Class Action Lawsuit Against T-Mobile for Early Termination Fees and Phone Locking Practices

From Wired:

Wireless-carrier T-Mobile USA lost a California Supreme Court bid Wednesday to kill a lawsuit challenging the company’s early-termination fees and its practice of locking down phones to work only on T-Mobile’s network.

Without comment, the high court’s seven justices declined to review two lower-court decisions that allowed the lawsuit. The case could ultimately revamp the relationship between mobile-phone carriers and their customers.

Basically, if this lawsuit is successful, it paves the way for similar lawsuits across the nation.  It could also mean the end of phone locking and early termination fees, two problems that plague the cell phone industry.  Currently, almost every phone is locked to only work with the carrier through which you buy the phone.  Unlocked phones can be found at other retailers, but come at a pretty steep cost.   This lawsuit, if successful, would require T-Mobile to release information regarding the manner in which they lock their phones, giving cell phone hackers (not a bad term) the key to easily unlock the phones to be used on any cellular network.  As a Verizon Wireless customer, I know about the early termination fee, and I think it’s highway robbery.  I shouldn’t have to be locked in to a 2 year contract just to get a decent deal on a phone.  I also know that Verizon is known for not only locking phones to their network (though they are one of the only CDMA networks still in existence in the USA, along with Alltel), but they are also known for crippling features that the phones they sell come with standard, a practice that just about all the cellular providers enjoy.  I dream of a world where phones are open and the people who own them (such as me) can do as they please with them and use them on whatever carrier we please (so long as the phone works on that network, as I obviously can’t use my CDMA phone on a GSM network).

I don’t know how many readers I have from California, never mind readers from California who also use T-Mobile, but if you are one of them, or know someone who is, you should be very interested in this lawsuit.  This is similar to, but different from, the iPhone lawsuit I mentioned previously.

And as always, I got the scoop from Slashdot.

31 thoughts on “Class Action Lawsuit Against T-Mobile for Early Termination Fees and Phone Locking Practices”

  1. Hello,

    I think the lawsuit should go forward. I was charged the fees after I UPGRADED my service and could NOT for 6 months get them to correct my bill. Everyone gave different information and no one did anything constructive. I was threatened with discontinuance of service and they cut off my phone BEFORE the bill was due and then they charged me $600.00 in early termination fees. I had the family plan with my phone and two additional lines. I was repeatedly charged as separate lines my bills ran from $159.72 to nearly $300.00 per month.
    Those people are incompetent and they LIE A LOT.

  2. I too have had a hellride with TMobile.

    After moving to an area not covered by their service carriers and having my number ping off of towers and translated into a number that was not mine (causing confusion and costing me clients).

    I was told to fax a copy of my driver’s license to clear the early termination fee. After faxing said information multiple times, I am still receiving phone calls from them, my bill remains, and they have given away then number that I have been trying to get them to transfer to my new AT&T account for the past three months.

    They are incompetent and rude.

  3. I am disturbed ith altel’s early cancelation fees also. Are these companys the same? My mothe ris having to stay with altel due to her contract. She has horrible service where she lives and is real sick and at home alone often, if she had an emergency and needed to call 911, she would be at risk due to unreliable cell service. She can only use her phone in one area in her house. Outragous! I was so surprised to hear that altel would not cancel her contract even though theier service is unreliable. The wouldn’t send her a new phone or anything! She still has a year left to pay or she has to pay unreasonable cancelation fees. What should we do? I saw a law suit in action agains altel, but I don’t know who to contact. Any sugestions?

    Amber Romeo

  4. 100% agree, T-mobile is full of shit. They should be put out of business with the way they break laws and do whatever they want.

    My service contract says if they make changes to my billing I can leave them. I call them and they can only cancel one of my phones for free the other one doesn’t use enough text messages to warrant my worry.. Is what I’m told.

    They upped the price for overage in text messages from 10Cents to 20Cents, Told me the second phone didn’t use enough texts… so I should have just gotten a no text plan and it’d be out easily… Their rude, and tell me I have to contact their legal department that has no phone number… only by mail.

    I was also told I don’t have to worry about going over in texts they can just put a text message block on the phone when it gets to 400… Oh I’m sure that works real well, anyway it’s beside the point you changed the way the deal works, and I have the right to leave..

  5. I am very suspect of T-Mobile’s service termination tactics. Whenever, I make a payment on their online system (to be deducted from my online checking account), they claim that my bank refuses the payment due to an error I made when I completed the online form. I make payments all the time with other merchants online all the time. For some reason when T-Mobile receives my payment and provides a confirmation number, it never goes through. Twice now within the past six months, my service was disconnected and I had to pay the $20.00 restoral fee because they neglected T-Mobile decided that it wasn’t worth their efforts to notify me that there was a technical glitch in the transaction. When I contacted the customer service department to see if I could verify the information that was entered, the manager indicated that there was no way to find out if there really was an input error or technical error. So, basically I have been disconnected for making a payment and also charged for making a payment. Something does not seem right here. Anyone else having this same issue?

  6. tmobile has terrible service and it is not geting better. I upgraded my phone and it seems the service is worse than before; I get nothing but dropped calls or the phone will read emergency calls only,I would love to just cancell my contract but it would cost me $400 dollars for two lines on the same account.It is a shame that I have to suffer with an unreliable cellphone for two more years just to avoid the early termination fees. There should be a law against this unfair practice on the parts of cellphone companies.When I complained to the company all they could say is its past the 2 weeks and I could purchase another phone what a nerve.

  7. Great. Phones comapnies should NOT have the right to lock a person into a plan. We as consumers pay enough money for the phone and for the service, why on earth should we have to pay for an ealry termination fee when the phone company isn’t providing what they promised.

    I am a current T-Mobile customer and was lied to from day one. Now I am working my way up to get me money back for the headache this company has caused me, the lies they have fed me, and the 100% unsatisfactory service they are great at giving out.

  8. Is this class action still on file and being processed? I can’t seem to find it’s trail. If so, what the class action number and what court … Sacramento? Just seeing if anyone has a case number i can find to follow to end result here. T-MOBLE says there is no class action suit! RIGHT! EH

  9. I am also looking for the trasil of the class action lawsuit against T-mobile. I constantly get emrgency calls only or call failed messages. I was told by T-mobile associates that I have to document the date, time, address, the number I was calling, whether it was a cell number or a lan line. Since I travel for work and I get these error messages while driving, I had to rely on my GPS for the coordinates. T- mobile is a second rate bush league phone comapany. I am sorry I ever had a crush on Catherine Zeta Jones.

  10. Yes. The lawsuit should proceed. I’ve been out of work since February 4, 2008 and tried to discontinue my service with T-Mobile.
    They told me that it would cost me $200 per my two phone/numbers or $400.00 to unload the contract.

    Talk about crooks. These guys are unreal. Here the financial markets have exploded, the world economy is busted due to the corruption and greed….T-Mobile is no better.

    Yes, let the lawsuit go forward so people are not stuck in this endless money pit without a bottom. Sue their rearends off as well for the grief they’ve caused me and millions of other who are stuck with this crap with other cell phone corporate thieves.

  11. Here’s another problem with T-Mobile. They get you in for what appears to be a stable rate but then you are charged to death with fees, even on the “My Faves” portion of the contract.

    For normal cell phone use which I was assured would be all I needed for my minimal use, my phone bill is a whopping $200.00 per month.

    T-Mobile is not only a thief but a liar as well. Carpetbaggers, all of them.

  12. To whom it may concern:
    I have spent 8 hours speaking to customer service about my account (### ### ####) and they are inviting a law suit onto the firm. Two supervisors in question are #### and #########.
    The fact of the matter is that according to Ernie T. and the conversation below my contract ended in Sept 2008 (who verified the information multiple times), but according to the “system” the client in question is wrong.
    Here’s the chat conversation and there are 3 voice conversations as well:
    “Please wait while we find an agent to assist you…
    You have been connected to Ernie T.
    Ernie T: Thank you very much for contacting T-Mobile Chat.
    My name is Ernie and I’m here to help.
    Ernie T: HI Anon.
    Ernie T: Please give me a moment while I read your concern.
    Anon: thank you
    Ernie T: As I understand it, you want to know when will your contract expire and when should you let us know that your canceling your account. And you also want to know how can you transfer your number to another carrier, right?
    Anon: yes
    Ernie T: Before we proceed with your concern kindly verify your account.
    Ernie T: I need the last 4 digits of your SSN please.
    Anon: please let me know what information you need
    Anon: ####
    Anon: thank you
    Ernie T: Thank you for that.
    Ernie T: Anon, here’s what I found out.
    Ernie T: Your contract will end on Dec. 24, 2009.
    Anon: today is dec 24th
    Ernie T: It will be on next year.
    Anon: but i did not renew today
    Anon: from what i remember before it should be sometime in september, but I want to make sure
    Ernie T: Let me check that again for you.
    Anon: (it’s important to me)
    Ernie T: I can see here that you have changed your rate plan today, is that right?
    Anon: one moment … whenever the plan is changed the contract is extended?
    Ernie T: Yes, that’s correct.
    Anon: hm…. i didn’t know that
    Anon: thank you for letting me know … and what about the other two questions
    Ernie T: Let me inform you also that, you can inform us anytime about the time you want to cancel your service.
    Anon: what would happen when i do that
    Ernie T: I am now checking on the requirements for you to transfer your number to another carrier.
    Anon: Thank You
    Ernie T: If you will cancel your service with more than 90 days remaining on your contract, you will need to pay an early termination fee.
    Anon: How much is the Termination Fee … will it be charged on my credit card (hypothetically)?
    Ernie T: If it is more than 180 days, you will need to pay $200 If your going to cancel within 91-180 days you will need to pay $100. And below 90 days will be $50.
    Ernie T: About you transferring your number to another carrier, you may need to contact that carrier first to know if your number is eligible to transfer to that carrier.
    Ernie T: Anon are you still there?
    Ernie T: Are you still there, Anon?
    Ernie T: I hope you were able to get the information I have provided. Did it come to you clearly?
    Anon: I am
    Anon: sorry
    Ernie T: Is there anything else that I can help you with?
    Anon: is there a possibility to override the plan change and return it to 1000 minutes in order to have expiration of the contract in sept
    Anon: as it was before?
    Ernie T: Let me see what I can do, kidly hold on for a while.
    Anon: Thank You Ernie
    Ernie T: Let me correct myself, your contract already ended last Sept. 6, 2008.
    Ernie T: Do you still want to cancel the rate plan change?
    Ernie T: Anon, are you still there?
    Anon: no mam
    Ernie T: Is there anything else?
    Anon: thank you for patience …one moment please
    Ernie T: Sure, no problem.
    Ernie T: Anon, are you still there?
    Ernie T: Is there anything else that I can help you with?
    Anon: thank you for your patience … just want to confirm that my plan expired on sept 6, 2008
    Ernie T: Yes, it has.
    Anon: let us leave the plan at 600 minutes.
    Anon: i trully appreciate your time
    Ernie T: YOu want to stick with the new rate plan?
    Ernie T: No roblem, I am willing to help such a valued customer like you.
    Anon: thank you for explaining everyth. to me. I actually spoke with At&T as well and they said that I don’t have to cancel service… simply walk in, pay for new phone, and they inform t mobile of cancellatio and transfer the phone number
    Anon: i just want to verify that what at&t representative said is correct
    Ernie T: I see, is there anything else?
    Anon: so what they said is correct?
    Ernie T: Yes.
    Anon: i might stay with t mobile … i am not sure…. i have to discuss it with my mother first
    Anon: thank you for explaining everyth and having my plan at 600 minutes. Thank you for your time again
    Ernie T: Your very much welcome.
    Anon: bye bye
    Your session has ended. You may now close this window.
    Ernie T: We really want to keep such a valued customer like you. ”

    Looking forward to your response.
    The client in question is in the process of contacting Pro Bono DC Law Firms to organize a class action law suit.
    Best Regards,

    [Edited by Jim to anonymize comment per request of commenter]

  13. Yeah, I tried to transfer a number to tmob, and I asked if I do this will it extend the contract on my other phone. They said you are going to have to call a second different department. Bottom line. There is no regulation. They can do whatever they f want. Criminals.

  14. Please move forward with the suite. T-Mobile needs to be put in check.

    I’ve been getting dropped calls…for about 1-2 months now. We don’t use the service much to make it an issue. And the few times we use the service, calls do get dropped. I’ve called their Customer Care several times…troubleshoot and more troubleshoot, and some network check for outages. The same shit still happens. I am too fed up. I’ve indicated that I/we (two lines) want to cancel the service. All they (CC and Tech support) seem to have the only solution to the problem: I can cancel, but I would have to pay the ETF of $400 for both lines.

    I hope the suite moves forward so they can be put in check for their shady practices. Better yet, I hope they go tits up.

  15. T-mobile is a joke. I received three cell phones with t-mobile. Went to return them within the 14-day time period (didn’t like the phone). The manager showed us another type of phone with in his words had an $80 mail in rebate-LIE. Then I was told the mail in rebate was for $50-LIE. Spoke with t-mobile for three months about the rebate; which I never received, to find out that the rebate was applied to the purchase of the phone, which I would not have taken if I knew there was no rebate. Also at the time of purchase I requested roadside assistance and was told to go to the website and do an add-on; wrong again. T-mobile no longer offer roadside assistance. Now I loss my roadside with my other cell phone company and now locked into a two year contract base on a package of lies. Something should be done to about their false contracts.

  16. I have spent more than 60 hours on the phone with the Tmonkeys in C/S. I have had only limited success getting any issues resolves.
    1. My contact list duplicates itself if I synch with their online contacts.
    2. I have been getting dropped calls for the last few months.

    I have now decided that I will continue to call and waste their time over any and every little thing I can. I know its not gonna make them go broke but hey the call is free for me and its kinda like wrestling with a pig in the mud. The dirtier he gets the more he likes it. I also realize that I am keeping a C/S from “helping” someone else, but the way I see it I am just keeping somebody else from being lied to….

  17. I wish something would happen to protect the consumer. We are all like sitting ducks. I was also lied to, and had to return a dash phone three times for overheating and then they forced me to take a blackberry that I hate. When I got the Blackberry I noticed that there was a very thin gap on the left side of the screen. I didn’t think anything of it. I thought it was a barely noticable flaw. Now it it getting bigger 4 months later. They won’t cover it. They had the nerve to tell me that I should have called right away when I noticed a problem. Shame on me for not knowing that it woulkd turn into a problem. And to make it even worse – When I called c/s I told them that I wasn’t going to bother paying Assurion for insurance anymore because it wasnt worth it. He said he would take it off. I got off the phone and went to the tmo store to show them and they said that they consider it a damaged phone so they won’t cover it, and Assurion won’t cover it because I cancelled the insurance. I was mislead by that c/s rep. He shouldhave told me that I had to file the claim with them before I cancelled the insurance coverage. I thought that since I told him about it, I would be covered. So I paid for insurance for almost a year for nothing. How unethical is that? The manager said that it’s not their problem, it’s my fault for not calling right away. Plus, I also called about constant dropped calls. I can’t wait until people are better protected. This is just a shame.

  18. If you morons Don’t want to Pay ETF’s then don’t AGREE to Pay them upon completing a 1 or 2 year service agreement. Seriously, you’re all a bunch of Little cry babies who don’t know how to manage your business. You all disgust me.

  19. I have called and called and called tmobile. Every time I have asked to speak with a supervisor I am out on hold for 20 minutes and then i get disconnected. the fees are unfair but the way that this company dodges its own screw ups is stupid. no company has the right to act like the ones who create their paychecks are nothing but a pain to deal with.

  20. My husband and i bought matching phones a couple of years ago. To make a long story short, we were charged a $400 termination fee PER phone!! that’s $800 that i DIDN’T have to spend… put me in DEBT!!
    this company is terrible…….

  21. I purchased a Home Phone with T-Mobile in Feb 2009. They told me to purchase the Hi-Port made by Linksys. They told me to connect the Hi-port directly to my DSL modem then connect my wireless router to the Hi-Port. I never had a problem with my internet router until I connected it to the T-Mobile Hi-port.

    By May of 2009, the Hi-port stopped working 4 times in 4 months. Every time it was down, I had to stay on the phone 3 to 4 hours trying to troubleshoot the Hi-Port. T-mobile could trouble shoot it, only Linksys. So, my internet was down for 3-4 hours and I time lost during those hours I was on the phone with them.

    After 4 technical support call, I was told they needed to replace the Hi-port. So they replaced it and charged me 11.95 for shipping and handling plus California tax. I received the new Hi-port in May 2009. Monday, June 29, 2009, the Hi-port was down again. It caused my husband another problem connecting to the work computer from home.

    I talked to the T-mobile supervisor, told them I want to cancel my home phone and return this unit, it has failed time and time again and they told me I have to pay $200 cancellation fee. I was never aware of the early cancellation fee. I ask them if I can avoid it. She said, they can transfer this phone number to a cell phone and I would have to buy and new phone and my monthly would be $29.95 instead of $10 per month. I asked her how long is my contract with the home phone. She told me, until 2011.

    How could I miss this one I have no idea. I asked her, where is the contract that I signed? She said, I would have agreed to it over the phone. I honestly cannot remember that they informed me with this contract over the phone.

    Let just set aside the contract, what about the product that failed to perform? Doesn’t it void the contract if there is one? I am sickened to know that I will be subjected to keep trouble-shooting this problem untill 2011. Can you believe that.

    The manager told me that if I don’t have time to trouble-shoot the issue, then, there is nothing they can do but charge me for an early termination fee if I cancel.

    When you sign up with these companies, make sure that they properly inform you with they call a contract. How can this be legal? They never sent my in writing about a 2 year contract. I had no problem with T-mobile before and I’ve been their loyal customer for 5 years. I just cannot believe the way they treated me this time.

  22. Ah, so it just isn’t me. These parasites at T-Mobile need to be brought down. From 2002 until 2008 I had service with T-Mobile. They kept quoting why I couldn’t quit.Unless I paid $200.00 termination fees per line. I suffered through 6 years of dropped calls. Of having their one of their service reps. tell me that a tower was down in a nearby area. An area that was never incorporated or on a map. So I doubt that their CS Rep made it up as her supervisor said she did. He claimed it was my phone and I could remedy the situation by purchasing a new phone and changing my contract. Simply he claimed they had no tower in any such town.It wasn’t a town but a geographical area . Only locals or the actual property owner/leasee in my area know the tower site by the name she did. Her Supervisor is a LIAR! I suffered through 6 years of my kids whom I do not live with being allowed by T-Mobile personell to buy new phones and change my service contracts . (That is a complex story)
    Finally after 6 years I just abandoned them. Now they have a law firm Mitchell Kaye of NY State hounding me. For their $600.00 termination fee. As I told him. He or they(T-Mobile) will never get a dime from me. What they didn’t count on is my wife is a Credit Card Counsellor. So I know T-Mobile and their Lackey Boy Mitchell Kaye are blowing smoke.At best they are acting like the school yard Bully.Thinking their threats and harassment work. I know how the system works. They can never collect the money on a unsecured debt. Certainly they can take me to small claims . I doubt that’ll happen.
    Yet it may and what’ll that gain them . A lien against something I own of record? Which, oh well those things are owned by a family trust. T-Mobile is a lousy provider of Phone service. They have no class as a company. So what can they do? They Lie and Bully. My recommendation is for no one to roll over to them. Don’t negotiate with them , their bill collectors or their attorney Mitchell Kaye. Eventually the costs of pursuing legal action will become too much and they will have to discontinue their policy of corporate bullying.

  23. I hate Tmobile and want to keep my cell number is ther any way of doing so, without paying a stupid $200 termination fee??

  24. I have the T-Mobile side kick lx 2009. T-Mobile has lost my data; contacts and calendar, it had been two weeks. Sense they have breached their contract in delivering reliable services. I should be able to cancel my services without penalty, and they are still trying to charge me $200.00. What a deceptive practice.

  25. we switched from verizon to tmobil because we couldnt add a phone untill the end of the contract…bad choice. tmobil has been a pain! i currently have a 400 txt plan. i check my txt usage every day when im close to the limit…when i reach my limit by the next morning my usage is over by 10+ messages…tmobil has ripped me off enough

  26. I’ve been having problems with my tmobile phone since the first day i got them. the signal drops all the time, sometimes when someone calls me on his side it is ringing but it does not ring and vice versa. i asked them why my 3g is slow, they said actually i have 4g i told them my phone does not support 4g!!! any way they said my phone is broken and faulty so they said they will send me another phone and guess what i’m having the same shit…sick of these people. another thing sometimes i have 3g on my phone sometimes edge sometimes nothing sometimes just a G i’ve had it.

  27. I agree its not fair to have to pay for early termination so time people can’t afford to pay for the phone right know people are loosing their jobs. and the only thing you can think about is to pay rent and for them to charge you for early termination is crazy. and if you do not pay it goes on your credit. so all the way around you are getting kick in the A.My biggest problem every since i got the phone i’ve bee n having problems with the phone. they send me another phone used phone that still does not work. and because of the two year contract i have to paid for a phone i can not use and T mobile state their is nothing they can do.

  28. My phone was locked down by myfamilymobile in January 2014. While waiting on a prorated bill February,they suspended my service Feb 6. As a result, I suffered not having service, myfamilymobile kept charging me when I had no service, refused to give me an itemized bill for January and February 2014, and I Iost a long time phone number that I needed to keep, but yet , this time it states this is a final bill from March 10 through March 20 for $100.04. I am tired of this HARASSMENT.

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