Are you an AT&T or T-Mobile small business customer? Sprint wants your business, and it’s offering some pretty compelling discounts to woo you. A leaked internal document says “Come on over to Sprint and see how we can be a great partner,” and it offers AT&T and T-Mobile enterprise customers a 12% discount, 2 handset offers, and $175 CL port-in credit. It’s not as nasty as the carrier’s earlier smear campaign, which asked “Do you have the feeling the AT&T/T-Mobile love connection won’t end with a ‘Happily Ever After?’,” and offered to pay the $175 early-termination fee, but it certainly shows the carrier’s anxiety about the AT&T/T-Mobile acquisition. Sprint has expressed deep concerns about the merger and its CEO, Dan Hesse, said that it will “stifle innovation” in the U.S. wireless market if approved. Sprint’s new deal reportedly runs through July 23rd. Read on for the full image. More →
A California appeals court has ruled that Verizon Wireless is to pay some 175,000 customers current and former customers $21 million as a settlement in a class action lawsuit over early termination fees. The class action suit was filed in California on the behalf of customers who were upset that Verizon asked they pay a flat ETF of $175 regardless of how many months were left on their contract. Each customer is expected to receive $87.50 as a result of the ruling. Too bad history is bound to repeat itself now that Verizon’s ETF for “advanced devices” (i.e. smartphones) is set at $350. More →
Guess this is Sprint’s big announcement. Effective tomorrow, Sprint will offer a”Sprint Free Guarantee” on all contracts. Anyone who inks a deal with the Now Network will be able to walk away from it within 30 days and not have to pay any sort of fine. All you have to do is hit them up and let ’em know you don’t want to continue the relationship and return your handset. For being such an upstanding person, Sprint will do so much more than just give you your money back for the phone. They’ll give you back your activation fee, axe the restocking fee, kill off the ETF and, this is a biggie… refund your entire month’s service including surcharges and taxes. We’d say this has a more than good chance of quickly being copied by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, but clearly they’re not desperate enough to risk implementing a policy that looks to be painfully easy to exploit.
Everyone and their mothers were up in arms when Verizon announced its new early termination fee policies last year. For a select group of smartphones and “advanced devices,” canceling one’s contract would incur a hefty $350 fee. Customers fumed, the FCC got involved and Verizon said they were just doing everyone a favor because it allowed them to provide favorable subsidies on handsets. Verizon decided to chop the advanced devices list down a bit by removing 10 handsets, but to be honest, they aren’t the most exciting ones. Included are the Motorola Krave, Samsung Rogue and five LG devices — BlackBerrys and Android devices are still very much in the $350 ETF category. Is this progress on Verizon’s part, or did they just demote those phones to not-so-advanced status?
Here’s a bit of interesting news on the purchasing and cancellation process for the Nexus One. If you buy the device subsidized, and you decide to cancel your contract after the 14-day period (30 days for California) but before 120 days into your contract, Google can charge a termination fee of its own — on top of the carrier ETF. Shocking? Yeah, a little bit. You’d imagine that if you’re paying for a subsidized device and you cancel your contract, you’d just be paying the remainder of the subsidy. Why isn’t this completely surprising? Well, if you purchase a handset with a wireless data plan from an authorized third party, like an electronics store, you sometimes end up getting into the same agreement. Many third-party retailers charge their own fees on top of carrier fees. Still, it doesn’t make it right. Here’s what Google has to say:
Please note that the Equipment Recovery Fee is imposed by Google and not your chosen carrier and is in addition to any early termination fees that may be charged by your chosen carrier in connection with termination of your wireless plan prior to fulfillment of your chosen carrier’s service agreement term.
BGR decided to get in touch with T-Mobile and it is pretty much confirmed: if you cancel after 14 days (again, 30 in California), T-Mobile will charge $200 for breaking the contract, and Google will charge the difference between the subsidized cost of the phone and its full price. Think long and hard before you make the purchase with a service plan: $200 ETF for T-Mobile, $350 for Google and $179 for the device itself will cost you $729 in the end if you cancel. At that rate, you might as well buy it at the unlocked, unsubsidized price. More →
Verizon Wireless responds to FCC complaint regarding its early termination fee and Mobile Web charges
On Friday afternoon, Verizon Wireless issued its response to the FCC complaint which investigated the carrier’s increased early termination fees for advanced devices and the spurious charges some customers incur when accidentally accessing the Mobile Web. As expected, Verizon defended the increased ETF and dismissed the accusation that it charges customers $1.99 for accidentally connecting to the Mobile Web. Verizon justifies its increased ETF by claiming that the fee is not limited to the recovery of the wholesale purchase price of the device. The fee is also necessary to partially offset the cost of running a smartphone network. There is a cost to sell the device (advertising, commission, store costs, device subsidy), a cost to technically support the device, and a cost associated with maintaining a broadband network. Verizon also reminds the FCC that the number of advanced devices is increasing and “the overall cost to the company for providing and supporting devices to customers at low up-front cost has increased substantially”. When asked why a person canceling in the 23rd month of a 24 month contract still has to pay a $120 ETF, Verizon responded by claiming that it “still incurs a financial loss from early terminations, even with the $350 ETF”. If the ETF was prorated to$0 at the end of the contract, Verizon would be forced to charge a higher starting ETF and customers would be worse off. When you consider what Verizon has said about its need to increase its ETF, also consider the fact that Verizon’s revenue from its data services grew to $4.1 billion in Q3 2009, up 48.1 percent and up 28.9percent on a pro forma basis. In the midst of all this talk about expenses, Verizon conveniently left that information out. Now that we have seen what Verizon thinks about its ETF, let’s examine what it said about its erroneous $1.99 Mobile web charges. Hit the jump for all the details. More →
The FCC has taken notice of Verizon Wireless’ new $350 early termination fee that applies to all advanced devices purchased after November 15th, 2009. The governmental agency sent an inquiry letter to Verizon Wireless asking them answer several questions regarding this increased fee. The questionnaire focuses on Verizon Wireless’ disclosure of the ETF to customers and the rationale behind the increase. The FCC also does the math and calculates that a customer with a $350 ETF will still have $120 fee remaining after 23 months into a 24 month contract. It then asks the loaded question, “If the ETF is meant to recoup the wholesale cost of the phone over the life of the contract, why does a $120 ETF apply?” Verizon also gets hit up about the $1.99 fee it charges customers for inadvertently accessing the Mobile Web, and is asked to explain the terms and conditions of such access. Naughty, naughty Verizon has until December 17th to provide its answers.
Here’s what Big Red is working with: they’ve offered up a BOGO sale on all new BlackBerrys for the holiday buying season, and where some see a great deal, others see a great opportunity. Why not play a game of Flip My BlackBerry? Why not open a second line, get a brand new Tour or Storm 2, pay the cancellation fee on the new line of $175, and sell the device on eBay for $300 or more? Well it looks like Verizon has finally caught onto our the little game. A new connect has emerged with a few documents and it looks like starting on November 15th Verizon will be charging up to $350 as an early termination fee on “advanced devices.” This new “improved” fee does have a minute silver lining (if you can even say that): for every month of service completed, the $350 sum will decrease by $10. No word yet on what an “advanced device” constitutes but we can use our imaginations to figure it out. What do you think? Anyone considering abandoning plans to buy the DROID after hearing this news, or are you just going to get yours before November 15th? Or will you actually be an honest person and actually honor the contract you sign?
They say when the cell phone gods close a door, they open a window. Such is the case this morning for T-Mobile subscribers who aren’t enjoying their time with the carrier. As of today, T-Mobile is raising its overage rates to 45¢ per minute on individual plans under $59.99 and family plans under $89.99, and 40¢ per minute for plans above those price points. Since this rate increase is carrier-invoked and it constitutes a “materially adverse change of contract,” subscribers will be able to flee without the need to pay a hefty Early Termination Fee (ETF) — just as many did with Sprint earlier this year. What do you do if you want out of your contract? Get ready for battle, that’s what. As always with carriers, odds are good the some (or even most) customer service reps won’t even know about this option. When you call, be patient while the CS rep gathers info. Make sure that when you explain why you want to cancel your contract, you specifically cite these overage rate increases as your motive. If your rep starts giving you a hard time or doesn’t sound like he/she is going to put the pieces together, ask to speak to a manager or simply call back and start over with another rep. Oh, and hit the jump for a section of the T-Mobile contract that you may want to familiarize yourself with.
Ahhhh class action lawsuits; where would we be without them? Joking aside, it seems like every carrier in the US has to deal with a few subscriber-initiated lawsuits every so often and next in line for the ever-popular Early Termination Fee (ETF) class action treatment is T-Mobile. You know the drill: the carrier was charging a flat ETF, the carrier gets sued, the carrier settles and has to refund a bunch of money to a bunch of people after making the lawyers involved a whole lot richer. The proposed refund for those affected by T-Mobile’s flat ETF is $125 or T-Mobile HotSpot access if they choose, on a case by case basis of course, to forgo a cash benefit. The settlement is currently pending final approval but if you bailed on T-Mobile on or before February 19th of this year and handed over an ETF on your way out the door, hit the read link to try to get in on the action. You have until August 23rd 2009 to do so.
We’ve received a flurry of emails over the past few weeks questioning whether or not AT&T will let people out of contracts ETF-free due to substantial changes to its terms and conditions. First it was a series of changes to permissable data service usage and more recently AT&T has amended its arbitration clause to limit a customer’s right to sue, in theory at least. Common sense might suggest that changes these drastic would result in a window of opportunity, during which time customers may sever ties without a penalty, but since when has common sense applied to carriers? In short, no, these changes will not result in an ETF-free departure from AT&T. The CTIA’s current policy states that carriers will give customers an opportunity to cancel contracts without penalty in the event of material changes to the carrier’s TOS. How does AT&T define a “material change”? As PhoneNews.com recently ascertained in a conversation with Mark Siegel, Director of Media Relations at AT&T:
Under [AT&T’s] terms of service, there are only two situations in which we would allow you to terminate your agreement because of a change in TOS without having to pay the ETF: If we increase the price of the service, or if we materially decrease the geographical area in which your airtime rate applies.
So what can you do if you disagree with this position? Filing a complaint with the FCC is surely a good start but you certainly shouldn’t expect this policy to change during the lifetime of your current contract. The bottom line is we’re all at the mercy of our carriers — at least until enough class action suits are filed that it becomes cheaper for carriers to change their policies than continue to pay out settlements…
Sprint just refuses to shut that door… Customers still looking for a way out of their contracts without having to drop some serious cash on an Early Termination Fee (ETF) have been given yet another opportunity to do so. Last month we told you about an extension through the end of January due to another increase the company made to its administrative fee (increase from $0.75 to $0.99). We’re not sure what the reasoning behind this latest extension is, but we have indeed confirmed with Sprint that the ETF-free cancellation period has been extended yet again, this time through March 15. We also confirmed that the administrative fee has not been readjusted – it still sits at $0.99 – so this extension pertains to the initial fee increase we reported. If you’re enjoying your time with Sprint and the extremely competitive rates the carrier is offering right now, you should definitely sit tight as it prepares to release the Treo Pro and more importantly, the Pre. If you’re having issues that Sprint just can’t seem to resolve however, the door is still open.
As always, we recommend contacting Sprint customer care via chat as opposed to calling them:
In the sidebar on the right, click “Got questions? Click to chat.”
If you’re a Sprint customer right now without any major service issues, leaving the carrier so close to Pre-Day seems crazy. The most anticipated handset in recent history is on its way to your carrier, as an exclusive for the time being, and it’s coming along with an exciting new OS that will be embraced by developers around the globe. At the same time, there are a variety of reasons for wanting to part ways with your mobile service provider and if the Pre isn’t enough to keep you on board we have good news for you. It looks like Sprint has once again made a change to its Terms and Conditions, opening yet another door to escape from the carrier without having to pay an Early Termination Fee (ETF). Last month we learned that Sprint was increasing its administrative fee to $0.75, giving customers until January 1 of this year to back out without a penalty. It seems that $0.75 wasn’t going to cut it as Sprint has raised its fee yet again, this time to $0.99. Customers now have through January 31 to sever ties sans-ETF, so if you missed the boat last month you’re in luck. Though some customer care reps apparently aren’t yet aware of the change, we did confirm it with Sprint so keep trying and as always, contacting them via chat seems to go a bit more smoothly than calling them up. Do you plan to take advantage of this newly opened door? Hit us in the comments section and let us know why.
UPDATE: We posted a link to connect to Sprint customer care via chat in the comments but it is apparently buried well enough that people are missing it. Here are the details:
In the sidebar on the right, click “Got questions? Click to chat.”