T-Mobile has posted an update to their terms and conditions on their website. There’s good news and then some bad news.
As T-Mobile expands its portfolio with products like home internet (even offering fiber in some areas), ensuring the T&C’s impacting those products are accurate is a good thing. T-Mobile also claims the document is easier to navigate, so to the average consumer this is a welcomed change. Finally, T-Mobile ensures that quality of service, bill payment methods, and plan features are not impacted.
There are certain aspects of these changes, however, that warrant a deeper look at their implications. That’s where the bad news starts to hit.
How You Pay Won’t Change, But How T-Mobile Charges You Will
How you pay T-Mobile for your service has been a topic of conversation that continues to draw negative attention. Most notably, a recent policy change that retail stores charge a $5 fee (plus tax) for paying your bill there. There was also an increase in late fees.
In the new terms and conditions update, T-Mobile clarifies that “you may still incur charges while an account or service is suspended.” Consider that you can’t use your services due to a non-payment suspension. Well, now, your billing cycle may still rumble along incurring more charges in its suspended state.
This needs some careful examination, so here are a few quotes from the full terms and conditions that discuss suspended service:
“Your account may still accrue charges even if the Service is suspended. You are responsible for any charges that are incurred while your Service or account is suspended.“
“You agree to pay all Charges we assess and bill you, including charges covering periods where your Service is suspended for non-payment, or Charges that were accepted or processed through all Devices and/or Products on your account, including while your service is suspended.“
“If your account is unpaid or otherwise not in good standing, your service may be reduced, suspended, or terminated. Charges may not be prorated while your Service is suspended.“
“If you port your number to another carrier, your Service will be deactivated immediately once the number is ported, though you will still be charged for a full billing cycle.“
The word ‘may’ does a lot of heavy lifting here. On the surface, you might think there are special conditions that might make this not sound so bad. That is unfortunately not the case. T-Mobile isn’t so friendly with the messaging to employees explaining exactly what this means.
T-Mobile Tells Employees Charges Continue During Suspensions
In an exclusive screenshot obtained by The Mobile Report, an internal document outlines what employees can expect with this change. Starting July 19th, customers will be charged during non-payment suspensions. There’s no room for interpretation here. Employees are told up front that charges are not prorated, and will not be credited.
What T-Mobile has outlined as a simple language change to terms and conditions actually had sneaky ulterior motives. The document spends no time justifying the change, leaving employees to clean up the mess and deal with irate customers, just like they’ve had to do with the new $5 in-store bill pay fee.
It’s obvious whoever wrote this policy doesn’t handle customers daily. Discussing how to avoid a payment support fee or outlining payment methods misses the point. Employees are told to simply follow escalation handling process, likely passing the buck to a supervisor who will stand just as firm.
Why on earth is T-Mobile making customers pay for services that will not be rendered? Suspended service is unusable, so why should anyone be liable to pay for an account that’s essentially disabled? These customers are likely already behind on their bills, so this only drives the debt deeper into a more unsustainable place.
AT&T appears to be the only other “big three” carrier to do this. According to documentation on their website, “Monthly plan fees continue even while service is suspended.” Verizon does not, surprisingly, appear to charge customers during suspended service.
It’s another example of how T-Mobile’s tune has changed since the merger. At least they’re being far less subtle about what the customer has become to them. A revenue generating body they can drive as deep into the ground as necessary.
Some Interesting Language Regarding Disputes
Things also get a little interesting when T-Mobile discusses changes with liability regarding third parties in the new terms. The update makes clear T-Mobile is “not responsible for any… …information, goods, or services provided by third parties.” This could be a precaution to clarify liability with third parties T-Mobile does business with. Netflix most notably is changing their plan offerings which could have had an impact on T-Mobile customers. However, T-Mobile stated that is not the case.
The way this is written can be expanded upon, however, and it raises questions about how customers can dispute other potential problems. In the full terms and conditions, it still states that customers have the right to dispute billed charges, services, and devices provided to them by an authorized retailer. But hang on, because having the right and your leverage in a dispute are two different things. Returning to that quote above, T-Mobile is also making a statement about who you do business with when obtaining T-Mobile products or services.
Is your main T-Mobile store a national retailer or an authorized retailer? These are also considered “third-party” retailers, so you might be limited in your ability to get help from T-Mobile should things go south there. This includes any plan misinformation and devices you purchase at these locations.
As stated, T-Mobile says you have a right to the disputes process, but has made clear they are not liable. They can walk away from the dispute with zero repercussion. Better watch where you shop, because if that retailer isn’t going to help, you can’t assume T-Mobile will have your back either.
That being said, we here at The Mobile Report are not lawyers, so we might not be fully interpreting everything here exactly right.
In The End
Want to pay your bill in-store? That’ll be $5 plus tax.
Want to use a credit card for autopay? Bye bye autopay discount.
Got a late fee? 5% of your Monthly Recurring Charge or $7, whatever is greater.
Get shut off due to non-payment? Well, the billing cycle will continue, charging you even more.
Have a dispute over a promise a T-Mobile authorized retailer made about their service? T-Mobile says take it up with that business. They’ll hear it, but they aren’t liable to do anything about it anymore.
Does T-Mobile deserve a “get out of jail free card” for third parties who support or represent their products? What is your take on the legality of charging for services not rendered? Let us know your thoughts below.