Help! T-Mobile wants to charge a $200 cancellation fee

Question: I recently canceled my T-Mobile contract due to lack of coverage in my home neighborhood. I have tried to resolve the issue many times.

The first three or four customer support representatives told me that I was in an excellent service area and that the problem was T-Mobile’s and would be fixed within 72 hours. I called back after 72 hours and escalated the request to a manager, who told me that I was in a very low coverage area and that the only resolution to the problem would be for T-Mobile to build more towers. As you can imagine, this was very frustrating.

When I called to cancel my contract, I was assured by a customer service representative that I would not be charged the $200 early termination fee, since T-Mobile was not able to provide the coverage that they agreed to when I signed up for their service. I didn’t ask for the name or extension of the representative I spoke with who told me I wouldn’t be charged.

Now I’m being charged $200.

I called T-Mobile and asked to speak to the woman whose name was on the letter I received. I was told the person didn’t have a phone number and that I would need to continue to call the same customer support number but would most likely be unable to speak to that person.

I asked if I might be given the phone number of the corporate office so that I might seek resolution from a person with more authority to resolve this issue. I was told that there was no phone number for the corporate offices and that she could not give me an email address of anyone to contact.

Seriously? A telecommunications company can’t connect you with anyone who will help and not just read a script? Help! — Bonnie Kangas, Prairie Village, Kan.

Answer: T-Mobile shouldn’t charge you for a service it can’t provide. Even though it doesn’t explicitly say so in its contract, it’s common sense: if T-Mobile can’t deliver a service it promised, you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

(Note: I’m not a lawyer and have no expertise in contract law. But this much I do know — you didn’t get the service you signed up for, the contract isn’t worth the paper on which it’s printed.)

I’m actually troubled by the T-Mobile contract, because it tries to convince you that even if it doesn’t provide a consistent service, you’re still bound by it. It also waives your right to a jury trial and forces you to accept the ruling of an arbitrator, in case you have a dispute with it. In other words, this contract gives T-Mobile the right to do pretty much whatever it wants.

But even if its lawyers can argue that you still owe a $200 early termination fee for canceling phone service that doesn’t work, that doesn’t change the fact that a T-Mobile representative offered to waive the penalty.

The next time someone does that, get a name and extension, and ask that person to put it in writing. Had you done that, this would be an open-and-shut case.

The whole business about there not being anyone you can contact is nonsense. T-Mobile is in the communication business, and its executives can easily be found online. If your email through its website doesn’t yield results, try emailing the execs directly. They use two email naming conventions at T-Mobile: firstname.lastname@t-mobile.com and firstinitiallastname@t-mobile.com.

I contacted T-Mobile on your behalf. Unfortunately, before this could be resolved, you received another bill from T-Mobile which suggested it might take the bill to a collection agency. Rather than risk that, and without first consulting with me, you paid the cancellation fee and dropped the matter.

This was not the resolution I was hoping for and I’m very disappointed.

Update: After I wrapped up this case, I heard from T-Mobile. Here’s what it told me:

After a comprehensive review of local T-Mobile coverage in her area, we have determined that she did, in fact, have good network coverage.

T-Mobile has respectfully declined her request to waive the early termination fee associated with her account.

Should T-Mobile have charged a cancellation fee?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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