T-Mobile’s various “Uncarrier” initiatives have done an unbelievable job of drawing new business to the nation’s No. 4 wireless carrier. The scrappy company actually managed to outpace its giant rivals in net subscriber additions, which is a scenario most industry watchers would have laughed at a few short years ago. As it turns out, however, one of T-Mobile’s most widely covered Uncarrier moves has brought about a new problem, and it has caused one used gadget buying service to reject all future attempts from potential customers looking to sell T-Mobile handsets.
“There’s a major issue that has come to our attention and it deals with used T-Mobile devices and their financing option for mobile devices,” UpgradeSwap wrote in a post on its company blog.
The company has found that because of the way T-Mobile’s smartphone financing program is set up, customary checks that would normally determine whether or not a smartphone is clear to resell are now ineffective.
“So a typical scenario goes like this; you find a used T-Mobile phone to buy online and the seller assures you that the device is clear for activation,” the company wrote. “You go one step further and ask for the IMEI and check that IMEI with T-Mobile to make sure there’s no blocks. T-Mobile assures you there are no blocks on that line. You buy the phone. All is well right? Wrong.”
The post continued, “What you don’t realize is that the phone you purchased possibly was being financed by the T-Mobile customer and that seller may have paid their carrier bill but decided to stop paying it after they sold the phone. So one day you’re using the phone and it stops receiving signal for no reason. What happened? Well that person who sold you the phone eventually caught T-Mobile’s attention and because T-Mobile wasn’t able to get the full payment for the remaining amount due on the phone, they block the IMEI and the device is now a paperweight.”
UpgradeSwap says it spoke to T-Mobile on the phone about the issue, and a company representative’s only advice was to “avoid buying used T-Mobile devices from sellers unless they can prove their account is paid in full.” As a result, the company says it will no longer purchase used T-Mobile devices.
According to UpgradeSwap, other top carriers including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have better systems in place to check whether or not a used phone is clear to purchase and resell.
UPDATE: A T-Mobile spokesperson contacted BGR via email with the following note: “If a customer wants to purchase a T-Mobile phone and is checking the IMEI number, they should be using our tool for the correct information.” The aforementioned tool can be found at http://www.t-mobile.com/verifyIMEI.aspx