The T-Mobile unlock lie

  • 15 August 2023
  • 22 replies
  • 2701 views

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Here is my story as of 8/15/23:

 

I’m a T-Mobile prepaid customer for several years and was happy with the company so far.

I lost my phone on 7/15/23 (ouch) and bought a new Motorola razr+ from T-Mobile on 7/16/23 for $999. Since I knew that I will be abroad for several months, it was important to me that I can also use the phone with a non T-Mobile operator. Thus at the shop the salesperson and me carefully read T-Mobile’s “Unlock your mobile device” page (https://www.t-mobile.com/responsibility/consumer-info/policies/sim-unlock-policy).

 

It says:

  • If the device was activated less than 365 days ago, then the Prepaid account associated with the device must have had more than $100 in refills during that period for each line active on the account.  In addition, more than 14 days must have passed since the device was purchased.

I refilled my account with two payments ($100 and $20), left the US on 28/7/23 and expected to unlock my device 14 days after purchase.

 

Which didn’t work.

 

After hours with T-Mobile customer care, my understanding is that the “We're committed to providing you with clear information about unlocking your mobile device.” (cited from the aforementioned web page) is not clear enough for the team who implemented the unlocking system. As far as I can tell, unlocking is based on days active on the network and has nothing to do with the date of purchase of the device whatsoever.

 

Hence the last sentence should read as “In addition, the device must be active for more than 14 days on the T-Mobile network” instead of “In addition, more than 14 days must have passed since the device was purchased.”

 

“Purchased” vs. “activated” - why does it matter you may ask? Well, it does in my case. I’m abroad (not on the T-Mobile network) and won’t return to the US for several months. I can’t unlock my $999 phone and most likely must buy a second phone to use here. Needless to say that I wouldn’t have bought the phone in the first place if T-Mobile would have been honest about their unlocking policy.

 

Thank you, T-Mobile for lying to me and all the time, material and money wasted.


22 replies

Userlevel 7
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The Motorola Razr+ is a great phone. I have one myself and it has been great to travel with because it folds small enough to fit securely in my pocket, so I don’t have to worry about it falling out and getting lost. Unlocking devices nowadays is supposed to be super easy because the whole thing is automated. That means you should not have to have anyone approve the unlock once it is eligible. I saw your other post that provided some screenshots of your purchase and account payments. I removed the post because it did show your account number and this is a public site so we want to keep that stuff under wraps. When you meet the unlock eligibility requirements, you can go directly to Settings and tap on About Phone. There is an option there that says Device lock. When you tap on that it does an automatic check and shows the current lock status and whether or not you met the requirements. You will want to make sure your T-Mobile SIM is install or eSIM is activated and connect to Wi-Fi. Have you gone to that screen on your phone? What information does it say there? That information is going to be the best indicator for what steps come next for getting your device fully unlocked. 

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Thanks for your reply. I’m aware of the settings page to unlock the device. The issue is that T-Mobile did not implement the eligibility requirements the way they are stated on the web page. That’s why I call it a “lie”. For whatever technical reason, the 14 day period (since the purchase, as stated on the page) is implemented as the device being active on the network for 14 days. In most cases that’s the same, since most users will use their phone after the purchase on the T-Mobile network. However, in my case, I left the US within the 14 days. While I fulfill the requirements regarding the purchase (as stated on the web page), it seems that T-Mobile can’t unlock my device because it was not active for 14 days (only 12 days I’ve been told by customer service). I would appreciate if they can come up with a creative solution (e.g. add more temporary unlocks) until I’m back in the US (and on their network, I keep paying my bills). or simply unlock my device. The page suggests that they can make exceptions (as under “Military and other exceptions”).

Userlevel 7
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You still have to meet the on network usage requirements as outlined in T-Mobile’s SIM Unlock Policy.  In a lot of cases, your device must be connected to the T-Mobile USA network to process the SIM unlock when you meet the requirements.  

Unlock eligibility for mobile devices on Prepaid plans

  • At least  365 days  must have passed since the device was activated on the T Mobile network.
  • If the device was activated less than 365 days ago, then the   Prepaid account associated with the device must have had more than $100 in refills during that period for each line active on the account.  In   addition, more than 14 days must have passed since the device was purchased.
  • No more than 2 mobile device unlocks have been complete per line of service in the last 12 months.
  • T‑Mobile may request proof of purchase or additional information in its discretion and certain other exceptions may apply.

SIM Unlock Policy | Unlock Your Mobile Wireless Device | T-Mobile

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As mentioned in my post, the requirements stated are not the ones implemented in the (unlocking) system:

  • If the device was activated less than 365 days ago, then the   Prepaid account associated with the device must have had more than $100 in refills during that period for each line active on the account.  In   addition, more than 14 days must have passed since the device was purchased.

The bold part is wrong. According to customer support, the system requires the device to be active for more than 14 days. Hence they should either fix their system (take into account the purchase date instead of number of days active) or change their web page (probably easier for them to do). The requirements as stated on the web page are simply not true. 

 

BTW, temporary unlock works from abroad. It’s really an issue with their system counting the wrong days.

Userlevel 7
Badge +15

The way I read that.  It seems pretty clear.  Condition one and two as well as the rest of them are cumulative, not independent.  In the first point, it mentioned the device must be activated, which implies use.  Also, the first full day the device is used on the network is the first day.  Not half a day or whatever to the next half a day.  

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The device was activated on 7/17/2023. The device was active (I made and received calls with T-Mobile, sent and received text messages) for 12 days (confirmed by customer support). So the first condition (If the device was activated less than 365 days ago) is fulfilled.

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Device purchase:

Refill:

A few days of call / message log:

 

I really can’t see which requirement I’m not fulfilling. I’m still convinced that their unlocking system is not implemented according to the terms stated on the web page.

Userlevel 7
Badge +13

From the screenshots you shared and the information from the terms, it does seem like the device is eligible for unlocking. You mentioned that you are familiar with the unlocking screen in the settings. Can you share a screenshot of the unlocking screen when you attempt to unlock the device in settings? That is going to give us a giant clue to what link in the chain is missing. 

Thanks!

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Here we go:

 

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According to T-Mobile support, there is nothing wrong with the refills. It’s all about the number of days active.

Userlevel 7
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it says or...not that both are needed for it to be unlocked. couldnt enlarge your pic showing whats been spent so far but from what i could see it didnt look like its been refilled for $100 worth yet.

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Here are the refills of $100 on 7/19/23 and $20 on 7/24 /23 enlarged. Purchase and activation of device was on 7/17/23 (see one of the above screenshots):

 

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The story continues. I added another $100 in refill and the phone still remains locked. Another round with customer support and they confirmed that I have more than $200 (!) in refill by now. Luckily, I got someone on the phone who offered to open a support case (kudos to Jason). They promised me to finally unlock the device within 7 business days. Fingers crossed.

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7 business days have passed and my device is still - locked.

Another round with support. This time they said that it didn’t work because the phone I try to unlock is not associated with my phone number. This is true because I had to buy (!) a new phone (unlocked this time, I learn) for this very (unlocking nightmare) reason. I need to use a second SIM card together with my T-Mobile eSIM while abroad. T-Mobile switched my phone number back and said I had to wait another 14 days. Now I have to carry around two devices. My understanding of  “dual SIM” is something else.

I’m almost certain that 14 days from now, they will tell me that the phone was not active (because I’m abroad) and that’s why they can’t unlock it. Anyone up for a bet?
The bottom line is that their eligibility criteria for prepaid accounts is just a plain lie. I fulfill all the criteria (not disputed by any of the T-Mobile people I spoke to). But each time they come up with another (technical) excuse for why it can’t be done and ask me to wait for another X days. It’s going on like this for almost five months now. This is all very frustrating and a big waste of time and money. 

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I’m almost certain that 14 days from now, they will tell me that the phone was not active (because I’m abroad) and that’s why they can’t unlock it. Anyone up for a bet?

 

Well done guys for not taking the bet 😄 You would have lost it.

Obviously, my device is still locked. Another round with support and they claim to have a “request open with Motorola” - please wait another 3 days. I have no idea what Motorola has to do with it. It’s the T-Mobile unlock App that talks to to the T-Mobile unlock server. I don’t see any Motorola in this (besides my device of course).

I’m pretty sure it’s yet another T-Mobile lie to wear down the customer (they are very good at that, I must admit - 5 month without any progress and no lawsuit yet, not bad).

I was lied to by every support employee without exception. All the “I guarantee you”, “I promise you”, “I can reassure you”, even the “I’m 150% sure” that the friendly folks at T-Mobile use often didn’t unlock my device but successfully waste my time.

I’m going to file a complaint with the FCC. 

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Called support again, this time the supervisor said that the device can not be unlocked because it’s temporarily unlocked. Which is not true (see screenshot, it’s locked. See the previous screenshot how it looks when temporarily unlocked). He said that the temporary unlock will expire on 12/28/23 (whoever invented that date, no evidence provided). Together with some more false information (device requires a master-reset to accept a new SIM card - who comes up with that kind of crap?) I got another “personal guarantee” from the supervisor that the device will be unlocked on the 12/28/23. When asked again, he said that an “unlock request” can be submitted on the 28th. Which may take another 72hrs to complete. I’m pretty sure it will not succeed because all they do at T-Mobile support (at least in my case) is picking a random reason (network, active days, SIM, refill, Motorola, temporary unlock) and tell the customer to wait for X days (X between 3 and 14). As soon as I ask for something tangible (email, phone number, replacement phone, reimbursement) they say it can not be done. That’s how far these “personal guarantees” go.

“At T-Mobile, we radically reinvented customer service. We provide a total experience that includes best-in-class, personalized support from T-Mobile experts when needed. These experts are available to provide you with a next-level experience, including tailored service and support, as you begin your relationship with T-Mobile.” (https://www.t-mobile.com/customers/customer-care)

Sounds like sarcasm to me.

 

 

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Regarding the temporary unlock, T-Mobile support says 12/ 28 /23, T-Mobile unlock server says 12/ 21 /23:

Someone is not telling the truth. I suspect it’s the support supervisor.

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I traded in a OnePlus 8t for a Google pixel 7 pro and got 600 dollars off the pixel in January 2023 so I used the pixel for about a week and hated the phone and returned to one of my other phones . So after the phone was completely paid for I tried to get it unlocked because I'm selling it and they told me I have to have it active on their Network for 40 days which is absurd, what if the phone was broken and that's why I didn't use it the bottom line is the phone wasn't in my liking in a year later I'm trying to sell it so now they're going to send me an email that is supposed to come within 72 hours to get it unlocked

Userlevel 7
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if it were broken it would be replaced out and show as a damaged replacement and the time used on the prior device would be added to the replacement device..in your scenario you just up and changed to a different  device..not the same..

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The drama continues. I finally got a response from T-Mobile due to my FCC complaint on 1/4/2024. Of course, they first asked me to add another $100 in refill (despite my $220 I already paid). A few hours later I received this from T-Mobile:

I want to apologize as I am not having the same issue with any other customers today. I wanted to update you on the progress and solution that I currently have to offer.

The IMEI that you have provided is not able to be unlocked, even with an override. Regardless we would like to offer you the device that you currently possess with an unlocked version. The issue that I see is that you are out of the country. If you have a stateside address that I am able to ship the device to, we will be able to ship the device today. We would request that the current device you have is sent to our office in good condition.

We are able to offer a refund of the device as well if the device is shipped back to our office however we would ask that the device is returned to us before. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

So T-Mobile confirms that there is something wrong with their unlocking system.  The replacement/refund sounds good, right? Not for me after all the troubles I had with T-Mobile. So I replied on 1/5/24:

Unfortunately, your two proposals do not solve my problem. I can of course give an address in the US, but I need the device here and it is of no use to me 6000 miles away. I will gladly contribute to the shipping costs if that is the problem and return the locked device as soon as possible.

After 22 weeks of waiting and trying, $220 in refill, countless promises and assurances by T-Mobile to no avail, hours spent with support, it takes a little more than a few lines in an email to restore my trust in T-Mobile.

I therefore suggest that T-Mobile refund 50% of the price ($550) now and I return the device at my expense (please provide the address) as soon as I received the partial payment. Once T-Mobile has received the device, I will be refunded the remaining amount.

I asked twice for a shipping address by e-mail. More than a week passed and no reply from T-Mobile ever since. What a “a total experience that includes best-in-class, personalized support from T-Mobile experts when needed” (https://www.t-mobile.com/customers/customer-care).

If someone at T-Mobile reads this and finally intends to deliver on their promise: you will find my e-mail address in my account. Feel free to get in touch with me. Thanks.

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Whatever happend on the T-Mobile side, on 1/21/2024, after almost six month, my device got unlocked. No communication from them. Just out of nowhere I found my device being unlocked. I'm still waiting for an offical response regarding my FCC complaint. Since I can finally use my device as intended, I will no longer post here.

The be all end all answer to this, as I have learned with just about every carrier out there and every possible combination of hassle-ness from these carriers- just buy your phones unlocked from the outset. Don't even bother with the carrier stores, most phones you can find online elsewhere (and usually for a far better price). 

Insert carrier sims and go. This goes extra in the case of using dual sim with two different carriers. 

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