I switched to T-Mobile last October from AT&T. I traded in my phones to get their equipment and was told by the T Mobile rep that they would pay my early termination fee with AT&T.

They never did, and by the time I found out, the AT&T account had gone into collections. We were in the process of trying to buy a house, and this hit to my husband’s credit has stopped us from being able to do so.

I went to the local T Mobile store several times trying to get this straightened out. They tell me a different story every time. All I would like is someone to help me get this fixed. Can you please help?


- Brenna Garcia, Fort Worth, Texas


Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

Dear BRENNA:

Everyone hates early termination fees. So it’s easy to see why you’d jump at the chance to have another company pick that up for you. Paying consumers to switch is one of T-Mobile’s big marketing moves. But it turns out it’s not as simple as the slogan. T-Mobile doesn’t pay your original provider; rather you pay the ETF yourself and T-Mobile pays you back. (Check out the FAQs HERE.)

You told us that after you complained to T-Mobile about the confusion, they promised to give you a Visa gift card to reimburse you for the fee you owed to AT&T -- but you never got that gift card in the mail.

We contacted T-Mobile and asked them to look into this. They ended up crediting your T-Mobile account with $164, the amount that would have been on the Visa gift card you never received.

And yes, $164 is a weird number, so we asked about that, too.

T-Mobile told us that at the time you switched carriers, you were eligible for a refund equivalent to your early termination fee with AT&T, or $125. But starting in March, T-Mobile launched a new reimbursement offer, in which they pay off equipment fees that were with another carrier. They decided to give you that equipment benefit, too, even though it had started after you had already switched. They said you owed $189 toward your old phone and when you traded it in you got a $150 credit. That left $39 in an equipment credit that they added to the $125 ETF reimbursement, so you got $164 back.

And if your head is spinning after that all that math, rest assured -- you are not alone.

The $164 bill credit and the $150 credit for the traded-in phone is the good news.

The bad news is T-Mobile can’t fix the credit report ding because it was AT&T that put it into collections, not them. Our advice for you is to write to AT&T and the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), and explain to them what happened and ask them to remove the collections entry. If they won’t do that, you can ask the credit bureaus to include a letter in your file in which you explain what happened. That way, any lender that accesses your file will be able to see your side of the story.

This is a chance to remind everyone to get their free credit report every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com to check it for errors. If you find something that’s wrong, dispute it by writing a letter asking for an investigation. Include a copy of your credit report with the errors circled and provide documentation. HERE's a sample dispute letter.

For more tips on credit reports, CLICK HERE.

Connect with Us
Social Tools Facebook Twitter Twitter Connect with Us YouTube RSS
Stephanie Zimmermann

Most people groan at the thought of spending hours on the phone with a customer service call center, but Stephanie Zimmermann relishes the chance to slice through red tape.

Before joining ABC News, Stephanie untangled consumer problems at the Chicago Sun-Times, where her popular column recovered more than $1.4 million in refunds, credits, and merchandise for consumers in the Windy City.

Stephanie, who lives in Chicago, has also worked at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and has bachelor's and master's degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. But most of all, Stephanie is a consumer who hates to see anyone else get ripped off.