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wraywithaw303's profile



3 Messages

Saturday, December 30th, 2023 4:50 AM

20 year loyal customer ready to leave AT&T even if I have to pay $165 ETF.

TLDR:  I'm done with AT&T.   After years of extremely slow mobile data speeds, I'm leaving AT&T, even if I have to pay the $165 ETF.  Should I try to have the ETF waived via arbitration?  Or do I pay it and take AT&T to small claims court?

I have been with AT&T since 2004.  I am single, and have always had/needed only one line, and use less than 3gb of data each month.  I am on a 3gb per month rollover plan that I've had for years and was grandfathered in.

For the past five years or so, I have had ongoing problems with slow mobile data speeds, and have spent countless hours talking and chatting with customer service and the loyalty department. 

About 16 months ago, my monthly rate increased due to AT&T's desire to urge long-time customers off of grandfathered plans and on to a more profitable plan.  I called to protest the increase not only since I had been a loyal customer for years, but also because I had been experiencing painfully slow mobile data rates, which despite several complaints, had not improved. 

I'm retired, and rarely need to leave home, so my phone is almost always on wifi.  The only time I need or use mobile data is the rare occasion when I leave home, or when my wifi goes down, in which case I need my phone's hotspot for internet access.   Since both of those circumstances are very rare, I almost never need my mobile data.  But when I DO need it, it is crucial that it work properly.   The problem is, that almost every time I have needed to use my mobile data, it either operated at abysmally slow speeds, or did not work at all.

So when I called to complain about the increase in my monthly rate, I was ready to leave AT&T if they could not make things right. 

At the time I had a Samsung Galaxy S8 Active,  which I had gotten at a discount through the loyalty department two years earlier, when I was in a similar situation.

Over the course of several hours, in order to keep me as a customer, I was given a $10 per month "loyalty discount" which was in addition to any auto pay discount, or contract discount that may have been in place. (For some reason, the $10 discount only results in a $5 savings after taxes and fees.)  I was also offered a free phone if I agreed to continue as a customer for two years.  I could have chosen a top of the line phone, but my needs are basic, so I chose a Galaxy A13 5g, which was selling for about $250 at the time. 

Fast forward to today, I have contacted AT&T at least six times in the past 18 months with the same issue I have always had: painfully slow mobile data speeds.  Each time they have tried a fix, such as resetting my network connection, or asking me to go to a nearby AT&T store to get a new SIM card.  Each time, the fix worked for about a day, then my mobile data speeds would slow again.  My mobile data speeds are so slow they are measured in Kbps as opposed to Mbps.  

I was often encouraged to change my monthly plan to an unlimited plan, but I don't need an unlimited plan, and the cheapest one cost $15 more per month than my current plan.  There are also two rarely mentioned plans, both for $55 per month, which is still more than my current plan.  One offers 5g speeds, but no hotspot.  The other offers a hotspot, but no 5g speeds.  

I'm convinced that since I refuse to leave my grandfathered 3gb/mo rollover plan, that my mobile data speeds are being throttled.  I believe the only way I can get anything faster than 2g speeds is to agree to a plan with 5g speeds. I have asked numerous times for a $50/mo plan (which is my current monthly rate) that has 5g speeds AND a hotspot.  But AT&T has refused.  

So I have decided to leave AT&T after 20 years as a loyal customer who always pays on time.  My only issue is that since I'm only 16 months into my 24 month commitment, I am being charged $165 Early Termination Fee.  That's almost twice what my phone is currently worth.  In other words,  if I had financed and payed for my phone myself, instead of committing to two years and getting a "free" phone, I would have been much better off financially.   So much for valuing customer loyalty!

If I can avoid paying the $165 ETF, that would be the best option.  But if I can't avoid the $165 ETF, I will pay it, because I am DONE with AT&T.   I just need to know if I should start with arbitration in hopes of getting the ETF waived,  or should I just pay the $165 and take AT&T to small claims court?

ACE - Expert


16.5K Messages

6 months ago

Is it actually an ETF?  Or is it 8 more $20.62 payments on a 2-year phone plan? 

I ask because I didn't think they were doing contracts anymore, and that's usually how you get ETFs.

If it's payments for a phone, it's like you bought it on a no-interest credit card, it isn't a penalty, it's the payments you agreed to pay, and you'll still have your phone when you leave (I wouldn't try to argue that option).

LOGICALLY: Instead of leaving and getting the ETF, it might make more sense to try the phone plan they recommend for $15 more. If it works, then the cellular problem is solved and you can still leave in 8 months. You'd be out less money and it might work, if it doesn't, you can leave and worry about the $165.

ACE - Expert


32.5K Messages

6 months ago

Your 20 years "loyalty" doesn't mean they waive valid charges. You choose to leave before a phone installment/promotion is over then you pay the consequences of that choice accordingly.

There is never a guarantee of always having excellent service. Many factors affect what you actually experience. As for what options are available, that is up to them as a business. There is no obligation they provide you different options at your requested price point. It is up to each of us as consumers to go with the provider and device that best suits us.

Being single and paying bill on time doesn't change how a service works. And they don't build individual plans on request. So it is not that they have refused the plan you want, it just isn't something available.


ACE - Sage


118.3K Messages

6 months ago

So you pay off the early termination fee.

What is the S8 worth to a different service provider as a trade-in on a new phone? 

  What are the credit to switch offers by other carriers?

I suspect you can get a new top of the line Galaxy with $800 in credits by switching to either Verizon or T-Mobile.  Read their websites for offers 

Being unhappy with data speed is not a reason to get out of your contract. Connectivity is never guaranteed. Data speed is absolutely never guaranteed.  And it's on us to switch if not happy with service.

It's a choice you could have made 16 months ago before you got into a contract with AT&T.    

So quit complaining and look at the offers.  They may not even require a trade-in to get a good deal on a new phone with a different service provider. 165 is not a big buyout

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