Ditching your mobile contract when cell service drops off

For one T-Mobile customer, relocating to a no-service area should not mean having to honor a cellular contract

Gripe Line reader Scott was a happy customer of T-Mobile cell service -- until he moved from Utah to Wisconsin.

"In my area here, service is a problem," he writes. "Calls drop frequently, are often poor call-quality. Many areas have no service, and people have told us that they've called us but our phones don't register receiving their calls."

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This makes for an unreliable phone service experience, especially because the problems occur frequently in Scott's home and place of business, as well as in the surrounding area.

"I've tried working with T-Mobile," Scott reports. "And the company has replaced the SIM card in our phones, reset the cell towers our phones use, and sent technicians to check the towers. But nothing has helped."

According to T-Mobile's usage maps, Scott should be getting great service -- but he isn't and he wants out of his service contract, though he has 12 months to go. Nonetheless, a phone that doesn't ring or place calls a large percentage of the time is not the service he signed up for.

"One of the reasons we have cell phones is to be able to contact someone in an emergency. This would be impossible in some areas we frequent because of the poor service," Scott writes. He's also sure the problem is not with his phones or home because he has seen people from his immediate area complaining about the lack of service in T-Mobile's online forums.

When Scott broached the topic of being let out of his contract early since he isn't receiving the service he signed up for, he got nowhere.

"The representative I talked to hardly seemed to even consider me canceling my contract," says Scott. "He told me I could find someone willing to buy out our contract or sign a new two-year contract and get new phones with Wi-Fi calling ability so that we could get better service at home."

This suggestion used up Scott's patience. It's perhaps true that a Wi-Fi phone would improve his service while he was at home, but he signed up for cell service, not Wi-Fi phone service. Also, a Wi-Fi phone service such as Skype can be had at a tiny fraction of the cost of a cell plan. The point of a cell phone is that you can use them for making calls from anywhere. "And trying to get me to sign new contract when I was calling to try and get out of my current contract made it seem like the representative hadn't even listened to why I had called," he says.

I contacted T-Mobile on Scott's behalf, and it seems that the technician he spoke to was indeed perhaps not listening very carefully. The official comment I received in response to Scott's complaint confirms that T-Mobile agrees with his assessment that if he is not getting the service he paid for, he should be allowed to leave.

"If a customer purchases phone service and resides in a no-service area, he can return the phone to the place of purchase within their buyer's remorse period for a full refund and cancellation of the account with no early cancellation fee," a spokesperson told me. "Also, if a customer relocates to an area where service is no longer offered and can provide T-Mobile with confirmation of the new location, T-Mobile will waive the early termination fee if no service is found in their area."

These issues are handled on a case-by-case basis, though, and it sounds like Scott simply hit a wall with the technician he spoke to. T-Mobile tells me it has resolved Scott's situation to his satisfaction.

Got gripes or questions? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "Ditching your mobile contract when cell service drops off," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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