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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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#31
Quote from sdbk View Post :
So you lose your number?

Technically, yes. There is supposedly no way for you to terminate your contract *and* keep your number (how could you keep your number, if your account was terminated on the spot).

Edit: I just wanted to add that I did get this to work once (terminate contract without ETF, and keep my number). There's no guarantee that this will work, though.
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#32
Okay so I have a family of 4 and I want to move to T-mobiles value plan.

So I open 4 lines with T-mobile value plan and ask AT&T to cancel my contract and port my numbers?

and if AT&T does not, I can just cancel T-mobile value plan since they do not have contract right??
Reply Helpful Comment? 0 0
#33
Quote from Mr.Ritz View Post :
That blows I thought there was a law that said they have to let you port out.

The problem is you can only port out a number from an *active* account. If you called in and they let you terminate your account without ETF, they're going to do it right there and then. This means your number is not active anymore, and therefore ineligible to port (it's technically not even yours anymore at that point).
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#34
I bought a phone from aTT and realized that I gave my SSN incorrect with one misplaced digit. If I don't pay the bill is there a way for them to report to credit bureau or bite me later?
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#35
Quote from courtesyclerkx View Post :
Okay so I have a family of 4 and I want to move to T-mobiles value plan.

So I open 4 lines with T-mobile value plan and ask AT&T to cancel my contract and port my numbers?

and if AT&T does not, I can just cancel T-mobile value plan since they do not have contract right??
No one has chimed in on this yet but if you port to T-Mobile your AT&T account is automatically canceled and then you will basically HAVE to take AT&T to arbitration to ever possibly see the fee credited. You can not port your number if your account is already closed. So you're in a bind.

You could always not pay the fee but that will hurt your credit score and get collections agencies to bother you.
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#36
Quote from prvn133t View Post :
I bought a phone from aTT and realized that I gave my SSN incorrect with one misplaced digit. If I don't pay the bill is there a way for them to report to credit bureau or bite me later?
sucks for the person who has that SSN!
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#37
If you call and get out of the contract, is your number still transferable to another carrier (like a tmobile mvno)?

Edit: Sorry I started typing this earlier but didnt submit and now I see this was asked a bunch.
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#38
Quote from petard View Post :
No one has chimed in on this yet but if you port to T-Mobile your AT&T account is automatically canceled and then you will basically HAVE to take AT&T to arbitration to ever possibly see the fee credited. You can not port your number if your account is already closed. So you're in a bind.

You could always not pay the fee but that will hurt your credit score and get collections agencies to bother you.
ugh... that sucks. I don't mind losing my number but I know my parents will.

Don't they offer this service that direct those calls made to your old number to your new number?
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#39
Quote from courtesyclerkx View Post :
ugh... that sucks. I don't mind losing my number but I know my parents will.

Don't they offer this service that direct those calls made to your old number to your new number?
No. Once your account is closed you no longer have control of your number. You may be able to re-activate with AT&T but I don't know if they will reinstate the contract.
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#40
Quote from petard View Post :
No. Once your account is closed you no longer have control of your number. You may be able to re-activate with AT&T but I don't know if they will reinstate the contract.

I think it's impossible (or at least close to impossible) to reactivate a number on a newly terminated account. From what I understand the number went straight to the pool, without the regular CS being able to even access it.


The trick to keeping your number in a case like this is to have them agree that they'll let you go without ETF, tell them to not terminate the account right away and keep the account alive, and immediately port to another carrier. And yes, this is a long shot.
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#41
Quote from newcronos View Post :
I think it's impossible (or at least close to impossible) to reactivate a number on a newly terminated account. From what I understand the number went straight to the pool, without the regular CS being able to even access it.


The trick to keeping your number in a case like this is to have them agree that they'll let you go without ETF, tell them to not terminate the account right away and keep the account alive, and immediately port to another carrier. And yes, this is a long shot.
You're supposed to be able to re-activate cancelled accounts and get your number back if you do it within 59 days of cancelling. I do not know how this works if they instantly terminate your account when agreeing to let you out of your ETF.
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#42
Stole this from howard forums..

http://www.foxbusiness.com/news/2...ess-users/
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#43
can we get out of contract without an etf fee and then sign up for new service for at&t?

my sister is the main account holder for 5 lines but if she closed it and i open it, would they know? lol
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#44
Quote from iBoo View Post :
can we get out of contract without an etf fee and then sign up for new service for at&t?

my sister is the main account holder for 5 lines but if she closed it and i open it, would they know? lol
Of course you can do that, you're a different person. If the account got canceled though you can't take your number with you.
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#45
I signed a contract last weekend, can I get out of it?
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