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Posted Nov 6, 2013
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Unlock Policy Changes

My husband and I have been AT&T customers for a number of years. Eighteen months ago, he took an posting overseas, and we brought our phones with us. His job involves a great deal of international travel, so the ability to unlock our phones and use in-country SIM cards is incredibly important.

 

After dealing with a temperamental GNex for about a year, I called AT&T and asked about the unlock policy for a new S4. I was informed that the phone could generally be unlocked after 90 days use on the network, pending an account review. We'd had a Samsung Infuse unlocked previously, and this tracked with that experience. So, fed up with the GNex, I ordered the S4.

 

I received and activated the S4 during the first week of September, during a trip home (which is a story for another post). Now that I'm in the home stretch, I thought to call and discuss the issue with AT&T. I was informed that the policy had changed within the last month -- I either had to wait out my 2 year contract, or cancel my services and pay the termination fee.

 

Not amused, AT&T.

 

The customer service representative I spoke with was very helpful, and has escalated the issue for review. I am hoping for a positive resolution. The fact remains that we travel back to the US fairly frequently, but we're going to continue living overseas for at least another two years. Cancelling my services or waiting out my contract are simply not viable options for me.

 

I understand that the wireless companies lose money to those who "purchase" the subsidized phones, then take them to another network. I also understand that I had the option to pay full retail or purchase the Google Play Edition. I chose the AT&T S4 because I wanted full use of all hardware; because I had been informed of the previous unlock policy; and because I intend to maintain my AT&T account. Had I known about this policy change I would have purchased the phone outright to avoid the bull.

 

My husband and I have been AT&T customers for a number of years. Eighteen months ago, he took an posting overseas, and we brought our phones with us. His job involves a great deal of international travel, so the ability to unlock our phones and use in-country SIM cards is incredibly important.

 

After dealing with a temperamental GNex for about a year, I called AT&T and asked about the unlock policy for a new S4. I was informed that the phone could generally be unlocked after 90 days use on the network, pending an account review. We'd had a Samsung Infuse unlocked previously, and this tracked with that experience. So, fed up with the GNex, I ordered the S4.

 

I received and activated the S4 during the first week of September, during a trip home (which is a story for another post). Now that I'm in the home stretch, I thought to call and discuss the issue with AT&T. I was informed that the policy had changed within the last month -- I either had to wait out my 2 year contract, or cancel my services and pay the termination fee.

 

Not amused, AT&T.

 

The customer service representative I spoke with was very helpful, and has escalated the issue for review. I am hoping for a positive resolution. The fact remains that we travel back to the US fairly frequently, but we're going to continue living overseas for at least another two years. Cancelling my services or waiting out my contract are simply not viable options for me.

 

I understand that the wireless companies lose money to those who "purchase" the subsidized phones, then take them to another network. I also understand that I had the option to pay full retail or purchase the Google Play Edition. I chose the AT&T S4 because I wanted full use of all hardware; because I had been informed of the previous unlock policy; and because I intend to maintain my AT&T account. Had I known about this policy change I would have purchased the phone outright to avoid the bull.

 

Unlock Policy Changes

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Nov 6, 2013 11:16:04 AM
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There is no policy change. The unlocking policy has been the same since at least last March.

http://bgr.com/2013/03/08/att-cell-phone-unlocking-policy-364383/

So you should've known about it before you purchased the G4. Your only hope is to somehow prove that a customer service rep lied to you and that you didn't just misunderstand what they were saying. If you don't have any proof, they can just say it never happened.
There is no policy change. The unlocking policy has been the same since at least last March.

http://bgr.com/2013/03/08/att-cell-phone-unlocking-policy-364383/

So you should've known about it before you purchased the G4. Your only hope is to somehow prove that a customer service rep lied to you and that you didn't just misunderstand what they were saying. If you don't have any proof, they can just say it never happened.

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Nov 6, 2013 12:59:06 PM
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Thank you for the tone of your message. It certainly left me quite receptive to the information you had to share.

 

 

Prior to purchase, and then at the time of purchase, I was told by two separate CSRs that the unlock policy was set by the manufacturer, and that the phone was eligible to be unlocked after 90 days. That information was reiterated by the CSR I spoke with today, who said that the policy had been changed in the last month. If what you say is indeed the case, then I have been "misinformed" on three separate occasions concerning this policy.

Thank you for the tone of your message. It certainly left me quite receptive to the information you had to share.

 

 

Prior to purchase, and then at the time of purchase, I was told by two separate CSRs that the unlock policy was set by the manufacturer, and that the phone was eligible to be unlocked after 90 days. That information was reiterated by the CSR I spoke with today, who said that the policy had been changed in the last month. If what you say is indeed the case, then I have been "misinformed" on three separate occasions concerning this policy.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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Nov 6, 2013 1:48:50 PM
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hrhmrsbrown wrote:

Thank you for the tone of your message. It certainly left me quite receptive to the information you had to share.

 

 

Prior to purchase, and then at the time of purchase, I was told by two separate CSRs that the unlock policy was set by the manufacturer, and that the phone was eligible to be unlocked after 90 days. That information was reiterated by the CSR I spoke with today, who said that the policy had been changed in the last month. If what you say is indeed the case, then I have been "misinformed" on three separate occasions concerning this policy.


that is correct, you where mis-informed by the CSR, the accurate unlock policy is here -

 

http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB414532#fbid=Bu0QszwJeDp

 

If you paid full retail for the device you might eb able to get it unlocked by submitting the request here

 

https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/

 

The only change that was made to the policy in recent times was the fact that Iphones can now qualify.


hrhmrsbrown wrote:

Thank you for the tone of your message. It certainly left me quite receptive to the information you had to share.

 

 

Prior to purchase, and then at the time of purchase, I was told by two separate CSRs that the unlock policy was set by the manufacturer, and that the phone was eligible to be unlocked after 90 days. That information was reiterated by the CSR I spoke with today, who said that the policy had been changed in the last month. If what you say is indeed the case, then I have been "misinformed" on three separate occasions concerning this policy.


that is correct, you where mis-informed by the CSR, the accurate unlock policy is here -

 

http://www.att.com/esupport/article.jsp?sid=KB414532#fbid=Bu0QszwJeDp

 

If you paid full retail for the device you might eb able to get it unlocked by submitting the request here

 

https://www.att.com/deviceunlock/client/en_US/

 

The only change that was made to the policy in recent times was the fact that Iphones can now qualify.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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May 28, 2014 11:38:29 AM
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AT&T just advised me that their unlock policy has changed and under no circumstances (no exceptions) will they issue a courtesy unlock code. I am an AT&T customer for over 15 years, have had 7 phones unlocked as a courtesy after purchase, but according to the AT&T personel, including the supervisor (Wells), this is no longer possible. According to the new policy the phone can only be unlocked after the expiration of the contract period (2 years). Had I known this I would have shopped around--my only loyalty to AT&T was the courtesy unlocking previledge. A company that does not value loyalty, in my view, will suffer the consequences. I am suggesting that you consider this change in policy before you consider AT&T if unlocking before the expiration of your contract is important for you.

AT&T just advised me that their unlock policy has changed and under no circumstances (no exceptions) will they issue a courtesy unlock code. I am an AT&T customer for over 15 years, have had 7 phones unlocked as a courtesy after purchase, but according to the AT&T personel, including the supervisor (Wells), this is no longer possible. According to the new policy the phone can only be unlocked after the expiration of the contract period (2 years). Had I known this I would have shopped around--my only loyalty to AT&T was the courtesy unlocking previledge. A company that does not value loyalty, in my view, will suffer the consequences. I am suggesting that you consider this change in policy before you consider AT&T if unlocking before the expiration of your contract is important for you.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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May 28, 2014 11:50:55 AM
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allen1f wrote:

my only loyalty to AT&T was the courtesy unlocking previledge.

 

 

A company that does not value loyalty, 


Hmmm...something isn't adding up.


allen1f wrote:

my only loyalty to AT&T was the courtesy unlocking previledge.

 

 

A company that does not value loyalty, 


Hmmm...something isn't adding up.

*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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Aug 5, 2014 4:22:36 PM
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In practice, if not in theory, the AT&T unlock policy changed sometime in 2013. Before that AT&T used to unlock phones for international travel, and which I did about every year or two from 2002 to 2012. The new "no exceptions" policy, is exceptionally customer hostile, as in effect it requires someone to carry two phones on an international trip where use of a local SIM is desired - one for the local SIM, and the normal USA phone for apps/photos/music etc.

 

T-Mobile have an explicit written policy for international travellers that allows unlocking after a minimum of 2 monthly service payments (and 2 equipment installment plan payments). This is customer-friendly, not customer-hostile, and I'll be moving to T-Mobile when my AT&T contract expires as a result.

 

The argument that the new policy is needed to recoup subsidized phone costs makes no sense, as with early termination fees etc. liability to pay off the subsidized phone rests with the customer, whether or not there's any international travel.

 

The new policy change is clearly an attempt to discourage the use of local SIMs in the hope that people will pay international AT&T roaming charges for both voice and data. This is not only much more expensive for the AT&T customer, but much more expensive for everyone in the visited country that calls the AT&T customer, since they now need to make an international call instead of a local one.

 

So the bottom line is - if you want to use a local SIM for international travel, switch to T-Mobile.

In practice, if not in theory, the AT&T unlock policy changed sometime in 2013. Before that AT&T used to unlock phones for international travel, and which I did about every year or two from 2002 to 2012. The new "no exceptions" policy, is exceptionally customer hostile, as in effect it requires someone to carry two phones on an international trip where use of a local SIM is desired - one for the local SIM, and the normal USA phone for apps/photos/music etc.

 

T-Mobile have an explicit written policy for international travellers that allows unlocking after a minimum of 2 monthly service payments (and 2 equipment installment plan payments). This is customer-friendly, not customer-hostile, and I'll be moving to T-Mobile when my AT&T contract expires as a result.

 

The argument that the new policy is needed to recoup subsidized phone costs makes no sense, as with early termination fees etc. liability to pay off the subsidized phone rests with the customer, whether or not there's any international travel.

 

The new policy change is clearly an attempt to discourage the use of local SIMs in the hope that people will pay international AT&T roaming charges for both voice and data. This is not only much more expensive for the AT&T customer, but much more expensive for everyone in the visited country that calls the AT&T customer, since they now need to make an international call instead of a local one.

 

So the bottom line is - if you want to use a local SIM for international travel, switch to T-Mobile.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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Aug 7, 2014 5:10:01 AM
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fred8888 wrote:

In practice, if not in theory, the AT&T unlock policy changed sometime in 2013. Before that AT&T used to unlock phones for international travel, and which I did about every year or two from 2002 to 2012. The new "no exceptions" policy, is exceptionally customer hostile, as in effect it requires someone to carry two phones on an international trip where use of a local SIM is desired - one for the local SIM, and the normal USA phone for apps/photos/music etc.

 

T-Mobile have an explicit written policy for international travellers that allows unlocking after a minimum of 2 monthly service payments (and 2 equipment installment plan payments). This is customer-friendly, not customer-hostile, and I'll be moving to T-Mobile when my AT&T contract expires as a result.

 

The argument that the new policy is needed to recoup subsidized phone costs makes no sense, as with early termination fees etc. liability to pay off the subsidized phone rests with the customer, whether or not there's any international travel.

 

The new policy change is clearly an attempt to discourage the use of local SIMs in the hope that people will pay international AT&T roaming charges for both voice and data. This is not only much more expensive for the AT&T customer, but much more expensive for everyone in the visited country that calls the AT&T customer, since they now need to make an international call instead of a local one.

 

So the bottom line is - if you want to use a local SIM for international travel, switch to T-Mobile.


You could have an old phone (either from before an upgrade or purchased unlocked) unlocked to use for international travel. 


fred8888 wrote:

In practice, if not in theory, the AT&T unlock policy changed sometime in 2013. Before that AT&T used to unlock phones for international travel, and which I did about every year or two from 2002 to 2012. The new "no exceptions" policy, is exceptionally customer hostile, as in effect it requires someone to carry two phones on an international trip where use of a local SIM is desired - one for the local SIM, and the normal USA phone for apps/photos/music etc.

 

T-Mobile have an explicit written policy for international travellers that allows unlocking after a minimum of 2 monthly service payments (and 2 equipment installment plan payments). This is customer-friendly, not customer-hostile, and I'll be moving to T-Mobile when my AT&T contract expires as a result.

 

The argument that the new policy is needed to recoup subsidized phone costs makes no sense, as with early termination fees etc. liability to pay off the subsidized phone rests with the customer, whether or not there's any international travel.

 

The new policy change is clearly an attempt to discourage the use of local SIMs in the hope that people will pay international AT&T roaming charges for both voice and data. This is not only much more expensive for the AT&T customer, but much more expensive for everyone in the visited country that calls the AT&T customer, since they now need to make an international call instead of a local one.

 

So the bottom line is - if you want to use a local SIM for international travel, switch to T-Mobile.


You could have an old phone (either from before an upgrade or purchased unlocked) unlocked to use for international travel. 

*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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Aug 7, 2014 8:34:29 AM
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I'm well aware of that, which is why I said that it is now necessary for me to carry two phones on international trips. Apps I use on a regular basis cannot be used on the old phone as the latest OS version it supports is too old for the apps. So I end up using one phone when connected to cellular and another when I can connect to WiFi - an absurd situation in 2014.

 

I notice that you have deleted another post in this thread that referred to AT&T's unlocking policy as "hostile". Perhaps you think that by shooting the messenger the problem is reduced?

 

I have found that not only do I think the policy is ridiculous and customer-hostile but AT&T customer service reps do also - one made multiple attempts to escalate it but got nowhere. All other phone companies allow unlocks for international travel, and AT&T did for over a decade. Now the policy is one that their own staff acknowledge makes no sense. There are probably hundreds of posts in various forums on this topic - one "solution" is to deactivate the account for the duration of the international trip, which of course makes no sense for shorter trips.

 

At some point the smarter and more reasonable types in AT&T will gain critical mass and the policy will revert to what it was for many years. However I've no idea how long this process will take and I don't plan on remaining an AT&T customer while this plays out.

I'm well aware of that, which is why I said that it is now necessary for me to carry two phones on international trips. Apps I use on a regular basis cannot be used on the old phone as the latest OS version it supports is too old for the apps. So I end up using one phone when connected to cellular and another when I can connect to WiFi - an absurd situation in 2014.

 

I notice that you have deleted another post in this thread that referred to AT&T's unlocking policy as "hostile". Perhaps you think that by shooting the messenger the problem is reduced?

 

I have found that not only do I think the policy is ridiculous and customer-hostile but AT&T customer service reps do also - one made multiple attempts to escalate it but got nowhere. All other phone companies allow unlocks for international travel, and AT&T did for over a decade. Now the policy is one that their own staff acknowledge makes no sense. There are probably hundreds of posts in various forums on this topic - one "solution" is to deactivate the account for the duration of the international trip, which of course makes no sense for shorter trips.

 

At some point the smarter and more reasonable types in AT&T will gain critical mass and the policy will revert to what it was for many years. However I've no idea how long this process will take and I don't plan on remaining an AT&T customer while this plays out.

Re: Unlock Policy Changes

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Aug 29, 2014 7:24:36 AM
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I had the same experience a month ago after 10+ years on ATT (switched from Verizon because  ATT had GSM phones) and several courtesy unlocks for my trips abroad. This time they denied the unlock code citing the new policy, even though I had only 1 month before the contract expiration. I've decided to switch back to Verizon, where their new phones are unlocked from the box.

I had the same experience a month ago after 10+ years on ATT (switched from Verizon because  ATT had GSM phones) and several courtesy unlocks for my trips abroad. This time they denied the unlock code citing the new policy, even though I had only 1 month before the contract expiration. I've decided to switch back to Verizon, where their new phones are unlocked from the box.

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Aug 30, 2014 8:08:33 PM
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FYI -- Verizon never had any issue with me using an international SIM on my phone.  I mistakenly assumed that was a standard thing.

 

I had Verizon for 6 years.  I've been with AT&T for only 4 months and already getting burned by an arbitrary policy.

 

I wasted a couple hours tonight on the phone and on online chat beating my head against this.

 

The only answer I got was that I'd have to pay my early termination fee.  If I have to pay that fee I'm going back to Verizon the next day.

FYI -- Verizon never had any issue with me using an international SIM on my phone.  I mistakenly assumed that was a standard thing.

 

I had Verizon for 6 years.  I've been with AT&T for only 4 months and already getting burned by an arbitrary policy.

 

I wasted a couple hours tonight on the phone and on online chat beating my head against this.

 

The only answer I got was that I'd have to pay my early termination fee.  If I have to pay that fee I'm going back to Verizon the next day.

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