Faking Death To Get Out Of Mobile Phone Contracts

from the you-think-maybe-there's-a-problem? dept

The introduction of local number portability was supposed to force mobile operators to improve their customer service, since now it would be easier for upset customers to simply jump to a competing carrier. Instead, it seems to have only increased the use of early termination fees that the mobile operators charge if you leave a contract early. To be fair, often these ETFs come into play when the customer has purchased a heavily subsidized mobile phone -- which sounds fair. However, the number of irate mobile users who find themselves facing huge bills just because they want to switch mobile operators suggests that the practice isn't doing much good for the reputations of mobile operators. In fact, it's so bad that some folks are willing to play dead in an effort to fool mobile operators into canceling the contract without charging the ETF -- though, as we've noted in the past, there have been times when even death wouldn't get you out of paying. It would seem to make sense for mobile operators to be a bit more understanding. Verizon Wireless, to its credit, prorates early termination fees, so the closer you are to the end of your contract, the less it costs. It's unclear why the other mobile operators haven't come up with anything similar. Perhaps they really think that locked-in but pissed-off customers are better than happy, loyal customers.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rational Beaver, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:20am

    "Perhaps they really think that locked-in but pissed-off customers are better than happy, loyal customers."

    Perhaps they think that pissed-off, but still paying, customers are better than none at all...

     

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  2.  
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    Esther, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:21am

    Dying For A Cell Phone

    The thing is, even though this is really funny, the subscriber could have gotten himself into a lot of legal trouble, if Verizon wanted to get nasty about it. Faking death, using the phone lines to commit that fraud, et. al. They might have convinced the Feds to teach him a lesson the same way they've done to mobsters and really bad guys.

     

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  3.  
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    Casper, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:24am

    Oh I know

    I am currently walking around with two phone plans and only one phone in my pocket. I purchased a new phone and plan, but my plan with AT&T doesn't end until the 5th of next month. If I leave now, I pay $175, but if I just wait 15 days and pay two cell bills, I only end up paying $100...

    There is no reason for them to charge my $175 other then to insure I don't leave early. The phone I have with AT&T was purchased over 2 years ago, and barely works. If they were better to their customers, I wouldn't be leaving in the first place.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:25am

    Re: Dying For A Cell Phone

    I was thinking the same thing. That's wire fraud and forgery. He's lucky he didn't get into a lot of trouble for pulling such a stunt.

     

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  5.  
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    RandomThoughts, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:32am

    If you have a unlimited data plan, just watch videos through your phone. About 10 movies a month should get your carrier to send you a nice letter saying that your contract has been cancelled for using too much bandwidth.

     

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  6.  
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    Jerk, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:35am

    Verizon doesn't prorate anything

    Verizon prorate? That's a fat load, they renewed my ETF retrospectively so they could screw me harder. I was so pissed (and ~$1100 poorer) by the time I got done with my Verizon ordeal that I'll NEVER use their mobile service again. It was absolutely infuriating to even cancel my contract once I'd given up on explaining the situation to their amazingly unhelpful customer service...made me want to get a gun.
    In the end I'm now with T-mobile...haven't had any problems, but I haven't had occasion to yet. Verizon was great all the way up until I had a problem, then it just snowballed.

     

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  7.  
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    A bad speller, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 11:39am

    In most cases and contracts, if you die and you owe some one some money it is paid out of your estate, So they could go and file against your estate in the Probate court. Oh wait no one realy died.

     

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  8.  
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    Paul, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:01pm

    The reason for Faking Death

     

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  9.  
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    Paul, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:10pm

    It is not a surprise

    This illustrates a serious problem with the attitude, and monopoly that has been allowed to exist in the cell phone industry. I have had 6 occasions to go to Verizon for "Service" and received on "Lip Service" from so called service representative. They are insulting and on three occasions, outright lied to me. There is certainly a opportunity for a cell phone company with honest friendly people. If you would only offer free transfer of contacts, and the ability to program your own features, such as ring tones, I would pay the $175.00 termination fee, unfortunately Verizon has a wrap on the coverage market. As long as I am dreaming, a contract without all of the fine print would be nice. (i.e. true warranty items, not hidden prorated items for each part of the phone. (battery).

     

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  10.  
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    Ned B, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:13pm

    Try not getting a contract

    My contract with Verizon ended last winter. I went with AT&T solely to get a phone that wasn't a crippled paperweight.
    (The only way to transfer pictures and files from a verizon phone is to transfer through their service)

    I was fully prepared to pay full price for the phone I wanted through AT&T so I wouldn't have to get a contract. no dice. They wouldn't sell a phone with anything less then a 1 year contract. (Because I was able to get the company discount, I'm stuck with a 2 year plan)

    I had been with Verizon going back to the Nynex days. I always liked Verizon's network, as long as you were in the U.S. Since I occasionally travel to China, a GSM phone was the other reason to get rid of them. Still, it was a bit on the traumatic side.

     

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  11.  
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    Dan, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:33pm

    I've heard a much better way

    Just change your address through their website to someplace outside their service area, then call complaining about a lack of service and they are obligated to cancel your contract because they can no longer fulfill their end of the bargain.

    Free roaming is also a great way to end the contract ... just go outside their coverage area on friday night, plug your phone into the charger, call any free information number (or another cell phone looking to get out of a contract) and let it sit until the end of your free weekend period. After that, just call them and they'll beg you to leave (you might have to threaten to do it every weekend, but it'll happen)

     

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  12.  
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    Dan, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:35pm

    Waiting for the phone market to evolve

    ooooo, I can't wait to get a free Google Phone. I usually don't like suffering advertising but in the case of phone companies, I can't wait for more options to hit the market! There is a terrible problem of monopoly in Canada - very few carriers, and none seem very competent at call when it comes to keeping customers happy. Why won't anyone in the telco industry raise the bar just a bit and start winning customers through good service instead of weasely traps and strings attached??

     

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  13.  
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    Nicholas Coffee, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:44pm

    Good luck getting an early termination fee out of

    Early termination fees that aren't pro-rated fall on shaky legal ground anyways. Liquidated damages and what not..shake the cage and you won't foot the bill....

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 12:45pm

    What I have done...

    ... is to just ignore the fees. When they send it to collections, I demand to see a signed contract and dispute it with the credit bureaus requesting documented proof of a business relationship.

    The last time I did this, the phone company ignored all this and the charges went away without affecting my credit.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:18pm

    Hrmm my cell bill is $98/month roughly 2 years 24 months is $2352 early cancelation fee $275 gee which is cheaper. While I agree fees are dumb and painful but consider their side with the activation use of the system ect. They have to make some money off of you some way. I have also gotten out of fee's buy saying they didn't have service at my school I was transferring to and also I was joining the military and would not be allowed a phone.

     

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  16.  
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    Bob, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:51pm

    Our Motto: We ain't happy until you ain't happy

     

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  17.  
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    Overcast, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    In spite of the minutes being more expensive...

    Well, I don't care to even talk on the phone a lot, I have unlimited whatever at home, but on the cell - contracts just aren't for me, I prefer pre-paid. Yeah, it's not 'efficient' maybe, but I'm never stuck with BS either.

    I don't need another bill. I keep enough minutes for emergency and just give the number to my close family.

    The rest can all leave a message on my home machine :)

    I guess - I've had that stance, because I actually read through all that legal jargon prior to signing. And umm, most I've seen... no way, lol - I'm not committing for 2+ years.

     

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  18.  
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    Count Darling, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 2:19pm

    Buy your own phone

    Buy your own phone and run on a month-to-month contract. No fees to exit.

     

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  19.  
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    JoeSchmoe, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 2:24pm

    Contracts?

    Only those that are too poor to actually afford a cell phone or too stupid to know any better sign 2-year contracts with a cell phone carrier. I have no sympathy for those that signed the contract and then whine that the ETF is too much to pay. Don't sign the contract if you don't agree with the terms. You can always insist on a 1 year contract too, instead of the 2 year ones that all of the carriers try to thrust upon you. If the CSR won't do it, talk to their manager or take your business elsewhere. The carriers will do a 1-year if you ask/ demand it.

    It's even better if you're with a GSM carrier (AT&T, T-Mobile). There are many ways to buy an unlocked or even OEM (not crippled) version of the phone you want online for about the same price as the 2-year contract price at the carrier's store. Buy it online, slip in your SIM card, and you're done. No contract extension, no plan changes, no customer service hassles. Done.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 2:44pm

    Re: Good luck getting an early termination fee out

    Early termination fees that aren't pro-rated fall on shaky legal ground anyways. Liquidated damages and what not..shake the cage and you won't foot the bill....
    I understand the UK courts have been enforcing the common law principle that penalties, even in a contract, may not exceed actual damages under the theory of "unjust enrichment". They have even been making banks refund some of their ridiculous penalty charges. So your argument might fly there.

    This story is about the US though. And US courts seem to think that unjust enrichment is just fine, at least for the likes of banks and mobile operators. So you can shake the all you want but won't do you any good. The courts are on their side and they know it.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 2:56pm

    To be fair, often these ETFs come into play when the customer has purchased a heavily subsidized mobile phone -- which sounds fair.

    AT&T is the only carrier in my area and according to their store reps they don't offer no-contract service even if you already have a phone. You're going to pay for a "free" phone whether you want it or not. So I guess my choice is either a contract with ETF or no service at all. Now how does that sound fair?

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    Cell phones are sooo cool. How can I live without one.

    Well, I live just fine without one, just as y'all did before you got yours. Remember then?

    You got into that crap, now stop whining - bitches.

     

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  23.  
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    irspariah, Aug 24th, 2007 @ 7:35am

    termination fees

    The only reason this type of indenture works is because people let it. If no one pays these creeps this blackmail will collapse. Ultimately any agreement is based on accord and satisfaction, and rarely is there anything like that existing in these "contracts". No real accord and satisfaction exists, no real contract exists. Guess what? This so-called contract is voidable. Storm the Bastille people!

     

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  24.  
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    Farshid, Sep 7th, 2007 @ 12:44pm

    TradeMyCellular.com

    try posting your contract info on TradeMyCellular.com, someone may take over your contract, its Free

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    paul1627, Mar 30th, 2008 @ 1:34pm

    Get Out of Your Cell Phone Contract without paying

    www.CellPlanDepot.com is a meeting place for people looking to get out of their cell phone contract "Plan Droppers" and those looking to takeover a contract "Plan Seekers". This service adds value to cell phone subscribers as it satisfies their need to break a contract and avoid the steep early termination fee. Those who takeover a plan will receive numerous incentives such as cash, free cell phones, accessories, and avoid activations fees through the simple transfer process. Those getting out of their plan avoid the early termination fees and all of the future monthly payments for that contract. It is a win-win process as both Plan Seekers and Plan Droppers save money through this innovative service.

    We hope you have found this information useful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    annette brown, Aug 28th, 2008 @ 6:38am

    lies your t-mobil man

    My Nightmare. I go looking to try out the home service that t-mobile offers. My only need is for my fax machine and home alarm sys. The young man tells me, sure it will all work. Then my contract prints out only in spanish. For a solid month people in iraq somewhere are still telling me they should work, over and over. THEY WERE NEVER MEANT TO WORK WITH THESE ITEMS. Oh and the salesman is sending me text messages. sweetie babe blah blah blah. You would'nt believe how many people working for them don't know a thing about what they are selling. The store manager could care less about the sexual harassment, an I sure don't read spanish.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    annette brown, Aug 28th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    lies your t-mobil man

    My Nightmare. I go looking to try out the home service that t-mobile offers. My only need is for my fax machine and home alarm sys. The young man tells me, sure it will all work. Then my contract prints out only in spanish. For a solid month people in iraq somewhere are still telling me they should work, over and over. THEY WERE NEVER MEANT TO WORK WITH THESE ITEMS. Oh and the salesman is sending me text messages. sweetie babe blah blah blah. You would'nt believe how many people working for them don't know a thing about what they are selling. The store manager could care less about the sexual harassment, an I sure don't read spanish.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    sam, Mar 25th, 2010 @ 1:16am

    Get out of your cell phone contract with no ETF using our free service
    at http://www.mobileswap.org/.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2013 @ 12:36pm

    Re:

    Ya but they lose that customer after the contact is up!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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