Considering switching to a Verizon iPhone and wondering how to avoid an AT&T ETF?
Early termination fees are a necessary evil for most carriers. They allow the carrier to recoup some of the cost of a subsidized device if someone cancels early. It also makes the cost of switching to another carrier pretty painful. But there are a few ways to either get around an ETF or offset some of the cost to make the switch a little easier to swallow. Click through for a few suggestions.
Carriers are pretty hard up when it comes to waiving early termination fees. Especially when they know most customers are probably switching for a specific device. In this case, the Verizon iPhone 4. Back in June AT&T changed their ETF policies for smartphone users. The termination fee is not $175 any longer. It's now $325 and will drop by $10 for every month you carry service with them.
Avoiding an ETF
Watch for contract term changes. If rates go up, that typically will give you an out. Keep in mind the rate has to directly affect you. If text messaging rates go up a cent or two but you have unlimited texting, the change doesn't adversely affect you. You'd have a hard time arguing your way out.
If you've recently moved and your service is noticeably worse than what it was before, this can be a way out as well. You'll need to be able to prove the service is pretty bad. Calling and reporting dropped calls can have a huge impact on their final decision. And when you talk to a rep, always get their name and make sure they notate on your account that you were calling about poor service coverage. This also works for people whose service has went downhill. I live in a huge Centennial acquisition area and we've had sketchy service for about the past year. I've seen a few people talk their way out of an ETF because of the degradation in coverage.
Keep your cool. This is probably the most important point of all. You want the person on the other end to sympathize with you. If you have a bad attitude, odds are they probably aren't going to be too willing to help you out. Explain your situation thoroughly and with a level head. Reps are much more responsive to courteous customers than they are to those who just want to yell at them. Remember, the rep on the other line is a person too.
Offsetting the cost of an ETF
A lot of you may already have an iPhone 4 on AT&T. They sell like hotcakes on sites like Craigslist and eBay. They're worth even more if they're jailbroken and unlocked (or at least on a firmware that can be unlocked). In my area (Chicago), a 16 GB iPhone 4 is currently going for anywhere between $400-550 on Craiglist. A 32 GB that is unlocked is fetching around $650. These prices may vary given your area, but I'm almost willing to bet a mint condition iPhone 4 will fetch you at least the amount of your ETF. I always recommend meeting face to face for cash if you can. I've upgraded to the newest generation iPhone every year this way. I unlock them and fetch almost what I paid. I haven't paid for an iPhone since I purchased my first gen.
If you'd like to get rid of your entire AT&T plan, you can always use sites like CellSwapper. You basically unload your entire contract. The way it works is you list your plan and device and when someone wants it, they'll notify you. You'll go through a change of responsibility with the carrier. Keep in mind the person on the receiving end will need to pass a credit check just like you did.
Find a family member or friend who wants an iPhone 4 and doesn't mind being on AT&T. Maybe they have better service in their area than you do. This is probably the easiest way. You'll need to call AT&T and tell them you want to do a change of responsibility. They'll need to verify information for both parties, so you'll both need to be on the phone call. They simply agree to take responsibility for the rest of your contract. Once they pass a credit check and pay their deposit (if there is one), you're free from the AT&T ball and chain.
These are some of the ways that I have found to be most effective for customers. You can also find more advice and experiences with escaping ETFs on sites like the Consumerist as well. If any of you have any luck getting out of your AT&T contract, let us know how you did it!