AT&T Early Termination Fee When Moving Abroad

shastasheen

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2010
8
0
I just spent an hour speaking with AT&T "Customer Service" and was appalled that they will neither waive early termination fees ("ETFs") nor unlock iPhones for customers moving to foreign countries. Although they have never been willing to unlock iPhones, they used to waive ETFs until a discreet policy change around January 2010. If you make the company whole for their iPhone subsidy by paying an ETF, how is it fair to leave you with a locked device that is useless outside AT&T's network?

Does anybody have tips for getting around this? They will not even let you switch to a prepaid plan or suspend your account for more than 6 months if you want to keep your phone number. The only option is to transfer your contract liability to someone else who is willing to accept it, which is an unlikely and generally useless option.

Has anyone else been in this situation?
 

Revelation78

macrumors 68000
Dec 18, 2008
1,508
11
North Carolina
I just spent an hour speaking with AT&T "Customer Service" and was appalled that they will neither waive early termination fees ("ETFs") nor unlock iPhones for customers moving to foreign countries. Although they have never been willing to unlock iPhones, they used to waive ETFs until a discreet policy change around January 2010. If you make the company whole for their iPhone subsidy by paying an ETF, how is it fair to leave you with a locked device that is useless outside AT&T's network?

Does anybody have tips for getting around this? They will not even let you switch to a prepaid plan or suspend your account for more than 6 months if you want to keep your phone number. The only option is to transfer your contract liability to someone else who is willing to accept it, which is an unlikely and generally useless option.

Has anyone else been in this situation?
As far as the moving part the rep is misinformed. No carrier can hold you to a contract if they cannot provide service for you. Call back and try to reach a different rep. If that rep states the same thing you can try a rather ill-advised strategy.

Chances of it working are slim, but it's worth a try. Give them your new address, or find one basically where you will be living, advise them that you are under contract and expect them to fulfill their terms of said contract by providing service. Clearly state that at the advisement of your attorney you will not be paying any bill or fees until said service and contract are upheld.

Again, most likely won't work - it should get you in touch with a higher manager that can waive the ETF at least.

As far as unlocking goes, there will be software releases that will allow you to unlock your iPhone, you need only be patient. Until then I recommend that you contact your Senators and Representatives and advise them that you are most displeased with the business practices of said company.

You can also file a BBB complain against AT&T for not unlocking your device as they do it for other phones on their network.

Keep in mind all of this is done in vein. No one will really care and it's up to the little guy to fight for what's right. If enough people stood up and said enough is enough, companies and people who can make changes will finally listen.
 

ulbador

macrumors 68000
Feb 11, 2010
1,554
0
They are required to release you from your contract if you move someplace they don't provide service. I got out of my Sprint contract early because I moved to someplace they didn't service
 

Rodimus Prime

macrumors G4
Oct 9, 2006
10,136
4
As far as the moving part the rep is misinformed. No carrier can hold you to a contract if they cannot provide service for you. Call back and try to reach a different rep. If that rep states the same thing you can try a rather ill-advised strategy.

Chances of it working are slim, but it's worth a try. Give them your new address, or find one basically where you will be living, advise them that you are under contract and expect them to fulfill their terms of said contract by providing service. Clearly state that at the advisement of your attorney you will not be paying any bill or fees until said service and contract are upheld.

Again, most likely won't work - it should get you in touch with a higher manager that can waive the ETF at least.

As far as unlocking goes, there will be software releases that will allow you to unlock your iPhone, you need only be patient. Until then I recommend that you contact your Senators and Representatives and advise them that you are most displeased with the business practices of said company.

You can also file a BBB complain against AT&T for not unlocking your device as they do it for other phones on their network.

Keep in mind all of this is done in vein. No one will really care and it's up to the little guy to fight for what's right. If enough people stood up and said enough is enough, companies and people who can make changes will finally listen.
No they can legelly hold you to a contract if you move out of their service area. The contract was signed when you were under the correct service area. You moving out of it is the contract holders problem. It is pay ETF or eat the cost of it. No way around that issue. Contract was signed for a reason.

Is it fair to expect AT&T to eat the $400 subsidy because want out of the contract or moved out of the area? No it is not. You should pay the ETF.
 

fabian9

macrumors 65816
Nov 28, 2007
1,106
72
Bristol, UK
No they can legelly hold you to a contract if you move out of their service area. The contract was signed when you were under the correct service area. You moving out of it is the contract holders problem. It is pay ETF or eat the cost of it. No way around that issue. Contract was signed for a reason.

Is it fair to expect AT&T to eat the $400 subsidy because want out of the contract or moved out of the area? No it is not. You should pay the ETF.
I'm afraid that's correct.

It'd be a different case if ATT were to suddenly decide that they won't be offering their services in the area that you currently live in - in that case they are in breach of the contract and will quite happily let you go. But in your case you're changing locations, it's not ATTs fault for not providing their service wherever you decided to move to.

Fabian
 

shastasheen

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2010
8
0
The representative and supervisor were absolutely clear that they will not waive the termination fee for customers who move internationally. Fees were waived on a case-by-case basis until January 2010, but the policy changed and that is no longer the case.

I agree that AT&T is entitled to recoup its subsidy from iPhone customers who do not fulfill their full two-year contracts. However, customers who pay this fee should be entitled to legally use their iPhones on other networks. To both (1) charge the ETF and (2) refuse to unlock the phone leaves customers with useless devices and is unfairly punitive.

Boo AT&T! I have had a family plan with four iPhones since they were first released and also have an AT&T BlackBerry. They are completely unwilling to help or make any concession at all.
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
16,875
1,532
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
As far as the moving part the rep is misinformed. No carrier can hold you to a contract if they cannot provide service for you. Call back and try to reach a different rep. If that rep states the same thing you can try a rather ill-advised strategy.

Chances of it working are slim, but it's worth a try. Give them your new address, or find one basically where you will be living, advise them that you are under contract and expect them to fulfill their terms of said contract by providing service. Clearly state that at the advisement of your attorney you will not be paying any bill or fees until said service and contract are upheld.

Again, most likely won't work - it should get you in touch with a higher manager that can waive the ETF at least.

As far as unlocking goes, there will be software releases that will allow you to unlock your iPhone, you need only be patient. Until then I recommend that you contact your Senators and Representatives and advise them that you are most displeased with the business practices of said company.

You can also file a BBB complain against AT&T for not unlocking your device as they do it for other phones on their network.

Keep in mind all of this is done in vein. No one will really care and it's up to the little guy to fight for what's right. If enough people stood up and said enough is enough, companies and people who can make changes will finally listen.
Yes, this post is accurate. AT&T can't hold your contract if they fail to provide service in your area, in this case abroad. Call again or go in store which can be much more efficient.

Unlocking your iPhone won't happen anytime soon if your iPhone is bought in the US, so don't try. However, you can go around that by jailbreaking and then unlocking.

The representative and supervisor were absolutely clear that they will not waive the termination fee for customers who move internationally. Fees were waived on a case-by-case basis until January 2010, but the policy changed and that is no longer the case.

I agree that AT&T is entitled to recoup its subsidy from iPhone customers who do not fulfill their full two-year contracts. However, customers who pay this fee should be entitled to legally use their iPhones on other networks. To both (1) charge the ETF and (2) refuse to unlock the phone leaves customers with useless devices and is unfairly punitive.

Boo AT&T! I have had a family plan with four iPhones since they were first released and also have an AT&T BlackBerry. They are completely unwilling to help or make any concession at all.
Try going in store. Talk to the manage of the store. Do not take no for an answer, if possible ask to talk with the district manager.
 

shastasheen

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2010
8
0
Unlocking your iPhone won't happen anytime soon if your iPhone is bought in the US, so don't try. However, you can go around that by jailbreaking and then unlocking.
Thanks for the insight. Unfortunately, I already updated my iPhone 3GS to 3.1.3, so I am not even sure it can be unlocked yet even if I jailbreak it. Can I expect a way to unlock eventually?
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
16,875
1,532
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
Thanks for the insight. Unfortunately, I already updated my iPhone 3GS to 3.1.3, so I am not even sure it can be unlocked yet even if I jailbreak it. Can I expect a way to unlock eventually?
Yes and no. The iPhone Dev team has warned against baseband unlocks getting increasingly tough to do, so they always warn not to update your baseband even if you do not plan on unlocking on the moment (you never know).

However, they have always released an unlock right after the introduction of a new OS (in this case from OS 3 to OS 4). I have a feeling they will do so again. However, such unlock will depend on whether the right exploits are still there.
 

Geckotek

macrumors G3
Jul 22, 2008
8,555
84
NYC
Wow, this is just wrong. I hope something is done about this soon. I know there was legislation in the works at one point forcing providers to unlock once a contract was fulfilled. Whatever happened to that?
 

The Gary

macrumors newbie
Mar 18, 2009
20
0
cancelled contract

I just spent an hour speaking with AT&T "Customer Service" and was appalled that they will neither waive early termination fees ("ETFs") nor unlock iPhones for customers moving to foreign countries. Although they have never been willing to unlock iPhones, they used to waive ETFs until a discreet policy change around January 2010. If you make the company whole for their iPhone subsidy by paying an ETF, how is it fair to leave you with a locked device that is useless outside AT&T's network?

Does anybody have tips for getting around this? They will not even let you switch to a prepaid plan or suspend your account for more than 6 months if you want to keep your phone number. The only option is to transfer your contract liability to someone else who is willing to accept it, which is an unlikely and generally useless option.

Has anyone else been in this situation?
The iphone you bought was discounted because you promised to to keep the service for two years. Now you want out of that promise??? Give back the phone or pay the $175 less $5 per month you used it. Do you think they owe you something for your nothing?
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
16,875
1,532
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
Wow, this is just wrong. I hope something is done about this soon. I know there was legislation in the works at one point forcing providers to unlock once a contract was fulfilled. Whatever happened to that?
You don't need legislation for this. It is simple. The AT&T contract says customer is off the hook if AT&T can't provide service. Last I checked AT&T had no native service anywhere else outside the US; hence, OP must be released from contract.
 

shastasheen

macrumors newbie
Original poster
May 6, 2010
8
0
The iphone you bought was discounted because you promised to to keep the service for two years. Now you want out of that promise??? Give back the phone or pay the $175 less $5 per month you used it. Do you think they owe you something for your nothing?
As stated above, I agree that AT&T is entitled to recoup its subsidy from iPhone customers who do not fulfill their full two-year contracts. However, customers who pay this fee should be entitled to legally use their iPhones on other networks. To both (1) charge the ETF and (2) refuse to unlock the phone leaves customers with useless devices. Do you not see that as inequitable and punitive?
 

Geckotek

macrumors G3
Jul 22, 2008
8,555
84
NYC
You don't need legislation for this. It is simple. The AT&T contract says customer is off the hook if AT&T can't provide service. Last I checked AT&T had no native service anywhere else outside the US; hence, OP must be released from contract.
Apparently some people are stating that the TOS changed and that is no longer the case.

Either way, that's not the part that pisses me off. If I've fully paid for a cell phone (completed my contract and/or paid the ETF) I should be able to use it as I please. :mad:
 

jav6454

macrumors P6
Nov 14, 2007
16,875
1,532
1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
Apparently some people are stating that the TOS changed and that is no longer the case.

Either way, that's not the part that pisses me off. If I've fully paid for a cell phone (completed my contract and/or paid the ETF) I should be able to use it as I please. :mad:
Precisely.
All true but with one major flaw. We also signed an Apple Terms of Agreement. This one is for the iPhone and it's software. In other words we gave up the right to unlock.
 

Bear Hunter

macrumors 6502a
Aug 10, 2008
598
0
I just spent an hour speaking with AT&T "Customer Service" and was appalled that they will neither waive early termination fees ("ETFs") nor unlock iPhones for customers moving to foreign countries. Although they have never been willing to unlock iPhones, they used to waive ETFs until a discreet policy change around January 2010. If you make the company whole for their iPhone subsidy by paying an ETF, how is it fair to leave you with a locked device that is useless outside AT&T's network?

Does anybody have tips for getting around this? They will not even let you switch to a prepaid plan or suspend your account for more than 6 months if you want to keep your phone number. The only option is to transfer your contract liability to someone else who is willing to accept it, which is an unlikely and generally useless option.

Has anyone else been in this situation?
Are you in the military?

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5603/is_200904/ai_n32326342/
 

Geckotek

macrumors G3
Jul 22, 2008
8,555
84
NYC
All true but with one major flaw. We also signed an Apple Terms of Agreement. This one is for the iPhone and it's software. In other words we gave up the right to unlock.
That's different. That is against the hacking of the baseband. Which, based on an ammendment to the DMCA is legal (or at least was for 3 years from 2006...not sure if it was renewed).

AT&T providing the unlock code is not against the Apple TOS. And even if it is, a Federal Act would change that.

The one I'm thinking of is called:
"Wireless Consumer Protection and Community Broadband Empowerment Act of 2008"

http://www.publicknowledge.org/node/1505

Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a draft as of now.
 

Revelation78

macrumors 68000
Dec 18, 2008
1,508
11
North Carolina
*IF* AT&T has changed their terms such that they will not waive or cancel the ETF due to not providing adequate service, then I feel sorry for their legal department as they *COULD* be overwhelmed with litigation due to this policy change. You can google for a site that reports immediately if your TOS changes, at which point you can call up AT&T and state that you DO NOT agree to the new TOS and they MUST release you from your contract.

You can also try arguing that your never received a copy of the change from January. You can try that avenue to try to get out of the ETF. AT&T will argue that they included it in your bill and posted it on their site - you will only have an argument *IF* you receive electronic billing and you can prove you never visit AT&T's site. By law AT&T must submit to you in writing the change of TOS, if AT&T did not take the necessary steps to notify *you* then you might have a shot.

As a last ditch effort, which I don't recommend, you could notify AT&T via writing that you will not pay an ETF or any bill hence forth until your iPhone is legally unlocked by AT&T due to your move out of country. You will want to consult an attorney to get the right verbiage. With the right verbiage, AT&T might take your request more seriously.

There's a lot of loop-holes that exist, it's a matter of how far you want to go with it. It could work out for you or it could go very bad where it effects your credit - the choice is yours.
 

Hankster

macrumors 68020
Jan 30, 2008
2,360
269
Washington DC
You signed a contract with ATT for two years (I'm assuming). It is your responsibility to uphold that contract, there is NOTHING IN LAW stating that if you leave any carrier's service area that the customer can break the contract.

It's not ATT's fault you are moving, it's your fault. Plus, if that were the case EVERYONE who wanted to leave a contact would simply lie about "moving". Pay the ETF and move on, it's called responsible.
 

Revelation78

macrumors 68000
Dec 18, 2008
1,508
11
North Carolina
Apparently some people are stating that the TOS changed and that is no longer the case.

Either way, that's not the part that pisses me off. If I've fully paid for a cell phone (completed my contract and/or paid the ETF) I should be able to use it as I please. :mad:
Precisely.
So, let me ask another question... Have you read the TOS lately? I just did read the full TOS on AT&T's site and there is not one mention that the ETF cannot or will not be waived. You stated that AT&T reps told you it was part of the Jan 2010 TOS.

If I were you I would call them up and have them explicitly tell you were it states it. Now, don't get me wrong, AT&T can still refuse to waive it. This at least goes to show that they are lying.

Another thing you can try is when you have them on the phone, have the TOS pulled up on your computer in front of you, ask them to waive it due to your move one more time. If they mention that it's part of the TOS dated from Jan 2010, then say great, "tell me exactly where it states that." Then tell them you have the TOS pulled up in front of you as posted on AT&T's site and it makes no mention of such a restriction.

Then go on to say, "oh yeah, BTW at the advisement of my attorney I'm recording this phone call." You will then state again, that it's not mentioned in the TOS, and *IF* you were to go to court and play this recording, clearly depicting lying on the part of a corporation to a consumer - "think how the jury would decide that outcome?"

One thing, we as Americans hate, are big greedy abusive companies. If they try to state that you cannot record the call and it's a violation of some blah-blah law, respond with "according to:"


(summarize)
First, it is illegal for you to record a call where you are not a party. This is called “wiretapping” and the Federal Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2510 et seq., prohibits the willful interception of telephone communication by means of any electronic, mechanical, or other device without an applicable exemption. There are two exceptions to this rule.

Consent: Under Federal Law, you can record a phone call if one of the parties consents to be recorded, hence if you’re the one doing the recording you don’t have to inform the other party that you’re recording and you’re still protected under Federal Law

What this will do at the very least is have them back peddling even more. It then puts you into a better position for arguments sake.
 

Bear Hunter

macrumors 6502a
Aug 10, 2008
598
0
You signed a contract with ATT for two years (I'm assuming). It is your responsibility to uphold that contract, there is NOTHING IN LAW stating that if you leave any carrier's service area that the customer can break the contract.

It's not ATT's fault you are moving, it's your fault. Plus, if that were the case EVERYONE who wanted to leave a contact would simply lie about "moving". Pay the ETF and move on, it's called responsible.


Not if you're military. You have official orders that are produced. The SSCRA specifically protects service members against things like this...as they are serving this country.
 

Geckotek

macrumors G3
Jul 22, 2008
8,555
84
NYC
You signed a contract with ATT for two years (I'm assuming). It is your responsibility to uphold that contract, there is NOTHING IN LAW stating that if you leave any carrier's service area that the customer can break the contract.

It's not ATT's fault you are moving, it's your fault. Plus, if that were the case EVERYONE who wanted to leave a contact would simply lie about "moving". Pay the ETF and move on, it's called responsible.
Why do people keep saying this? The OP has not objected to paying the ETF. The OP feels (and so do I) that if the ETF is paid, then the contract is fulfilled and he should be able to legally activate his phone on whatever carrier he likes.
 
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