cell contract

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Well, well, well. They folded.

About 5 weeks ago I got this 3-page note from my New York State Attorney General:

(original diatribe here, legal documents here, and follow-up here)

And I must say… As a very, very anti-government guy (to a point) I was a little torn with using this State “service” to do my dirty work. But the fact of the matter was that TMobile essentially dared me to hire a lawyer. And a lawyer is a lot more expensive than their get-out-of-contract fee of $300+. And, well, I pay taxes. So it sortof made sense.

And again, the main (and very specific) reason I decided to involve the New York State Attorney General is to answer the question:

“if they can’t produce a copy of a SIGNED contract, is it TRUE they can only hold me to 1-year?” –a tactic listed on just about every “Get Out Of That Pesky Cellphone Contract!” webpost.

And that answer is… well, I still don’t know. Because even though TMobile quickly relinquished it’s dominion over me, and mine (even though they tried to enforce the “handset upgrade” which they had promised me wouldn’t extend my contract), it’s still NOT clear whether it was because:

a) they couldn’t produce the signed contract, or…

b) simply because I had Big Brother as my bodyguard.

The reason this update has taken 5 weeks is when I initially received the good news I immediately wrote my SAG back, asking them to clarify the main point (that pesky signed contract thing).

And only yesterday they called me back, and said: “Sorry, but we don’t provide legal advice”.


(Apparently they only provide tax-payer-funded bullying services).

Oh well.

I can’t say I’m totally disappointed. I did manage to wiggle out of TMobile’s clutches, and I’m happily on AT&T with my awesome new iPhone 3G (review forthcoming).

But the question still remains: does this “signed contract” argument hold any water?

In lieu of hiring a lawyer, I’m putting the question right back out there, into teh internets, into the ether…

Well, does it?


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And they’re taking the case!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the situation (long-winded spew here), I essentially asked my NYAG to see if the ‘ol Get-Out-of-Your-Cell-Contract “net legend” -where if you don’t have a WRITTEN contract, you’re only liable for ONE year-… was bullshit or not. Apparently not. Or maybe. Whatever.

Proof, here:

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It just occurred to me that some of you might want to see the “legal forms” I filled out concerning my challenge of Tmobile, and their evil insistence.

Of course, some of you would rather see a snuff film than legal documents. And that’s okay. You don’t have to partake. However, it is just 2 simple pages… frankly, a surprise coming from Government. Enjoy.


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I hate T-Mobile with every bone in my adonis-like body.

And I recently tested the technique detailed here (wikihow, among other places) which says, essentially, that if the Cell Provider CAN’T produce a SIGNED contract… then they can only hold you to 1 year, the maximum for a verbal, legal contract.

A quick back story:

In November ’06 I switched to T-Mobile from AT&T (who I liked) because my company had a nice discount with them.

Last year, I started my own business, and for the first time in my entire life, I went over my allotted minutes. Way, way over.

Shocked and freightened at the prospect of paying several hundred dollars in overages, I called them to see if they could help me out at all.

And for all their hip jibber-jabber “Oh… TOTALLY… BUMMER… I would be upset too… WOW… yeah, that SUCKS… ” they apparently have “no process” for protecting their customers from overages. Even if it’s due to a life-change, or other “understandable” event.

And, of course, they charge, like, $2 per minute above your ceiling. Which is pretty nasty.

Now, it’s not like I expected them to excuse the charges. Not at all. After all, I did go over my minutes. But because it was such a sudden, and insane increase, I was frankly expecting them to do a *little* bit, to help a good, loyal customer ease the pain.

But no.

And everything I tried, begging, pleading, talking to supervisors, et all… still no.

So I asked them to set me up on a plan “where this would never happen again”. And, after some hemming and hawing, I did. And it worked for a few months… until last month. And then BAM!

Another $400+ overage.


Of course, I’m an idiot, I guess. Because I can’t rightly keep track of every due date and every level of minutes, and dollars of all my stuff. At a certain point I just need to be able to not worry about this stuff… past a certain level of involvement.

So I called them to see what went wrong. And apparently, my new big client wasn’t on T-Mobile (I pay extra each month for “free T-Mobile 2 T-Mobile” service), and I’d logged an un-Godly amount of minutes with him.

And once again, I asked if there was any way they could lesson the pain for a loyal, on-time-paying customer… and they said, simply, I was SOL.

So I asked them if there was any mechanism for them (or me) to notifiy me (myself) if I was approaching my minutes limit. And, not surprisingly, there is none (although Verizon actually gives you a courtesy call, and offers to switch your plan for that month… must be nice).

So, I said, you know what…? Enough is enough. I want out. And they said “fine, that will be $300+ for terminating your contract”… and I said “Oh snap! …I never SIGNED a contract!” (which is 10000% true, I did everything over the phone).

And here’s the crux of this post (finally): from all the “get out of your cell contract” info on teh internets, there’s always the passage that states “ask them to produce a copy of your signed contract… if they can’t, then you don’t have to pay an early termination fee.”

Sounds pretty simple.. and that’s why, in late January, I put in an ‘order’ for a copy of my signed contract. Just in case. And to this day, they have not found it. Although I did get a call from their legal department, stating they “were still looking for it”.

So I called back, and pointed out this fact to a supervisor, and while he neither confirmed nor denied that “rule” he said quite matter-of-factly “if you cancel your contract before November you owe us $300+ … if you feel you don’t have to pay it, you’ll need to get a lawyer.”


So I did the next best thing. I called my State Attorney General here in New York. And they sent me a form to fill out, and send in.
Essentially, I asked them for 2 things: 1) if this “can’t produce contract, can’t enforce contract” information is true or not, and 2) if it is… help me get the Hell out of this thing!

I’ve shared this information with one of my favorite consumer sites consumerist.com, which is one of the original sources of my “information”. So… we’ll see, I guess. There had to be a guinea pig for this little “trick”, and it just so happens to be me.

I mailed it yesterday (05/28/09) and when I get a response, I’ll update this post.

And for everyone out there who’s in the Hell I’m in… drink copious amounts of alcohol to numb the pain.

That’s all I can offer for now.


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