How to get out of a cable or internet contract without paying a penalty

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How to get out of a cable or internet contract with no penalty
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If you’re a faithful cable and/or internet subscriber, there may come a time when you get sick of paying what you’re paying for it, whether you’re ready to cut the cord (when it comes to cable) or you just come across a better offer.

If so, you may be wondering how to get out of your cable or internet contract. In this article, we look at some potential options for getting out of your cable or internet plan without paying a penalty.

How to get out of your cable and internet contract without paying a penalty

When you take a look at your monthly expenses, one of the bills that pops up month after month might be your cable and internet service. You faithfully pay up for the right to surf the web and watch your favorite shows — even if the cost of doing it seems to creep ever higher.

Still, streaming services are making more and more headway into American homes and traditional service providers are desperately trying to hold on to customers. That’s why many of them have ironclad contracts with steep penalties if you try to abandon ship.

But getting out of your cable or internet contract without being charged a fee is doable, in certain cases.

Know the penalty for early termination

First of all, you should know what you’re on the hook for by reading the fine print in your contract. Here, you should be able to find out how much the early termination fee is for your provider.

In January 2019, AT&T announced that it would no longer pro-rate the bills of customers who left their internet and phone contracts early.

Here are early termination fees for some major cable companies

Provider Early termination fee Customer service info
Comcast / Xfinity Comcast / Xfinity charges $10 for every month left on your contract.  1 (800) 934-6489 or instant chat
AT&T AT&T, depending on how your contract was structured, charges a $180 early termination fee or  $15 for every month on your contract or a combination of the two. 1 (800) 331-0500 or @ATTCares on Twitter
Cox Cable Depending on your contract, there is a $15 EFT for every month left in your agreement. 1 (800) 234-3993 or support chat

4 ways you might be able to get out of your cable or internet contract penalty-free

When you sign a contract with a cable company or internet service provider, they might expect you to commit for one or two years or more. But if they don’t hold up their end of the bargain, you have options. Here are some of them:

1. Talk to customer service

The first avenue to try is to call your service provider and talk to a real person. State your case — your likes, dislikes, shortcomings, etc. with the service — but never be disrespectful. They will more than likely be reading from a script.

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Don’t be afraid to escalate the call by asking to speak to a manager. Often, they are more empowered to give you what you want.

Once they’ve heard you out, your case may be so strong that they let you out of your contract free and clear.

2. Look for contract buyouts

If you simply want to switch services, some companies may pay your early termination fee for your business. Charter Spectrum, for example, offers a contract buyout program that will pay your previous carrier’s ETF.

3. Site nonperformance

Another way you may be able to get out of your contract without penalty is due to nonperformance — i.e. if your service doesn’t work like it’s supposed to all of the time. The key to making a nonperformance claim stick is documentation.

If there was a TV or internet outage, how long did it last? What did it cost you in time, incidentals or other things?

The thing is, for a telecom, nonperformance is usually considered breach of contract, but not always. Furthermore, nonperformance typically won’t cover third-party services, equipment or infrastructure.

4. Consider arbitration

You also might be able to leave your contract early if you seek arbitration, especially if you feel there’s been some sort of misrepresentation around your service or what it costs.

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Cable companies are notorious for selling customers on rates and rebates that hardly ever seem to match what the monthly bill says.

Most telecoms have arbitration clauses in their contracts stipulating that any disputes be handled via arbitration rather than jury courts.

How to file arbitration with AT&T, Cox Cable & Comcast / Xfinity

  • You can use AT&T’s Arbitration form to file a complaint with them.
  • For Cox Cable, if you can’t get anywhere via customer service, notify Cox of the dispute by sending a written description of your claim to Cox Customer Care, ATTN: Corporate Escalation Team, 6205B Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30328.
  • File an arbitration claim with Comcast/Xfinity with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) right here.

Final thought

Finally, if you are able to get out of your contract, it’s important to remember that many former customers get hit with penalties because they fail to return the equipment and accessories that came with their cable or internet service. Don’t be that person — return the equipment promptly to avoid any further damage to your wallet.

Need more help with the carriers? Here’s how to dispute a bill with your cable provider.

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