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Get out of a post-paid AT&T contract ETF-free (YMMV)

huevos 1,453 May 23, 2013 at 01:21 PM in Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) (5) More AT&T Wireless Deals
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Looks like AT&T is tacking on a $0.61 "administrative fee" to all post-paid accounts.

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/23...rative-fee

Like the numerous times that this has happened with Sprint/T-Mobile, you can use this to get out of a contract without paying the ETF.

Relevant contract language:
Quote :
1.3 Can AT&T Change My Terms And Rates?
We may change any terms, conditions, rates, fees, expenses, or charges regarding your Services at any time. We will provide you with notice of material changes (other than changes to governmental fees, proportional charges for governmental mandates, roaming rates or administrative charges) either in your monthly bill or separately. You understand and agree that State and Federal Universal Service Fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government's or our calculations.

IF WE INCREASE THE PRICE OF ANY OF THE SERVICES TO WHICH YOU SUBSCRIBE, BEYOND THE LIMITS SET FORTH IN YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE SUMMARY, OR IF WE MATERIALLY DECREASE THE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IN WHICH YOUR AIRTIME RATE APPLIES (OTHER THAN A TEMPORARY DECREASE FOR REPAIRS OR MAINTENANCE), WE’LL DISCLOSE THE CHANGE AT LEAST ONE BILLING CYCLE IN ADVANCE (EITHER THROUGH A NOTICE WITH YOUR BILL, A TEXT MESSAGE TO YOUR DEVICE, OR OTHERWISE), AND YOU MAY TERMINATE THIS AGREEMENT WITHOUT PAYING AN EARLY TERMINATION FEE OR RETURNING OR PAYING FOR ANY PROMOTIONAL ITEMS, PROVIDED YOUR NOTICE OF TERMINATION IS DELIVERED TO US WITHIN THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER THE FIRST BILL REFLECTING THE CHANGE.
I just called and moved out two contracts. You'll get booted over to retentions, who will then try to spin this as a regulatory fee. Ultimately, however, it is NOT a government-mandated charge (despite the official sounding label), and it materially changes your service cost.

As with any telecomm interaction, YMMV. However, it worked twice for me on two separate calls.

EDIT: A few things to note:
1. Don't bother with online chat. You're only wasting your time. They don't have the authority to waive ETF.
2. Ask to speak to retentions regarding cancelling your account.
3. Ask if the fee is government mandated or a regulatory fee levied by a government agency. State that unless this is the case, AT&T is raising your service cost.
4. If you can stomach it, stand your ground. At the very least, you're going to have to go through a "manager" (i.e. the guy sitting next to the CSR)
5. If you don't want to carry through to arbitration, be prepared to settle. AT&T will very likely offer you credits for staying.

As is the case with cell carrier retention departments, it's YMMV, and depending on who you get, you may have mixed success. Good luck.

EDIT 2: Some additional commentary regarding the infamous "Section 1.3":

There are two distinct concepts going on.

1. Notices of material changes:
Quote :
We will provide you with notice of material changes (other than changes to governmental fees, proportional charges for governmental mandates, roaming rates or administrative charges) either in your monthly bill or separately.
The plain meaning of this clause is that AT&T is not required to provide you with a notice for administrative charges. The ETF is not discussed here, only notices of material changes.

As an aside, if you want to accurately read this clause, it should also be noted that "material changes" also includes "administrative charges," by nature of the "other than" qualifier. Layman's example: "I like fruits other than apples." vs. "I like fruits other than televisions." Which is correct?

2. Terminating without ETF:

Quote :
You understand and agree that State and Federal Universal Service Fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government's or our calculations.

IF WE INCREASE THE PRICE OF ANY OF THE SERVICES TO WHICH YOU SUBSCRIBE, BEYOND THE LIMITS SET FORTH IN YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE SUMMARY, OR IF WE MATERIALLY DECREASE THE GEOGRAPHICAL AREA IN WHICH YOUR AIRTIME RATE APPLIES (OTHER THAN A TEMPORARY DECREASE FOR REPAIRS OR MAINTENANCE), WE’LL DISCLOSE THE CHANGE AT LEAST ONE BILLING CYCLE IN ADVANCE (EITHER THROUGH A NOTICE WITH YOUR BILL, A TEXT MESSAGE TO YOUR DEVICE, OR OTHERWISE), AND YOU MAY TERMINATE THIS AGREEMENT WITHOUT PAYING AN EARLY TERMINATION FEE OR RETURNING OR PAYING FOR ANY PROMOTIONAL ITEMS, PROVIDED YOUR NOTICE OF TERMINATION IS DELIVERED TO US WITHIN THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER THE FIRST BILL REFLECTING THE CHANGE.
This is an entirely different concept than the first. Note that an increase in the price of any of the services that you subscibe allows you to escape your ETF. This is qualified, however, by the argreement that "State and Federal Universal Service Fees and other governmentally imposed fees, whether or not assessed directly upon you, may be increased based upon the government's or our calculations." Any increase in the cost of service, apart from these government fees, qualifies you to escape the ETF.

The problem is that the language is vaguely stated (almost certainly on purpose by those who drafted it), and the two concepts have been split between two paragraphs (again, almost certainly on purpose). CSRs/CSR managers/CSR supervisors have no understanding of how to properly interpret a contract (which is why they work telephone CS). It is also likely that corporate has sent a directive regarding this matter.

If you have the patience for arbitration, you WILL win. No question. The only unknown is whether you have the time to deal with the (relatively minor) paperwork, and whether you care enough to follow through with it. More information about arbitration can be found here: http://www.att.com/esupport/artic...id=KB72565

EDIT 3: Regarding Arbitration Fees:

AT&T will cover the arbitration fees, per their agreement.

Quote :
The filing fee is currently $125 for claims under $10,000, but the AAA may change the amount of the fee. You may obtain the amount of the fee by consulting the AAA's rules. Those rules may be obtained from the AAA's website (http://www.adr.org/arb_med), or by calling the AAA at 800-778-7879. If you are unable to pay the AAA's filing fee, please inform us by writing a letter to the above address and we will arrange to pay it directly if your claims are for less than $75,000.
You are responsible for fees only if the arbitrator deems that request "frivolous." This current matter does not meet the standards of frivolity in light of the FRCP:
Quote :
If the arbitrator not only rules against you, but also rules that either the substance of your claim or the relief you requested in your Demand for Arbitration was either frivolous or brought for an improper purpose (as measured by the standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b)), then responsibility for the costs of arbitration will be set by the AAA's rules. For frivolous cases in which your demand is $10,000 or less, your share of the costs is currently limited to $125, though the AAA may change that amount. If the arbitrator makes this determination, you may be required to reimburse AT&T for paying your share of the arbitration costs.
Keep in mind that since it will cost AT&T $125 to enter arbitration, as well as resources to respond individually to each arbitration demand, use this for your advantage.
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Community Wiki

Last Edited by Teaser38 March 3, 2014 at 11:00 PM
Notice of Dispute Form [att.com]

Spock1234 (June 13th): Template of Sample Dispute Letter uploaded (see below). Revise as needed to match your particular situation and attach to Notice of Dispute form.

Spock1234 (June 28th): Link to AT&T's Arbitration Initiation Form [att.com]. If you want to go to arbitration, complete and mail this form 30 days after you sent the Notice of Dispute. I have attached this form below.

Spock1234 (June 28th): Remember to get your phone unlocked by AT&T. Link [att.com] to AT&T's online phone unlock request page.

*********************

No action is going to take place unless people complain, and/or force them in arbitration. If the local BBB and FCC gets thousands of complaints about this, someone is going to notice and take action! [not likely]

File a complaint with the FCC regarding the new Administrative Fee:

https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsform...type=2000B

File a complaint with the local BBB in Atlanta, GA to resolve this issue:

http://atlanta.bbb.org/

Quote :
I sent one in a couple days ago and AT&T called me and told me the best they could do was credit my account for the fee for the remainder of my contract or cancel my account (didnt say with or without ETF).
The person told me that her calling was not in response to my letter of dispute that I sent in and that the same offer was going to be given from that letter as well. I declined her offer and told her I'd wait for the formal response.
She called from 336-662-5421
Case escalation response manager for ATT

Don't do arbitration. Take them to small claims court instead.
Per contract need to do arbitration first.
Not True, See Below.

Quote :
If the contract says I have to arbitrate my dispute, does that mean I can't go to court?
The AAA's Consumer Due Process Protocol gives either you or AT&T the option of going to small claims court if the amount of money you are seeking falls within the limits set for small claims courts in the state in which you live or operate.
Also note the following:
Quote :
Most customer concerns can be resolved quickly and to the customer's satisfaction by calling our customer service department at 800-331-0500. In the unlikely event that AT&T's customer service department is unable to resolve a complaint you may have to your satisfaction (or if AT&T has not been able to resolve a dispute it has with you after attempting to do so informally), we each agree to resolve those disputes through binding arbitration or small claims court instead of in courts of general jurisdiction
Arbitration process
http://www.att.com/esupport/artic...KhooE3K84x

In small claims court you can only get compensation. Small claims court can't force AT&T to let you go ETF free.

Note that in the Contract section 2.2 (2)
(2) A party who intends to seek arbitration must first send to the other, by certified mail, a written Notice of Dispute ("Notice"). The Notice to AT&T should be addressed to: Office for Dispute Resolution, AT&T, 1025 Lenox Park Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30319 ("Notice Address"). The Notice must (a) describe the nature and basis of the claim or dispute; and (b) set forth the specific relief sought ("Demand"). If AT&T and you do not reach an agreement to resolve the claim within 30 days after the Notice is received, you or AT&T may commence an arbitration proceeding. During the arbitration, the amount of any settlement offer made by AT&T or you shall not be disclosed to the arbitrator until after the arbitrator determines the amount, if any, to which you or AT&T is entitled. You may download or copy a form Notice and a form to initiate arbitration at att.com/arbitration-forms.

------------ Please sign the petition ----------------------

https://www.change.org/petitions/...-fee#share


Success Stories

Spock1234 (June 11th): I filed my Notice of Dispute on May 31st. AT&T's Arbitration Project Manager called me on June 11th and offered to let me out of my contract without ETF. I am 6 months into a 2-Yr contract on two lines with iPhone 5s. I can continue service month-to-month, or port my number to another carrier.


June 13th, Rippa_MD: success! ETF free on 18 months left on contract (2 lines) certified dispute sent two weeks ago, finally got call from legal.

July 2, krgopal: ETF free on 18 months left on contract (2 lines). Also got $300 in credit. (redacted settlement attached below)

July 12, people who submitted Notice of Dispute letters have been reporting that their accounts have been credited with ammounts ranging from $50 - $100 and there account status changed to contract ended. To check your account, log in and click profile and then account information.

July 29. ram4miles: Received a letter in the mail from AT&T legal confirming that ETF is waived on all 4 lines in the family plan and now running on month-month. Got 100$ statement credit as well.

Aug 5 gfx2: Filed a stock complaint as described here, got out and got a confirmation by post in 1 week. They said I had only a month to complain and my complaint was as such after a month so wasn't valid but still as a "courtesy" they let me get out and also gave $50 credit total for 3 lines, 2 of them were out of contract anyway. Thanks SD Smilie

Aug 14. MKT: Filed a BBB complaint on Aug 2 and got a call from ATT Legal on Aug 13th. All my 3 lines are out of contract and got one month credit.


Please add your success story or resolution here.

today i saw that at&t online is currently offering 50% off all smart phones 199.99 and up (including the s4, iphone 5 and HTC One all for 100 each). i got two phones via Retention in dealing with this whole fee thing, and was charged 175 plus tax/fees each for them.

just got them maybe a week or two ago. saw the 50% off deal today and got irritated so i called 611 and asked them (nicely) to refund me the difference if possible. the guy said the deal is only with AT&T online not via phone orders (which is what retention is) or stores. however, he did refund me one of the differences on my line in the form of a $90 credit Smilie

so i hope all of you who got iphones/s4s/HTCs and paid over $100 can get this credit too!


Options for switching
TMobile might be your best option. Try it out for a month with 30$ plan.

If you don't get TMobile coverage and want to stay on AT&T network below are choices you have
- ATT MVNOs - Airvoice, H20, Redpocket & StraightTalk
- AIO wireless a MVNO by ATT
- ATT Go Phone 60$/month 2GB data


If you have a shared data plan before Feb. 2, 2014 of you may move over to new plans and drastically reduce your bill.
http://slickdeals.net/f/6668672-at-t-is-introducing-new-family-mobile-share-value-plan-from-02-02-2014-and-additional-100-credit-per-new-line?v=1

2,263 Comments

1 2 3 4 5

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#3
I wish VZW had something like this.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#4
I have posted about this in this thread
http://slickdeals.net/f/5949698-New-Mobility-Administrative-Fee-on-ATT?v=1

I have also initiated arbitration process against AT&T.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#5
How would you even try to initiate a call like this? I'm interested but honestly have no clue how to even start the call.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#6
Quote from sAis View Post :
How would you even try to initiate a call like this? I'm interested but honestly have no clue how to even start the call.
"Hi, I was reviewing my bill and I saw that you are introducing a new fee which is not part of the original contract. I'd like to cancel my contract at this time as I don't agree with this new fee and due to the change in the terms, I feel the ETF should be waived."

Pretty easy, just stand your ground. Sometimes they will try to get you to stay by simply crediting you the fee over the life of the contract.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#7
If you say you want to end the contract, and they actually agree to it - does that end your service or are you simply not under contract but have the service. (With the new fee)
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#8
Quote from tampa8 View Post :
If you say you want to end the contract, and they actually agree to it - does that end your service or are you simply not under contract but have the service. (With the new fee)
9 times out of 10 they simply cut your service off. If you are lucky you can remain with service, but the whole point is that you do not agree to the change, why would you stick around?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#9
Quote from algorhythm View Post :
9 times out of 10 they simply cut your service off. If you are lucky you can remain with service, but the whole point is that you do not agree to the change, why would you stick around?
So you lose your number?
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#10
Quote from algorhythm View Post :
"Hi, I was reviewing my bill and I saw that you are introducing a new fee which is not part of the original contract. I'd like to cancel my contract at this time as I don't agree with this new fee and due to the change in the terms, I feel the ETF should be waived."

Pretty easy, just stand your ground. Sometimes they will try to get you to stay by simply crediting you the fee over the life of the contract.
So if they try to force me to stay by waiving that <$1 charge, there is no way out? Frown

I have been searching for a way to get out of AT&T's contract and my contract ends on November 2013,
I am planning to move to T-Mobile's value plan
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#11
would you have to pay for the phone you have under contract? or is this not the same thing?
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#12
Quote from algorhythm View Post :
9 times out of 10 they simply cut your service off. If you are lucky you can remain with service, but the whole point is that you do not agree to the change, why would you stick around?

No, not to stick around, to get another service and get your number ported. I guess you don't see the problem.... If you don't get another service first then you lose your number. If you do get another service first, and ATT does not let you out of the contract, lets say they credit the new cost - you now have two providers.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#13
Can I just cancel the contract, without the ETF, but still stay with ATT? So I'll still be with ATT but basically not with the contract so I can do an upgrade again.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#14
Quote from tampa8 View Post :
No, not to stick around, to get another service and get your number ported. I guess you don't see the problem.... If you don't get another service first then you lose your number. If you do get another service first, and ATT does not let you out of the contract, lets say they credit the new cost - you now have two providers.
I do see the problem. I just don't have any experience with sticking around. If I am cancelling due to contract change I don't really get attached to my number so I am fine with it. I haven't done an ETF-waiver in a few years so I dunno how it works.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#15
Quote from aznboicn View Post :
would you have to pay for the phone you have under contract? or is this not the same thing?

Nope I had sprint when they had a $.02 increase and I cancelled all 5 lines saving me $1000 sold all our phones on eBay and got AT&T with 5 iPhones
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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