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Is there an economical way for me to switch cell phone providers mid-contract?
August 27, 2008 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Is there any economical way to switch cell phone providers without waiting months for my contract to expire?

I've had a cell phone with Verizon for about three years now. I'm not a huge fan of them, but renewed my contract a year and a half ago so that I wouldn't have to pay full price on a replacement for a phone I broke. So, I'm stuck in a contract with them until January.

I really, really want to switch from a regular cell phone to something like a Blackberry or Iphone, and have found plans through other carriers that are much better deals than what I'm getting from Verizon now. Sure, I could wait until the middle of January for my contract to expire and switch to a cooler phone with a carrier I like better, but you know how this stuff goes...I want a new phone now.

I seriously doubt there is any way I can get out of my contract with Verizon early, but am wondering how others have switched providers mid contract in the most economical way possible. Is there any way I'm overlooking that I can do this without breaking the bank?
posted by lxs to Technology (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, figure out how much of a deal you're getting on the new phone/carrier and see if that amount is more than the contract termination fee from Verizon.
posted by desjardins at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2008


There are a number of sites that let you swap contracts or pass on your contract to someone willing to take it. I haven't used them myself, but they seem to be fairly popular.
posted by poq at 8:24 AM on August 27, 2008


There are two ways:

One: Verizon now prorates their early termination fee (ETF), from $175 and deducting $5 for each month you had service with them. So if you fulfilled 19 out of 24 months of your contract, then your ETF would be $175 - 19 * $5 = $80. Pricey, but better than hnothing.

Two: Get out via a clause in the contract.

1) Many people change contracts if you don't have sufficient Verizon service. I'm assuming that's not the case for you. Then:

2) Get out via a small clause in the customer agreement. Read this. Basically, the Verizon customer agreement says:
Our Rights to Make Changes

Your service is subject to our business policies, practices and procedures, which we can change without notice. UN LESS OTHERWISE PROHIBITED BY LAW, WE CAN ALSO CHANGE PRICES AND ANY OTHER CONDITIONS IN THIS AGREEMENT AT ANY TIME BY SENDING YOU WRITTEN NOTICE PRIOR TO THE BILLING PERIOD IN WHICH THE CHANGES WOULD GO INTO EFFECT. IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE YOUR SERVICE AFTER THAT POINT, YOU’RE ACCEPTING THE CHANGES. IF THE CHANGES HAVE A MATERIAL ADVERSE EFFECT ON YOU, HOWEVER, YOU CAN END THE AFFECTED SERVICE, WITHOUT ANY EARLY TERMINATION FEE, JUST BY CALLING US WITHIN 60 DAYS AFTER WE SEND NOTICE OF THE CHANGE. (emphasis mine)
And in the information for the calling plans:
# Monthly Federal Universal Service Charge on interstate & international telecom charges (varies quarterly based on FCC rate) is 11.3% per line. Beginning July 1, 2008 the Federal Universal Service Charge will be changing to 11.4% per line.
So there you go. Call a Verizon rep. Say that you got a notice in the mail about a rate increase. Ask if the MFUSC applies to your plan. He/she'll say yes. Tell him/her about the clause in the customer agreement, and that you'd like to cancel your plan. The rep will be confused. Ask to speak to his/her manager.

Repeat -- make sure that you mention that you got the notice in the mail, and also make sure to ask if the change applies BEFORE you mention the clause in the customer agreement.

What they'll say at one point or another is that the MFUSC are government taxes, so it's not Verizon Wireless's fault. Refer them to the plan information again:
# The Federal Universal Service, Regulatory and Administrative Charges are Verizon Wireless charges, not taxes. For more details on these charges, call 1–888–684–1888.
And keep on trying to escalate, or hang up and call again if necessary. Call on a weekday morning, since it'll be the start of the workday for the call center, and therefore the call reps will be noticeably less annoyed and will be nicer than if you call at 4:55pm.

Oh, and the key is that 'materially adverse' is not defined anywhere -- so it doesn't matter if the rate increase is small -- it's a monetary charge regardless.
posted by suedehead at 8:27 AM on August 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Oh also -- it helps to have a solid reason. In my case (I did this last month) I told the Verizon manager rep that many of my friends and family were on another network (which is true) and that I wanted to do the in-talk mobile-to-mobile thing, and that I had been for Verizon for seven years (also true). He eventually relented, and told me that he'd allow it and to call him on his private extension and that he'd waive the ETF fees after I port my number over.

I got a new phone, ported my number over, called the Verizon rep, who amazingly remembered me and waived the ETF fees on the spot.

Hope it works out well for you.
posted by suedehead at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2008


Some providers have a really cheap "emergency call only" plan for like 20 a month. You can switch to this plan and pay less than what early termination fees cost.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:37 AM on August 27, 2008


Verizon now prorates their early termination fee

You will likely find out that the prorated plans are from that point forward and users who signed contracts before that was put into place are still on the line for the full termination fee.

January is not a very long time so I would definitely not pay the full termination fee. Have your plan changed to the lowest paid amount only (the emergency option listed earlier is a good idea if it's possible) but make sure they aren't going to renew any contracts by changing that. With 4-5 months at ~$30/mo it's still less than the termination fee. Considering you'd be getting a subsidized plan with another provider you're saving there as well.

I can also say that pulling up the change in the contract will work, but you are gonna have to be nasty about it and insist on speaking to superiors. From past experience it is HIGHLY unlikely you will speak to someone who will be so enamored with your 3 years of dedicated service to offer to waive a termination fee so you can switch to a competitor (especially if you mention it being the iPhone). Call centers deal with this everyday and they are trained to flat out refuse every single time and wear you down until you feel like there is no other option but to pay. If you hold out and speak with higher level employees and continue to show them that they are violating their contract by making you stay with them after the change, you will eventually get out of the fee.
posted by genial at 9:41 AM on August 27, 2008


You will likely find out that the prorated plans are from that point forward and users who signed contracts before that was put into place are still on the line for the full termination fee.

Yeah, but the OP says he's stuck in a contract until this January (09), which most probably means that he signed up in January '07.

From the customer agreement:

FOR SERVICE ACTIVATED ON OR AFTER 11/16/06, OR FOR LINES OF SERVICE WITH MINIMUM TERMS EXTENDED ON OR AFTER 11/16/06, THE EARLY TERMINATION FEE IS $175, WHICH WILL BE REDUCED BY $5 FOR EACH FULL MONTH TOWARD YOUR MINIMUM TERM THAT YOU COMPLETE.

Therefore, the ETF is prorated for his plan.
posted by suedehead at 10:11 AM on August 27, 2008


i did, in fact, sign my contract in jan. '07, so i'll give the prorated termination fee a try.
posted by lxs at 7:37 PM on August 27, 2008


Pretty much what everyone else is saying, but in video.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2008


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