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How to Get Out of a Cell Phone Contract without Paying a Fee

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Being locked into a cell phone contract is no fun. Here’s how to get out of a cell phone contract without paying an early termination fee.

how to get out of a cell phone contract

We recently received a question that probably every reader can relate to. The writer is asking how to get out of a cell phone contract without paying a fee:

“I would like to know how do I get out of a cell phone contract without paying the termination fee. I’m paying a high bill and I know that along right there will save me a lot of money.”

That’s an excellent question. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer. Obviously, cell phone companies will be highly resistant to waiving an early termination fee. Their whole purpose for existing is to keep you with their service forever and ever. Your task is to make a clean break, and not have to pay the fee.

There are different ways to go about that, and you may have to try more than one.

Contact the Carrier

This should always be the first step. Though it’s the least likely to be successful, you should never overlook the obvious. Also, you may need to show that you made a good faith attempt to contact the carrier before taking other steps.

Before making the call, review your original contract. Find out exactly what your rights are and under what circumstances you can terminate the service. Also get specific information about the early termination fee. It may even turn out that you don’t have a long-term contract. But you won’t know that until you review the documents that you have.

When you call, you’ll most likely speak with a customer service representative. Don’t expect to get very far with this person. If you do, fine. But customer service representatives simply are not empowered to deal with complicated situations like an early termination. They’ll probably try to convince you to stay in the current contract or to move you into one that’s even more complicated and will keep you on board longer.

You’re going to have to do your best to get past this person. Insist on speaking with the manager. That person might still take you around in circles, but it’s part of the process. If need be, speak with the manager’s boss, and keep going up the chain until you find someone who has the power to give you what you want.

Be careful that you’re firm, but not disrespectful. No matter what, stay on topic with your request: that you want to terminate your cell phone contract without paying a fee. Also, be sure to document who you spoke with, the day and time, and as many details of the conversation as you can remember. You may need to have that information available for future steps.

Get a New Carrier Involved

Your new carrier can be your best ally in helping you to gain an early termination with your current carrier. Some carriers will offer to pay the early termination fee for you. If they do, that’s your out. For example, T-Mobile and Sprint are each offering up to $650 to help you get out of your current contract arrangement.

But even if the new carrier doesn’t cover the early termination fee for you, they may still be able to help. They may know the specific parties, the clauses in the contract, or the circumstances under which you can legally terminate your current cell phone contract without paying a fee. In some cases, they may even get involved in this process for you.

The cell phone industry is extremely competitive, which can work to your advantage if you want to get out of a cell phone contract without paying a fee. Use it to your advantage.

Take to Social Media

These days, many companies monitor activity on social media. It’s a way of managing the perception of the company on the Internet. Some have people appointed to monitor social media and investigate comments regarding the company. This can make social media a valuable place to air your grievances about the company. Put out a credible-sounding complaint, and you just might get an unsolicited call from someone in the company who can help you get out of your contract.

If you do use social media, make sure that you specifically mention the company, preceded by the hashtag symbol (#). That will make sure that your message gets out to the largest number of people and be noticed by the carrier.

Just be sure that your claims are credible and supported by the facts. Never go on an uncontrolled rant and trash the company. Not only will well-worded criticism resonate with readers, but it may also motivate the company to respond to your grievance. But if you get carried away and just trash talk the company, you could be on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

File a Report with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The BBB relies on reports from consumers in calculating the ratings of various companies. Too many complaints from consumers will result in a bad rating. Most companies are deeply concerned about their BBB rating. Since your complaint will be made public, down to the details, the company will be fully aware of your criticism.

Many companies will respond to specific complaints. That’s because BBB allows those complaints to be closed if the company satisfies the consumer.

Once again, be sure that your complaints are credible and supported by the facts. Never go on a rant that would force the company to come back legally. There’s constructive criticism and legitimate complaints, and then there’s slander and libel. Be sure you know where to draw the line.

Threaten Legal Action

If you’re getting absolutely no response from the company, you may have to threaten legal action. Now if your dispute is over paying a $500 early termination fee, it almost certainly will not be worth hiring an attorney to win your case. But sometimes you can win just with the threat of legal action.

A well-worded letter from an attorney, on attorney letterhead, can often coerce a reluctant company into meeting your demands. The cost of having that letter prepared by the attorney will probably justify the fee that you will have to pay for it, in terms of what you will save on the early termination fee.

None of this is the say that getting out of a cell phone contract without paying a fee will be easy. But you may need to employ several of these strategies to make it happen.

Published or updated December 4, 2017.

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