trying to get people to sign up for messaging plans. She actually agreed with me. She offered messaging plans, since I was already at $3 worth of texts this month, and I said no thanks, but at the same time, I told her I understand she was offering them to me because it’s her job. Not to get commission, but to make sure that her customer is aware of all of his/her options. And that’s when she really started to appreciate me as her customer, because I understood her position.

    She apologized a number of times for how upsetting the rate increase was, and I told her I appreciated her apology, but that it wasn’t her fault at all. I said, quote, “I think if this change was up to T-mobile’s Customer Service, the change wouldn’t have happened. Your customer service is why I joined T-mobile in the first place.” And yes, there’s a little brown nosing in there, but it’s also the truth.

    T-Mobile does have the best customer service (in my experience). They are accommodating, friendly, helpful, and above all supportive. These people understand that their job is to help their customers any way they can.

    Nicole asked me politely (VERY politely) to put me on hold so she could check with her supervisor if there were other options to keep me, and I said, I’m only interested in having my account marked that if I cancel before the change happens, that I will have my ETF waived. She understood, and asked again politely about checking with her supervisor: “It’ll only take 1, 2 minutes at the most!” and I said, take your time, there’s no huge rush here.

    Think about how many jerks might call customer service departments every day, or tech support people too. Politeness and kindness, just as Consumerist has pointed out, go a long, long way. These are people just like you and me, working their job to pay their bills and save up for their dreams. Making their day suck doesn’t help anyone. Expressing your appreciation for them, makes them that much more positive and motivated.

    Nicole came back and said I am all set. She read to me the note she added to my account, something like “customer is thinking of canceling due to messaging rate increase, please waive the ETF on both lines if customer cancels before August 12th”.

    That was the other nice thing she did. She double checked the date by which I should cancel. For some reason my billing cycle hits on the 12th, and she wanted to make sure I knew that so things would go smoothly.

    The process went so pleasantly, that I am actually now hesitant to switch.

    THAT is customer service. Reasonable request, supportive response. No shills. No upsells. Just down right proper service.

    T-mobile may have kept me. I’ll have to think about this.

  37. mrdeeno says:

    Just switched to an iphone (16gb white…they ran out of blacks at the apple store i went to).

    Number was ported and I called t-mo to confirm everything is legit. The first rep told me that I did not qualify because of my BB M&M plan that included unlimited texts, but I told him that I already confirmed TWICE with t-mo that I did qualify. He went to check again and I got disconnected. Called back and spoke with another guy and gave him the same spiel about already confirming. He checked with his supervisor and came back and said no problem. The problem why it took so long is that the M&M plan I had was an old plan that they changed after I originally got it, so the new M&M does include unlimited MMS/SMS/etc., however the old one I had did not.

    So he went ahead and put that into my account and waived the ETF!

  38. AlyssaNestor says:

    Here’s a good suggestion for all those who were turned down by T-Mobile: STICK TOGETHER AND FILE A CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT!
    Remember what happened some months back when T-Mobile tried to stop customers from filing class action lawsuits? ;-)

  39. snead says:

    Cancelled with T-Mobile (for the iPhone) and they waived the ETF. I have to agree with wesrubix, their customer service agents (both times I called about this) were nothing but polite and helpful. They didn’t even ask to verify the number of unwanted texts I received or challenge me in any way. In general my experience with them is that they always gave me excellent customer service for the many years I was with them. They just couldn’t give me an iPhone.

  40. AxSylum says:

    It took some work but I got out of my contract without an ETF. I called a few days before I cancelled and asked if I was eligable. I was going to have the number ported and wanted to make sure everything would go over smoothly. The person I talked to was extremely helpful and polite, even asking if I wanted her to put a note in my account about porting due to the txt increase and waiving the ETF.
    I called back once I got everything together for my new line and was completely brick walled. They used the “3-Months-of-Doom” (as I like to call it)on me and basically told me that they won’t waive anything so why am I still talking? I was pretty pissed off at this point, so I asked for a supervisor. The girl audibly laughed and told me to hold. I tried to hold my composure, but the amount of ridicule coming from these people made it almost impossible to do. I went ahead and got my new line with another company, intending to cancel T-Mobile ASAP.
    When I called back to cancel, everything changed. I was told (in different wording) that whoever I talked to was full of shit and I was eligable, and that if any ETF charges showed up on my final bill, to call back with her agent number and they would be removed immediately. She was incredibly helpful and gave no resistance whatsoever.
    I guess you just have to argue until you either get what you want or get stonewalled.

  41. rlblosser says:

    I have a question. I have the unlimited texting plan on my account, and have tried to cancel with no luck. I was reading t mobile’s update about the price increase, and from what I read.. please correct me if i am wrong… Sending a text message to somebody in London will cost 15 cents, and is not included in any messaging plan, as it is for domestic messaging. So, when the price increase goes into effect, the cost to send a text message to somebody in London will cost the 20 cents, even though you have an unlimited texting plan. So, doesn’t this void the contract too even though you have an unlimited texting plan? Please let me know your thoughts!

  42. rlblosser says:

    Ok i found out the answer to this. I called them today, and international text messaging is not included in their plans, and the price will also increase to 20 cents. They were all ready to let me terminate without etf, until they came back on the phone and said it has to be within the previous three billing cycles. So i’m out of luck. Now my question is… My bill cycles on August 10. I make a few more texts to a friend in Sweden over the next few days. Now will they let me terminate since it will be on a previous bill?

  43. mrdeeno says:


    It depends on when you were “officially” notified (as in a message in one of your bills) and when the text message is billed. If your bill cycles on August 10 and you make a bunch (or even just one) message that gets charged, then that should qualify you.

    Are you sure that MMS messages are included in your plan? And if it is, will you be charged for sending an MMS to an email address from your phone? I think that’s where I lucked out because I still haven’t figured out if the charges were for MMS or for sending an MMS to an actual email address instead of a phone. To be safe, you should try it all…send a text overseas, send an MMS to a friend, and send an MMS to an email address. If you get charged for any that is due to change rates on Aug. 29, then you should be golden by being able to argue that you WILL be materially affected.

    I still don’t get the “previous three billing cycles” policy, since that’s not stated in the T&C’s (ie contract that they decided to change), and I surmise that you can actually argue your way out by saying just because you haven’t used any messages in the past 3 months doesn’t mean you won’t in the next 3 and their change in rates now affects your future plans, but they’ll probably resist for awhile.

  44. rlblosser says:

    i was notified in this month’s bill.. that came a few days ago. I plan to send a few international texts from each family members line, then call them back the 11th or 12th. that should qualify as a previous billing cycle, and i should qualify. Today he did state i called about this the other day, so they are obviously noting every time i call. But, they are in the wrong!

    I just sent my phone an e mail too.. so we’ll see if that helps as well. Thanks for your input and help!!

  45. BadBoyNDSU says:

    @Hawk07: You CAN block all chargable messages on T-Mobile, you can do it under your account on the website, or call them up and ask.

  46. Shadowman615 says:

    Just canceled today; no problems getting the ETF waived. Didn’t need a supervisor or anything like that. Of course, she offered a bunch of other alternatives to keep me connected with them, but I politely declined and everything went smoothly!

    Thanks a bunch for the info.