Wash. Attorney General Exposes T-Mobile's Un-Carrier Claims

A good deal of us seem to know exactly what T-Mobile is up to despite the current "un-carrier" advertising: customers are still locked to a two-year "agreement", only it's now through financing a phone instead of committing to a wireless plan. T-Mobile has essentially become a smartphone "dealer" while offering an optional wireless service… or so we thought.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has revealed the "un-carrier" plan for what it really is, and is forcing the wireless carrier to change how it promotes its new scheme. Many customers may now qualify for a full refund, depending on when they signed on.

According to the Washington Attorney General, T-Mobile still sticks customers with an "early termination fee" despite the "no-contract" and "no restrictions" promises. Naturally the wireless carrier hasn't mentioned this in its current "un-carrier" ad campaign online, in print and on TV. However a court order signed by T-Mobile now changes that deception.

"As Attorney General, my job is to defend consumers, ensure truth in advertising, and make sure all businesses are playing by the rules," Ferguson said. "My office identified that T-Mobile was failing to disclose a critical component of their new plan to consumers, and we acted quickly to stop this practice and protect consumers across the country from harm."

From here on out and across the nation, T-Mobile must disclose that there are restrictions to the plan after all. Customers who purchase a phone using the 24-month payment plan must carry a wireless service agreement with T-Mobile for the entire 24 months, or pay the full balance owed on the phone if they cancel earlier.

"Consumers who cancel their wireless service face an unanticipated balloon payment for the phone equipment – in some cases higher than termination fees for other wireless carriers depending on how early they cancel," the Attorney General's office stated. "Instead of a 'two-year sentence' for wireless service, consumers face a different two-year 'sentence' to avoid a lump-sum balloon payment for the phone."

On Thursday T-Mobile signed an Assurance of Discontinuance that states it agrees not to misrepresent consumers' obligations under its contracts, and to not fail in fully disclosing to consumers that the balance must be paid in full if they decide to terminate wireless services early. The company must also contact consumers who purchased telephone equipment under the terms of their new business plan to advise them of their right to cancel and obtain a refund.

"All consumers who purchased T-Mobile service and equipment between March 26 and April 25, 2013, can obtain a full refund for their telephone equipment and cancel their service plans without being required to pay the remaining balance owed on their devices— as long as the customer cancels his or her service per the terms of the agreement, including returning the equipment to T-Mobile," the Attorney General's office stated.

Consumers can call T-Mobile at 1-877-746-0909 for more information or dial 611 from their T-Mobile telephones.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more.