How to Break Your Cell-Phone, Gym, Apartment, or Car Lease Contract

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Contact the Cell Phone Carrier

If you wish to break a contract, you should call the cell phone company.  Some of the CSR’s can be sympathetic and reduce that fee.  If you get a CSR that does not budge on costs, ask to speak to a supervisor, if that fails, find their Twitter account, for example, Rogers is .  They usually have people there to assist. Remember although challenging, it pays to be calm and you will find some satisfaction in the end. 

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Resources / Links

Here are a few additional links to tools that might help you break free of your contract.

The ETF Policies of Popular Carriers:

2. Find your material detriment

We spoke to two law-men about the issue — Stephen McGlade, a solicitor at Which? Legal Services, and David Gordon, a solicitor specialising in contract law. They told us we all have the right to get out of contracts if they’re changed in a way that will cost us more. It’s all thanks to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, which governs contracts that the customer isn’t able to freely negotiate. 

That means if you use bags of data, the service you receive from T-Mobile would change, or you’d have to pay more. In the lawyering business, that’s what they call ‘material detriment’ — and that’s the key to breaking your contract under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

In this example, if you consistently use less than 500MB of data, you’d have a harder time wriggling out of your deal. But if you plan to use more data in the near future — if you’ve changed jobs or houses and you’re losing your Wi-Fi, for example — then you could still give it a go.

T-Mobile argued that the data bundle wasn’t part of the core price plan — that it was an add-on or an additional extra. But that’s a matter of interpretation. If you consider the data as part of the core service, you could argue that it’s included — especially if it was one of of the major reasons why you chose T-Mobile.

The network must also give you a month’s notice of any big changes to your contract, so make a note of when they were announced and when they come into force. If it’s less than 30 days, that’s a weapon in your quiver too.

Avoiding a cell phone ETF in practice

In our case, we had suffered through terrible coverage at home for a few years. We put up with it for so long because we were getting dirt cheap service through a pair of Sprint SERO plans. In the end, however, we decided to move on to greener pastures.

In looking at the Sprint coverage maps, I noticed that our house was outside of their coverage area, so I called to inquire about canceling. I was told by the phone rep that we could get out of our contract without the ETF. He said he’d notate our account and we could simply port our numbers elsewhere.

Fast forward about six weeks and we got hit with a $441 bill — two $200 ETFs plus a little over 10% in taxes. To make a long story short, I spend the better part of two weeks (and countless hours on the phone) getting this removed from our account.

We even had to go so far as providing proof of residence. Apparently the fact that we’ve been receiving (and paying) our bill at our current address for roughly three years wasn’t sufficient “proof” that we actually live here.

10 Tips to Getting Out of a Cell Phone Contract

1. Roam when You Talk

Many cell phone companies don’t charge roaming fees. But when you roam, it does cost the carrier more money. So set your phone’s preference to roam, and use it whenever you talk on the phone. This will cut into the cell phone company’s profits.

Better yet, use your phone while roaming during your free nights and weekend minutes to avoid using up any of your minutes. Since you’ll be costing the phone carrier money, it’s possible they’ll let you go without a fight.

2. Check for Changes to Your Contract

Any changes that were made to your contract that weren’t approved in writing by you are grounds for a voided contract. But the changes that void contracts are limited to higher prices for services.

If this applies to you, you have anywhere from 14 to 60 days to attempt to terminate your contract.

3. Use the Free Trial Period

If you are given a free trial period, be sure to use it. Knowing that the phone doesn’t live up to your needs or wants is much easier to handle before you’re locked in for 2 years. It’s better to test the product before you sign on the dotted line, if you can.

4. Complain

If you have problems with your phone, its coverage, or the carrier, complain often. Every time you call in to complain, document everything. Be sure to document the date and time you called, who you spoke to and what you discussed. These records can help you renegotiate and/or justify canceling your contract without a cancellation fee.

5. Pawn the Service Off

Find someone to take over the cell phone service. Cell phone companies allow contracts to be transferred. If you cannot find someone, several online services allow you to list your phone and contract. Maybe someone would like to take the contract off your hands.

You pay a small fee to do this, but you avoid a huge termination fee. And the person who takes the offer avoids the start up costs of a cell phone contract.

6. Fake a Death or Say the Owner of the Phone Died

How to Get Out of a Cell Phone Contract

How to Get Out of a Cell Phone Contract

Cell contracts are void if the owner of the contract dies. If you happen to go the risky route of faking a death, be prepared. Some cell phone companies ask for proof. This means providing a death certificate.

This might not work, but it’s an option, if you think you can pull it off. (We don’t seriously recommend this, as it’s fraudulent, and we’re honest people. But it’s an entertaining idea, nonetheless.)

7. Just Pay Your Bill

This will depend on what your goals are and how much you’re paying already. But to put this into perspective, say you only have 6 months left at $90 a month. That’s $540. Most termination fees aren’t more than $400. Figure out when it’s cost effective to terminate your cellphone contract, so you can terminate your contract and save money.

On the other hand, if you only have 2 months left at $90 and the termination fee is $400, you would spend more to get out. It’s better to wait in this situation.

Also, note that some companies pro-rate their termination fees. Factor this into your decision too.

8. Move

An online friend of mine suggested this works, though I’ve never tried moving to get out of a cell phone contrac. This is an extreme measure to take to get out from underneath your cell phone contract. I suppose if there is a will, there is a way. The idea behind this is to move outside the coverage area so you cannot get service. Be prepared to fight long and hard on this one. You’re not guaranteed to have coverage in many contracts and you’ll have to prove that you moved.

9. Demand to See Paperwork

If your cell phone carrier cannot produce your contract, then you’re free to go. If they do, you could always hope that you didn’t sign it, and that no one noticed it when the deal was finalized.

10. Join the Military

This is an extreme action, if you’re not planning on an Army career otherwise, but if you are joining the Armed Services, that’s a good excuse to get out of your cell phone contract.

This measure is guaranteed to work, though you might find a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan is more of an inconvenience than a bad cell phone contract. Join the army, tell your carrier that you don’t want your phone anymore, and they’ll have to honor that. Even cell phone corporations want to support the troops.

Your Turn

We’d love for this guide to be as valuable as possible for the community and anyone out there trying to extricate themselves from the clutches of their contracts. To do that, we need your help.

Here’s what you can do to get involved:

1. Ask Questions. Leave a comment below or head to our Q&A forum.

2. Share Your Experience. If you have anything to add, share it in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!

3. Tell Your Friends. Share this on Facebook or Twitter.

P.S. If you’re looking to pick up a new device with the money you saved avoiding your ETFs, we’ve got reviews on the best phones including in-depth review summaries. You can also compare rate plans here.

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