Stuck with overseas cell contract
October 23, 2008 8:44 AM   Subscribe

I moved to Germany and then moved back to the USA after three weeks. While I was there, I signed up for a two year T-Mobile iPhone contract, because at the time I thought I was staying in Germany. Now I am stuck with an expensive 2 year contract that I can't use.

Now that I'm back in the states, I have an expensive paperweight that I am getting no benefit from. I've contacted T-Mobile Germany and the only option they are giving me is to pay for the entire 2 years up-front and then they'll let me cancel. That seems hardly fair, because I am not receiving service for those two years. The only benefit to me is that I get to keep the iPhone.

In my mind, a fair solution would be to pay them for one month of service, and reimburse them for their cost of the iPhone hardware, or to return the phone. It seems they are unjustly gaining from this arrangement since they don't have to provide service.

How should I proceed? Should I just suck-it-up and pay for the whole two years? Should I try to fight it? How? Should I get T-Mobile USA involved?
posted by Witherwings to Technology (11 answers total)
Sell your contract for a discount to a German?
posted by Happy Dave at 8:51 AM on October 23, 2008

Do they not offer an early termination fee? For instance, I got out of a Sprint contract early, but had to pay a $250 fee.

Alternatively, you can sell the iPhone and probably make up the money for what it costs to buy out the contract regardless.
posted by nitsuj at 8:56 AM on October 23, 2008

Would german t-mobile even be able to pursue this in the the US?
posted by Oktober at 9:03 AM on October 23, 2008

Pay the early termination fee. My Verizon contract had a $175 penalty (I'm part of a class action now and hope to recoup that). Sell the phone. It'll probably be a wash.
posted by fixedgear at 9:48 AM on October 23, 2008

I know of - a cursory scan of the site and FAQ doesn't indicate they are USA only or international. If they can't help you, google might turn up a german equivalent.
posted by devbrain at 10:20 AM on October 23, 2008

I don't think they can enforce the contract abroad for less than the cost of the contract. I suppose they can add some line on your credit report, but I'm not sure even this will have any impact here, credit reports seem mostly national. Btw, French phone companies allow early termination if you can prove that you unexpectedly moved abroad.

Your first step must be blocking additional payments, possibly by closing your german bank account. You can also ask your German bank about blocking payments, but a German court could obviously still deduct the full contract from any accounts they know about in Germany, so I'd just close the whole account.

Next write them a letter explaining that you are canceling the contract because you unexpectedly moved abroad. You should also (1) offer that the contract be converted to an American T-mobile contract and (2) ask how they wish to handle the phone subsidy.

I doubt the contract can be converted to an American T-mobile contract. Of course, the German T-mobile people will likely claim this impossible, even if they know that isn't true. So you must contact T-mobile USA about converting the contract too. Do not take another contract with T-mobile USA unless they convert the German contract. I'd even tell them that your happy to take their contract if they'll cancel the German one, but otherwise you'll take an AT&T contract.

Btw I've once seen Apple's commercial sales office lie that shipped orders could not be converted to educational sales, while the educational sales office said no problem immediately. I later verified that the commercial sales office was knowingly lying by claiming the reverse situation.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:25 AM on October 23, 2008

You might be able to get T-Mobile USA to pick up the contract, but you are probably going to find more success getting someone in Germany to assume your contract and phone for you. There are some pretty strong customer protection laws over there, I can't imagine they can force you to pay for the rest of your contract.

Also a caveat, I am pretty sure European 3G and American 3G work differently(based on HTC's reasoning for not bringing the Touch HD stateside), so your fancy new iphone my not have its full functionality even if you were to unlock it.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:31 AM on October 23, 2008

Response by poster: I will have to pay approximately $1800 to cancel (the monthly fee times 24 months). Right now, used 8GB iPhones are fetching around $300 on ebay, so it certainly isn't a "wash" to cancel.

I have considered just closing my account in Germany. What will they do to me if I ever go there again on vacation?
posted by Witherwings at 10:40 AM on October 23, 2008

What will they do to me if I ever go there again on vacation?

Nothing, as long as you don't do anything that involves a SCHUFA check. Hotels and rental car firms don't check it, so if you're just on holiday, it won't matter at all.
posted by cmonkey at 11:32 AM on October 23, 2008

You have MeFi mail.
posted by Master Gunner at 1:54 PM on October 23, 2008

sell your iPhone to someone in Europe who can make use of it?

I'd certainly to be interested... I could do with an iPhone that is "locked" to T-Mobile Europe...
posted by almostwitty at 6:45 AM on October 24, 2008

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