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CBS 5 Advocate

Bad cell service? New phone may not be the answer


A Mesa woman says T-Mobile held her to a contract even though her phone got no reception, and when she finally went with another carrier, they hit her with a $700 bill.

This case is a good illustration of how to deal with your cell provider and bad reception.

If you want to switch carriers, just bring a friend who has the service you want to your house, to make sure you get good reception on the network. If you do, then make the switch.

However, it's a little trickier if you want to stay with your existing carrier and your older model phone just isn't getting good reception any longer.

"Never really had a problem getting ahold of people when I needed to," Debbie Newell said.

For years, Newell had great cell service at her home on her T-Mobile phone, then all of a sudden it went bad. She says a T-Mobile store rep suggested a new phone.

"I used it on the way home, it worked great, but as soon as I got into my home, tried to make a call, same problem," Newell said.

The new phone came with a new two-year contract. Newell says T-Mobile assured her she could return it within 14 days and cancel the agreement, if the service didn't improve. The reception never did improve, so Newell signed up with Verizon and returned the phone to the T-Mobile store.

"He handed my paperwork, stating I shouldn't have any more problems, that everything was taken care of," Newell said.

About a month later, Newell says T-Mobile sent her a bill for almost $750. They were charging her the full price for the phone and a hefty early contract termination fee.

"Each time that I called, they'd say 'I can get some of this off of there, but I can't get all of it,'" Newell said.

The bill is now down to about $400 and it's been sent to a collection agency. Newell says the next time she wants to try a new phone, she won't commit to a contract until she knows it works.

"I'll make sure they gave me something in writing stating it was OK to bring the phone back within a certain amount of time," Newell said.

T-Mobile customers no longer need to worry about this specific situation anymore because the company has since done away with service contracts. Most other major carriers still have two-year contract requirements on many phone purchases. If you're with one of these providers, don't port your number to the new carrier until you've confirmed the old carrier's agreement is canceled.

As for Newell, T-Mobile told CBS 5 News that there was an error on their part when processing the return of the phone. T-Mobile wiped out every penny of the charges and removed the Newell's account from collections.

CBS 5 News wishes to thank T-Mobile for recognizing the error and resolving the matter so quickly after we brought it to their attention.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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