I came across this question on quora recently: “How do I get out of my Verizon contract without paying a termination fee?”
In reading the responses other users had written, I realized that folks were still relying on outdated methods for staying apprised of opportunities to get out of cell phone contracts.
One respondent was Danielle Bourgeois (@daniesq):
You entered into a contract with Verizon. The only way that I know to break a contract with a carrier is if they are in breach of the contract; most commonly this happens because they change the terms. (Rate hikes, etc.) Mobile news and carrier blogs are good sources because they usually point out when a contract change is significant enough to break a contract (VZbuzz featured a How-To article the last time Verizon changed their fees http://www.vzbuzz.com/201
1/06/ho…. Also, The Consumerist covered the fee change as well.)
Danielle is right. If your carrier makes an important change (to price, plan, or terms) that would reasonably affect your decision-making, then you have the right to object to the change and leave with no ETF. The contract jargon carriers use is “materially adverse,” but that’s simply another way of saying the same thing.
Danielle is also correct that you can often find news of such changes on blogs and news sites. We as consumers are indebted to journalists and bloggers like Phillip Dampier (@phillipdampier), for example, who blow the whistle about carriers’ unilateral changes; because we need to know what’s happening with our money behind carrier’s closed doors.
But as a daily exercise, blog-surfing to find news of a change is in an inefficient use of time. A more efficient way to stay apprised of actionable changes is to use a free monitoring service like the CellBreaker Break Alert, perhaps even in conjunction with regular visits to your favorite blogs. You simply tell CellBreaker your email address and carrier, and they’ll notify you the moment your carrier makes an actionable change. Again, it’s totally free, and you never have to wonder if you’re missing something.
This is also superior to the daily blog-surfing approach because of the brief window of opportunity the contract gives you for objecting. For example, if the contract allows you to object and leave ETF-free for only thirty days after the change, you could only hope that you’d stumble across the blog early enough in that thirty-day period that you still have time left to object and leave. Chances are, by relying only on the daily blog-surfing approach, you’d probably miss more opportunities than you’d catch.