Can I cancel my iphone contract due to AT&T's wiretapping?
March 7, 2008 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way for me to cancel my iPhone contract because of the fact that AT&T has been wiretapping customers?

Basically, the monthly fees are a bit too much for me right now and I was thinking about downgrading. Can I cancel my contract with no fees because of their behavior? It seems to me that this should be legally possible.

BTW, I bought it within the first month that they were released.
posted by lukeomalley to Technology (19 answers total)
I can't see how that would work, and I don't think you'd have any legal ground to do that on.. they haven't done anything technically illegal yet, right?

You could try selling your iPhone with the contract to someone, you might have to take a bit of a loss on it though.
posted by pete0r at 11:00 AM on March 7, 2008

Considering that you signed your contract after the wiretapping was public knowledge, and given there hasn't been an outflux of customers leaving their contract, I suspect you're out of luck here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:03 AM on March 7, 2008

Sure. But they'll probably make you pay a penalty. You're free to cancel the contract for any reason, and for most of those reasons, you'll have to pony up cash for a cancellation penalty.

And which company will you switch to? IIRC, they all wiretapped us without warrants, except Quest.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on March 7, 2008

Is there a way for me to cancel my iPhone contract because of the fact on the pretense that AT&T has been wiretapping customers?

Fixed that for you.

It seems to me that this should be legally possible.

Why do you think that is? Unless you signed a different contract than I did, there is no "out clause" for "behavior you object to", and you haven't been personally harmed, so why do you think you have any recourse?
posted by mkultra at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2008

You may be able to sell the iPhone for equal to whatever cancellation charges you will incur, so you may get out in a wash.
posted by unixrat at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2008

IANAL, and I haven't read your contract, but I'm going to go with no.

I think your only possible case would rest on your ability to prove that they had wiretapped you, which I have a feeling would be impossible to conclusively prove. And even then, I don't know if that amounts to a reason to rescind a contract.

As an aside, I'm not sure that the legality of what they're doing even matters. If AT&T established a Child Porn Division and a Murdering Old Ladies division, I'm not sure it has anything to do with your ability to back out of a contract with them.
posted by fogster at 11:20 AM on March 7, 2008

Read the Consumerist. Anytime they change their pricing structure, you're in a position (that month) to cancel your service.
posted by filmgeek at 11:28 AM on March 7, 2008

The only time people have been able to get out of their contract is when the service provider changes some aspect of the agreed upon contract - like the cost of a text message or a different number of minutes provided. Unless your contract says "AT&T will not engage in wiretapping", it's highly doubtful you can just back out of the contract without penalty.
posted by meowzilla at 11:29 AM on March 7, 2008

Not sure where but there is a website where you can swap cell phone contracts.

I know someone who got out of his Sprint contract by "moving" out of there coverage area.
posted by swarkentien at 12:04 PM on March 7, 2008

First off, you're awesome. The first month, huh? I bet they'll be as impressed as I am when you tell them.

Second, how are the two even relevant? Tell them you can't afford it if that's the case. Tell them you don't like their association with warrantless wiretapping if that's the case. But the two have nothing tangible in common.

You will not be able to cancel without a penalty. None of the specified reasons are sufficient for them to cancel an agreed upon contract without a penalty.
posted by timmins at 12:13 PM on March 7, 2008

Think about it for a second. As a previous answer said, the wiretapping stuff was known before your contract started. It would be reasonable to assume that you knew it when you agreed to the contract. Breaking the contract before the end of the contract will cost them money. I'm almost certain you've got no legal argument, and I'll leave it at that.
posted by muteh at 1:02 PM on March 7, 2008

I just signed up to answer this...your welcome...$5! WTF?

I read this someware and I guess it works. I'll keep this short, one way you can get out of ANY phone contract is to "pretend move" to a desolate, unsupported area of the United States. Just tell the phone company that your moving to some crazy far off play like the boondocks of Montana or something.

The reasoning behind this is that supposedly, if a phone company can't service you in this area they cant leagaly charge you.

So...just some food for thought.
posted by CFMartin at 1:51 PM on March 7, 2008

The pretend move works. I did it, pretending ot move to Canada. I feel zero guilt about it, because it was also for the wiretapping bullshit. I now happily use my unlocked iPhone on T-Mobile (which hasn't been caught red-handed so far).

They want documentation (unless you catch a rep who decides to just take your word for it). I got a Canadian cell phone bill from a friend and did some deft Photoshopping, then faxed it to them. Done.

A few years ago, I told the same lie to Sprint, and they let me go without any documentation, so it probably depends who you get. Good luck.

BTW, the iPhone is AWESOME on T-Mobile. You only lose visual voicemail, but everything else works fine.
posted by CommonSense at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2008

The beautiful thing about the illegal wiretapping is that the courts ruled that plaintiffs needed evidence that they, specifically, were wiretapped, in order to show damages in order to have standing. Pointing to the statistical likelyhood that they were personally wiretapped was deemed insufficient to show damages. Naturally, those records are Top Secret, so Americans are SOL.

That said, if you seek to argue that AT&T violated your contract and thus can no-longer hold you to the penalties stated within that contract, then you need to read the fineprint of your contract, looking for any obligations to privacy that wiretapping would violate. Since you signed after the cover was blown, my guess is that AT&T lawyers would have re-drafted all contract boilerplate to specifically exempt any obligation or liability related to warrantless wiretaps. (In fact, if wouldn't surprise me if you signed a contract in which you specifically agreed, of your own free will, that AT&T was free to wiretap you without a warrant. But you won't know until you look.)

P.S. If you do find that kind of BS in your contract, post it online. Name and shame.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:18 PM on March 7, 2008

To the people who have "moved" outside of a service's coverage area or are considering doing so:

This is called fraud. If you're caught doing so, be prepared to face the charges. If you are going to pursue this, you need to provide proper documentation of having "moved" to the location you're stating.
posted by chan.caro at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2008

Heh heh. I love it. That's stickin' it to the man!!
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2008

>It seems to me that this should be legally possible.

If it is done under CALEA then its legal.
Also theres no real precident to get money back because the manufacturer was breaking the law. You cant return your Air Jordans because someone told you they were made by illiterate children.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:00 PM on March 7, 2008

damn dirty ape:
According to the FBI, CALEA only applies to court-ordered or other lawfully authorized wiretaps, as per united states code title 18 part I section 2516, which specifically requires a judge, which the wiretaps did not have.

The purpose of CALEA is about making it mandatory for telco's to install the necessary surveillance equipment to be able to perform wiretaps. I don't know a whole lot about it, but it doesn't look like a get-out-of-jail-free card for offering the fruits of that mandatory equipment to anyone with a badge who asks for it.

I don't think CALEA applies to warrantless wiretapping. But I don't think warrantless wiretapping applies to OPs contract either.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2008

Guess what? It's your lucky day. Looks like AT&T chose an opportune time to hike their text messaging rates, so you should be able to cancel. Trust me though, it's not going to be fun. I pulled off the same thing with Verizon, and I had to argue with them for a long time to prove that the rate increase had a "material adverse effect" for them to cancel my contract without the fee. Luckily that phrase "material adverse effect" was pretty vague and not outlined very well, so I was successfully able to argue that even $20 was "adverse" enough.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:20 AM on March 10, 2008

« Older How should I go about selling my laptop?   |   Help me find this website with a collection of odd... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.