So now that Verizon has announced that they’re selling shiny new iPhone 4’s you’re chomping at the bit to get off of AT&T or T-Mobile and join the ranks of Big Red right? Of course one of the biggest draw backs to doing this is that your Early Termination Fee could cost as much as $325. While it’s not the easiest thing to do, there are multiple ways to get out of having to pay the ETF, and we’re going to show you a couple of ways to avoid the fees.
Transfer Contract - Probably the easiest way to get out of your contract without having to pay the ETF is by transferring your current contract to someone else’s name. If you have a friend or family member looking to get a new line then swapping with someone you know would be the easiest way and it only takes about 20 minutes to get everything switched over if you go to the AT&T Store together.
Another option if you want to transfer your contract is to use a website that facilitates contract swaps. TradeMyCellular.com, CellTradeUSA.com, and CellSwapper.com, work in the same fashion as “online dating” services, matching current contract holders with people who would like to take over others’ contracts. These sites aren’t free, but they’ll cost you a lot less that $325.
Tell the Carrier You’re Moving Out of Coverage Area - With AT&T this is a little bit more difficult because they have a bazillion International Roaming Partners. In fact, when it comes to Global Coverage, AT&T is definitely better than Verizon. But if you are moving to a location outside of coverage area you can send AT&T a copy of your drivers license or a recent bill and they’re pretty good about allowing you to cancel your contract without having to pay your ETF.
When I cancelled my T-Mobile contract back when the first iPhone came out I informed them that I was moving to Kiangan in the Ifugao Province of the Philippines (a remote mountain town way out in the middle of nowhere). All I had to do was fax over my driver’s license and the $200 ETF was waived. It was surprisingly easy.
Complain About the Service – When you signed your contract AT&T promised to provide reasonable phone service, and you promised to pay a pre-arranged sum for that service. If AT&T is unable to provide reasonable service then you have grounds to have your contract voided and the ETF waived. Being an iPhone 4 user on AT&T, it’s not a stretch to say that you drop calls all the time, or that you get really weak signal at your house. In order to get your ETF waived due to unsatisfactory service you may have to complain to AT&T, but it’s legitimate grounds for cancelation. Don’t expect AT&T to allow you to cancel your contract the first time that you call in though, especially now that Verizon has the iPhone and AT&T is going to fight to keep all their customers happy (hopefully?). Perhaps you’re one of the 3% of Americans that AT&T doesn’t cover. If so then you can get out of your contract.
Terms of Contract Changed – This route is a little bit more difficult to argue, and will take a bit of time on the phone. When you signed your original contract with AT&T you both agreed to specific terms, and if at any point those terms were changed by AT&T you are within your right to have your contract cancelled without paying an ETF. Carriers from time to time will make small changes to their customer’s contracts but we the consumers rarely notice them because they’re usually in really small print at the bottom of the bill, or if you have wireless billing with AT&T they don’t even send you the entire bill and you will need to go online to view the full bill. If AT&T has changed the pricing during any point that you have had a contract with them then you can have your contract cancelled. Going through your bills you may notice that they’ve changed the fees for going over your minutes, texting or data. Any small change can be argued as a change in the terms of the contract and therefore are grounds of cancellation.
Having worked for AT&T (although I worked for U-Verse and not AT&T Wireless), I can tell you that there is always someone who can get you what you want. Representatives will repeatedly tell you false information or that they’re not allowed to do something or that the computer won’t allow them to make those changes for you. They’re not necessarily lying, they just don’t know all the truth. The key to dealing with AT&T Customer Service is to stand your ground and not let the people on the phone push you around. If one rep isn’t able to help you, then don’t be a total flaming imbecile, but be firm in insisting you get to speak with someone higher up. Your ETF can be waived, you just have to have the patience in finding the right person to help you. Keep in mind that the longer you’ve been a customer with AT&T the more leverage you have with them.