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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.

2,263 Comments

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#16
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.
Nice catch on the fee - but I had thought that as long as they make you financially whole, in the case of fees (i.e. crediting the fee over the life of the contract) you no longer have a case. Now changing to arbitration, etc. is somewhat different. I'm lightly surprised you managed to convince them.
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#17
Quote from Mr. Harley View Post :
Nice catch on the fee - but I had thought that as long as they make you financially whole, in the case of fees (i.e. crediting the fee over the life of the contract) you no longer have a case. Now changing to arbitration, etc. is somewhat different. I'm lightly surprised you managed to convince them.
I'm lucky enough NOT to have AT&T so I am just chiming in with my previous Sprint/T-Mobile experience with this (slow work day) Smilie
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#18
How hard of a time are the reps giving you.. Sprints last contract change they wouldn't budge for 90% of the people this time around.
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#19
Is there a deadline to try this?
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#20
Just called in and they wouldn't let me get out of my contract without the fee. Will try again later.

BTW, if you need to refer to 1.3 be sure to tell them that it's at this link in case they ask you "where did you get this from?"

http://www.wireless.att.com/learn...-terms.jsp
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#21
ha...bad luck...canceled at&t in april end paying ETF for my refurb note 2
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#22
Quote from zemmli View Post :
Is there a deadline to try this?
The deadline is usually before you pay your bill. Once you pay for it, I think you've tacitly accepted the new fee.
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#23
Quote from drPheta View Post :
I wish VZW had something like this.
You and me both...
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#24
I just switched to Tmobile last week and I will probably get charged ETF. Any advice is highly appeeciated how I should handle to void ETF using this as cancellation reason..
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#25
Quote from tolgac View Post :
I just switched to Tmobile last week and I will probably get charged ETF. Any advice is highly appeeciated how I should handle to void ETF using this as cancellation reason..
You can't if you already authorized them to cancel your account. I wouldn't worry tho 90% of everyone that calls wont get out of the ETF. The 10% that do will prob go through hell to get it.
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#26
Quote from sdbk View Post :
So you lose your number?
Also wondering this..
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#27
Quote from zemmli View Post :
Is there a deadline to try this?
If you call retention they might give a credit. They were giving me 70$ credit didn't take it as I want to get out.

You have 100 days to dispute this fee.

IF YOU DISPUTE ANY CHARGES ON YOUR BILL, YOU MUST NOTIFY US IN WRITING AT AT&T BILL DISPUTE, 1025 LENOX PARK, ATLANTA, GA 30319 WITHIN 100 DAYS OF THE DATE OF THE BILL OR YOU’LL HAVE WAIVED YOUR RIGHT TO DISPUTE THE BILL AND TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY LEGAL ACTION RAISING SUCH DISPUTE.
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#28
Quote from bSak View Post :
Also wondering this..
No you can port out but have to have a new carrier to port out to once you cancel.
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#29
Quote from Mr.Ritz View Post :
No you can port out but have to have a new carrier to port out to once you cancel.
Some people who have been able to get out of the ETF though have had their accounts immediately closed. You can not port our if your account is closed.
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#30
Quote from petard View Post :
Some people who have been able to get out of the ETF though have had their accounts immediately closed. You can not port our if your account is closed.
That blows I thought there was a law that said they have to let you port out.

Still even if you can't port out ETF free is worth it.
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