T-Mobile, I’d Love to Switch But Amazon Won’t Let Me: The Tale of Two ETFs


It was cyber monday, 2013, and I saw a deal that was too good to resist. After touting around my HTC One S for over a year or so, it was time for a new phone. The awesome LG G2 for Verizon popped up on my radar, for only $0.01 with a new two-year contract on Verizon. No activation fee, nada. Within a few days, I was enjoying my shiny new G2 on Verizon’s amazing 4G network. I was set, and super excited to see my Instagram game shoot up thanks to the G2′s camera.

Before I switched to Verizon, I had been a loyal T-Mobile customer for years. Their service was not so great until recently, but their pre-paid plans were amazing. In San Francisco, T-Mobile’s 4G LTE was above par, but upon a move to Portland, OR I began to have issues with T-Mobile. I wasn’t able to receive calls in my apartment, and texts would sometimes arrive late or not at all. I put up with it for a while, but once I saw the LG G2 on Verizon for next to nothing, I jumped at it.

Life was good, until John Legere announced T-Mobile’s Uncarrier 4.0 moves and I considered switching to T-Mobile. T-Mo would pay off my ETF if I switched, and give me credit if I traded in my new phone. Yes! I was in. Even though I was happy with Verizon, the $100 plus phone bill was a bit much for me. I decided to look into it.

And what I found out shocked me. If I bailed out of my new contract, I would be charged $400 from Amazon as well as the $350 ETF from Verizon. Here’s the proof, directly from Amazon:

The following are some scenarios where we may determine that you have not maintained your service and have not met the requirements listed above:

  • If your device with the carrier is not activated per Amazon’s activation instructions within 14 days
  • If your service is canceled/disconnected before 181 days and you do not return the device(s) to Amazon
  • If a new individual or new family account is merged with or replaces a pre-existing account
  • If you transfer this equipment to another carrier’s service or to another line in your family account and deactivate the line that Amazon established for your device

By accepting this Instant Discount Policy, you agree to repay $400 per smart phone or tablet and $200 per other device if you do not maintain your carrier service for 181 consecutive days from the service activation date. You also authorize us to collect that amount using any credit card we have on record for you. Amazon can periodically check your account status with the carrier to confirm your line of service is active and in good standing and thereby confirm you are in compliance with this policy.

(Click here for Amazon’s full cell phone policies)

That’s when I discovered that upon purchase of the LG G2, I agreed to allow Amazon to charge me $400 if I cancelled my contract within 180 days of activation. WTF? That’s two ETF’s…one from Amazon and one from Verizon. Looks like I’m not switching, at least for another four months or so.

Needless to say, I should have read the fine print, I know. I had no idea that Amazon would have some sort of stipulation on the purchase of the G2. But they did, and a big one at that.

So, if I hadn’t found this out and went ahead and switched to T-Mobile, Amazon would have instantly charged me $400 on the card that I purchased the device with. That would have come out of nowhere, and a hit like that isn’t cheap. I know it’s the customers responsibility to check the fine print in any deal, but this one seems more than a little shady. I hope you can feel the intensity of my stink eye, Amazon.

I may still switch to T-Mobile after my 180 days in purgatory are up, especially if the network keeps expanding their 4G coverage as intensely as they have in the last year or so. But I will undoubtedly get less for my phone, and have to pay my ridiculous Verizon bill in the meantime.

Be careful when buying from Amazon, folks. And Amazon, shame on you.

  • Ryan

    Where have you guys been? You should understand the concept of subsidized pricing, especially since you’re a mobile site.
    All 3rd party dealers have this kind of fine print. Did you wonder ahead of time why Amazon was able to sell it such an amazing price compared to Verizon’s corporate website and stores.
    Best buy, Walmart, and Target have the same ETF fine print.
    Shame on you for thinking you could walk away without paying for a device completely and being shady yourself.

    • Kessel

      Best Buy, Wal Mart, and Target do not have any ETF.

  • davidwal

    Yeah that is what happens when you buy a $600 phone for penny. Tmobile has wifi calling, but Verizon is the best with coverage. If you live in Portland I would probably stay with Verizon because it is the middle of nowhere. That is why Verizon and ATT cost so much they have expansive networks. You really need to learn how to read the fine print before going into to 2 year contract. It is going to be along time before Tmobile or even Sprint get good service in that area.

  • BookMurderer

    Or, you can return the G2 to Amazon, because you HAVE to buy a device from T-Mobile anyway to qualify for them to pay the etfs….

  • http://felgner.ch haraldf

    The amazing thing for me – from a German perspective – is, how the old fossil T-Mo managed to reinvent itself into an underdog in the US. An excellent marketing job!

  • gpt2010

    This has been around for awhile. Nothing new. Some third party sellers will have this because their commission per phone is based on how long the customer keeps the line active. I usually stay away from third party sellers like Amazon, Wirefly, and some authorized dealers with mortar stores. If you don’t buy from a corporate store, then go to Wal-Mart or Target. I am pretty sure they do not have those ridiculous stipulations.

  • anri05

    I work selling cellphones and this is nothing new some companies do a credit card validation for this. And a lot of tines the company will charge it to your cellphone bill verizon is notorious for this even if they don’t catch it right away it usually takes a couple months but they always call to make sure the equipment was returned and it it wasn’t they send you a bill in the mail.

  • Ryan5609

    I have a feeling that this kind of thing could end up screwing alot of people. I switched from VZW to T-Mo last week, traded in my phone, cancelled my contract, etc. I read this article and realized that I purchased a subsidized phone from Wirefly just last year. It was a GS4 that I purchased in May. Luckily I was past the 180 day period, otherwise I would owe Wirefly $400. But while switching to T-Mobile from VZW last week, the thought never even popped into my head. I could have been majorly screwed. Whew…Lucky me. Lesson learned. Always read your agreements.

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