T-Mobile won't waive early termination fee for moving abroad?
May 12, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to move out of the country, but T-Mobile says they won't waive the early termination fee. Three questions: a) Really? b) Is there nothing that can be done? c) Will I be able to use the G2 in Germany?

A few months ago, my wife and I got G2 androids. Now we're moving to Germany for a while. The friendly T-Mobile woman says the cancellation fee is $200/line, and they don't waive them for moving outside of the U.S. They can't sign me over to Deutsche Telekom. But she also gave me the fax number and snail mail address for "customer relations" and recommended I ask them about an ETF waiver. Does anybody have any experience with this, and can recommend how to proceed?

Also, regardless of whether I have to pay the fee, what do I do with the phones? I've heard rumors that the G2 can't be rooted, and I don't know if there's a carrier lock. Can I expect to use these in Germany, or should I sell them in the U.S. before we leave?

Thank you.
posted by muckster to Technology (14 answers total)
You paid a subsidized rate for your phones, and the $200 charge is to cover the difference between that and the actual cost. I'd just pay the fee, its not unreasonable.

Call tmobile and ask to have the phones unlocked. Say you're planning to travel in Europe.
posted by The Lamplighter at 8:29 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

They can't sign me over to Deutsche Telekom.

Oh, the irony. They are Deutsche Telekom.
posted by jaduncan at 8:32 AM on May 12, 2011

It took months, but I was able to get the early termination fee waived when I moved overseas. I wasn't sure how long I'd be gone, so I put my account on hold, then cancelled once I was in my new place. They even unlocked it for me after I cancelled, although I'd encourage you to have the phone unlocked first. (I'd had the account for less than six months, and had a "free" phone.)

It did take forever, though. I got a call from a collection agency. Be patient.
posted by momus_window at 8:34 AM on May 12, 2011

Oh, and to clarify I did have T-Mobile.
posted by momus_window at 8:34 AM on May 12, 2011

I got a Verizon ETF waived when I moved back to Canada. Well, technically I paid the ETF and they refunded it when I was able to prove I lived outside their coverage area. (I mailed a photocopy of a Canadian drivers license) perhaps you could ask about something similar.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:05 AM on May 12, 2011

If you search about a bit you can find some instructions on getting out of your contract in various (sneaky, depending on your perspective) ways. Lifehacker.com in particular is good for this sort of thing.

As Lamplighter says, you may need to just shrug and accept it as the cost of getting these phones to keep after only a few months of contractual service. If you don't want them there's a better than average chance you can sell them for a gain on eBay, presuming you kept the boxes and things. The outright purchase price of the phones is higher than you should have paid so you may be able to recoup that $200.

But for sure get them unlocked if you're going to keep them.
posted by phearlez at 9:41 AM on May 12, 2011

T-Mobile does apparently do this. Contact their customer support. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, escalate it to a supervisor. If the supervisor fails to give you the right answer, escalate to a manager. If the manager fails to address this issue, contact T-Mobile USA's corporate office and get them on it.
posted by inturnaround at 10:27 AM on May 12, 2011

I was able to cancel some contract (not T-Mobile, but can't remember who) early when I proved that I was moving someplace (overseas, actually) where they didn't offer service. So the approach was, "I'm moving; do you provide service there? Oh no? Then please let me cancel."

You need to ask to speak to the customer service manager if you're not getting a good answer from the person who answers the phone.

I had to submit proof that I had moved. They wanted all sorts of things like a utility bill and other stuff I just didn't have in that country, so I ended up sending them a laundry list of items including my name listed on the company directory, my employment letter, as well as some photos of me and my family in what was obviously this particular country. It was crazy but I got out of it.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:01 AM on May 12, 2011

And now the math

Unsubsidized T-Mobile G2 phones = $500 x 2 = $1,000, Probably paid $150 when started contract x 2 =$300

T-Mobile loss = $700

with ETF = $400

T-mobile loss = $300
posted by kanemano at 11:15 AM on May 12, 2011

G2 can be rooted: instructions
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:24 AM on May 12, 2011

Is this a permanent or temporary move? If you'll be gone 7 years or more, you can politely tell them to go fuck themselves. They can't do anything except put a negative mark on a credit report that nobody in the country you'll be living in will ever check.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:42 PM on May 12, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Sounds like I need to call them again, ask for a supervisor, and make my case. I do understand about the subsidy, but it seems to me that if they can't provide service where I'm going, they should release me from the contract without a fee. (I also happen to think kanemano's math is off in all sorts of ways -- T-Mobile does not pay retail prices for those phones, and I already spent a bundle on the monthly plans.)

It also sounds like getting the phones unlocked isn't going to be too difficult, regardless of whether or not I pay the fee? I like the phones and would keep using them.

At any rate, thanks again.
posted by muckster at 8:17 AM on May 13, 2011

Is this a permanent or temporary move? If you'll be gone 7 years or more, you can politely tell them to go fuck themselves. They can't do anything except put a negative mark on a credit report that nobody in the country you'll be living in will ever check.

Oh dear grod don't listen to this, it's wrong on a half-dozen levels.

One, credit reporting (the 7 year lifetime) is completely unrelated to the legality of a debt and the ability and recourse for collection.

Two, while the statistical probability of them taking any action beyond dunning notices is pretty poor it is not REMOTELY true that they "can't do anything."

Three, the statute of limitations on debt varies from state to state and can be anything from 3 to 10 years depending on location and type of debt. Further, many if not most states have clauses in them stating that the statue is "tolled" when you "flee" the state. In those circumstances you could leave tomorrow for twenty years and then move back... and be sued for that money on that very day as if no time at all had passed.

Four, when you skip on a debt like that they often they will keep adding every nickle and dime fee onto it so that when they finally charge it off it'll be nice and huge and give them more negotiating room when they come after you. If they decide to go ahead and get a default judgment against you (which they can do because you won't be there to show up in court and contest it) it'll be a big honking amount of money that is not only your monthly bills but $29 late fees and heaven knows what else.

Five, once there's a default loss in court and a judgment is levied against you it lives, in most states, for 10 years and is then renewable. With statutory interest added. That judgment is a matter of public record for anyone doing a background check on you to find and it allows the holder to attach your real property or salary with varying degrees of ease, depending on the state. So again, come back in 20 years and you can find yourself dealing with this old judgment.

All of this is also subject to the fact that nobody in commercial paper ever just throws away a debt. T-Mobile or anyone else may not be able to collect but they'll turn around and make lemons out of lemonaide by selling the obligation for pennies on the dollar. And those "zombie debt purchasers" will happily pursue you forever. Their entire business model is based on expending minimum effort to use the legal options to be a pain in your ass so you'll pay them to go away. They don't care if they only get $40 out of your $500 debt because they bought it for $0.10 and since they torment thousands of people in various automated ways it's nothing to them to bug you too.

You may have the legal ability to refute the debt because they lack sufficient documentation or the debt is past statute but both of those are "affirmative defenses" which you have to raise - they are not automatic. So you find yourself having to keep an eye on this crap forever as these clowns try to collect, get shut down, then sell it off themselves to someone else who will try to collect in six months. Very few states invalidate the debt against attempted collection just because the statute has passed.

And all this assumes the buyer of the debt doesn't engage in questionable shenanigans which will be even harder for you to cope with. While you will likely inevitably prevail they could put a major monkey wrench in the works if you're trying to close on a house in a set time, for example.

There are times when it's the right thing to do to go through this trouble; you may not be able to avoid it or the alternate cost may be so high to justify it. I by no means advocate simply rolling over because debt collectors can be tough. But to dismiss their ability to make your life difficult just based on the 7 year credit reporting requirement is flat-out wrong and misguided.
posted by phearlez at 9:12 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also have T-mobile and have used it overseas. My recommendation get them to unlock the phone (it is a simple phone call) and then you can text for the same amount as before (if you have unlimited it should work fine and if not $0.10/text) which is really helpful as you and your partner get settled in Germany. Often in Germany it takes FOREVER to do lots of household business - like getting a new phone. You could also try to negotiate a reduction in your monthly bill/service so that you get on a pay as you go here in the US and then have a cell phone when you come back. I know that this is not the answer to your question but a different way to approach a cell phone and moving overseas dilemma.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:31 PM on May 13, 2011

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