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

huevos 1,460 May 23, 2013 at 02:21 PM in Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) (5) More AT&T Wireless Deals
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Last Edited by huevos May 24, 2013 at 03:31 PM
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.

2,263 Comments

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#1276
Quote from Hrshycro View Post :
Bill 03/27/13- 04/26/13 had the notice of the new fee on it.
Bill 04/27/13- 05/26/13 had the new fee billed on each line.

Is it too late to send them a letter of dispute?

I haven't bothered calling them, and don't expect that to be anything but of dead end and waste of time.
I would read the agreement, it probably has 60 days period to file a complaint.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1277
I would still file a dispute
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1278
Just want to confirm that the only way to send in the dispute form is via snail-mail and to this address: Office for
Dispute Resolution, AT&T, 1025 Lenox Park Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30319? Can you send them from your on-line account?
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#1279
Quote from StanleyN View Post :
Just want to confirm that the only way to send in the dispute form is via snail-mail and to this address: Office for
Dispute Resolution, AT&T, 1025 Lenox Park Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30319? Can you send them from your on-line account?
Only mail, and make sure you do it certified mail, it would cost you $4. Then expect a turnaround from then in about a week or so.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1280
Quote from laptopvaio View Post :
Thank you very much.
Now I am out of AT&T contract, can someone point me towards a phone unlocking service please?

Thanks again.
Found it myself.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1281
Quote from StanleyN View Post :
Just want to confirm that the only way to send in the dispute form is via snail-mail and to this address: Office for
Dispute Resolution, AT&T, 1025 Lenox Park Blvd., Atlanta, GA 30319? Can you send them from your on-line account?
Another reason to do it certified (besides the instructions telling you so) is because it comes with tracking. If ATT decides not to respond withinthe given time fram you can take that tracking iformations and use it in arbitration as evidence again them, making your case more solid. Remember they have 30 days from when they receive the dispute letter to get back to you and if they dont you can proceed to arbitration
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1282
what will happen if you send the dispute in a non-certified mail?
what should you do to fix it?
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#1283
Any benefit to getting your contracts cancelled but remaining with AT&T? It doesn't automatically give you upgrades.
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#1284
Quote from azurelight View Post :
what will happen if you send the dispute in a non-certified mail?
what should you do to fix it?
No clue, I guess if you take them to arbitration they can say you never sent in a letter of dispute

Quote from MailmanSJ View Post :
Any benefit to getting your contracts cancelled but remaining with AT&T? It doesn't automatically give you upgrades.
You go on a month to month plan, no etf if you do decide to leave later, you can do a full upgrade later on
Last edited by sbuddle June 23, 2013 at 05:31 AM
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#1285
can i just send them another notice of dispute ?
is it okay if they receive two identical notice of dispute?
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#1286
sent a letter to them...2 weeks back... no response yet..
its probably because i have already accepted the credit..
have to think of arbitration if they do not respond
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#1287
Quote from vamshi999 View Post :
sent a letter to them...2 weeks back... no response yet..
its probably because i have already accepted the credit..
have to think of arbitration if they do not respond

I didnt accept any credit and mine was delivered on 7th of June ...no response yet....no letter...no callFrownFrownFrownFrown
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#1288
Quote from MailmanSJ View Post :
Any benefit to getting your contracts cancelled but remaining with AT&T? It doesn't automatically give you upgrades.
It does. If you sign up for a new 2-yr contract you get the subsidized phones. Same as those got upgrades and had their contracts extended by 2 years.

And, you get to keep your number and port it to another carrier at your convenience, instead of having rush and choose a new provider before the end of your current billing cycle.
Last edited by Spock1234 June 23, 2013 at 05:49 PM
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#1289
Can I still file the dispute because I already paid the bill?
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#1290
Quote from bkris View Post :
Can I still file the dispute because I already paid the bill?
Yes, you still can, paying for the bill doesn't take away your right of going to arbitration or claims court.
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
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