Thinking of getting a new phone on AT&T just to see what it's all about? If you don't dig it, you have a month to return it, right? Unfortunately... no. Not after tomorrow, anyway; AT&T is dropping its device return policy from 30 days to 14, basically cutting the return window in half.

So what happens if you want return your device after the 14 day window? You'll owe AT&T a full ETF (early termination fee) for your remaining contract (read: all of it).

The only customers unaffected by this change are those on business plans - you guys will still get the full 30 day return window... for now.

[Phone Scoop]

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • TheFirstUniverseKing

    AT&T keeps looking better and better as a carrier.



  • deon

    Ah thank heaven for no contract straight talk. All the power of at&t's network on a at&t phone with none of the headache.

    • sssgadget

      except STalk can cancel your account without notice when you go above the unofficial 200 MB daily limit.

  • k2hsharpe

    here in australia it's hard to feel sorry for you, our returns window is 0 (zero) days. Surely you can work out if you like a phone or not in 14 days? Can't be that hard?


      your mentality is what allows consumers to continue to try to push the margins even smaller.

      • DCMAKER

        errrr companies*

        • k2hsharpe

          seriously DCMAKER, are you telling me you can't make up your mind about a product and service within 14 days of use? Do you think consumers should have no responsibility for due diligences - to research a product even just a little before they commit to purchase? Obviously a lot of people responding on this article agree with you and it's truly left me a little bewildered

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004065340628 Mass Effect

        no, hes right. i decide if i want to return my smartphones within 4 days usually. any more time than that, the person is just being a lazy stupid idiot

  • http://twitter.com/rohanXm Rohan Mathur

    If you live in California, the state law is 30 days for all cellular companies.
    They can't change state law, so just go in a demand that if you fall into that category.

    • Ben Baranovsky

      I'm currently very happy about my state of residence. :p

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004065340628 Mass Effect

        are you happy u believe anything u read on the internet

    • S K

      For all the BS that California gets, people don't realize how much better protected California residents are from corporations. Thank you California government

      • Goldenpins

        Very true.. there's a reason why they say California is its own world. Personally, I love it here.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004065340628 Mass Effect

      This isnt true because verizon wireless only gives me 14 days and I live in california

  • Nyankana

    Personally don't really like the way AT&T handles things, such as focusing more on changing unneeded stuff like this one. I would wish they might one day come to their sense and revise their data plan.


      it is needed from there eyes to increase profit margins

      • Skinny_Techie_Supervisor

        As a company loses more and more of their customers, they have to charge the remaining people more and more.

        Did you just think the "worst carrier in the country" award goes to AT&T, year after year, for no reason?

        • DCMAKER

          how does what i said not mesh with what your saying? The purpose of a company is to make money nothing else so they love finding ways to eek out as much as possible.

      • http://twitter.com/jimmy2027 Jimmy

        yea...that is what he means by "unneeded stuff". Yes it most likely benefits the company, but what about the customers?

  • Nathan J

    This is fair. My carrier, US Cellular, has a 30 day window. Despite months of research, I somehow came to the conclusion that the HTC Hero S (Evo Design 4G on Sprint) was better than the Motorola Electrify (Photon 4G on Sprint). My wife got the Electrify. Six days later I exchanged it for the Electrify (and now regret that because Motorola are not updating this phone, and the Hero S got ICS in the summer). Six days is all it took. 30 days is very generous. 14 is more than fair.


      your mentality is what allows companies to continue to try to push the margins even smaller.

      • Nathan J

        I think we should be happy there's a margin at all. There wasn't before. Before, you picked the color and features you wanted and you were stuck with it. Now the differences are wider, but we have a lot more resources online to research our phones before we buy them.

        Now let me question your mentality, since you questioned mine. How long do you think you should be able to keep a device before deciding you don't want it, and trade it for another, brand new device? Consider that "X". Now, would you be willing to pay full price for a device that has been used by somebody else for X days? If not, who eats the cost of this $600+ device? Because it sounds like you want something for nothing.

        Using all the phones in the store for free, plus the resources online should be enough to make a final decision. With all that behind you, 14 days with what all that told you was the best in your home should be enough to decide between that, and your second choice. If it's not, I'd like to hear how you would do it.

        • Freak4Dell

          Very good post.

        • DCMAKER

          30 days to test network and phone is fair. It would also be fair to say you only get one exchange not infinite. I wonder if you can really exchange that many. I would assume they would limit it to one or two phones

          • DCMAKER

            also don't they charge a return/restocking fee?

          • yankeesusa

            I think they do. But I know that verizon and sprint will also charge you a restocking fee unless the phone is defective.

          • Nathan J

            With US Cellular, it is just one exchange, but you get 30 days. Who said anything about infinite? AT&T? If so, it only makes sense they're reducing the window. But with US Cellular, it's no questions asked, save one: "Are you sure?" Because once you switch, you're stuck with what you switched to for 18 months from when you got the first one. Unless you were already on a contract...

            Seriously dude, you say it's my mentality that lets companies get one over on customers? Switch to US Cellular (if you can), it's nice here. You sign a 2-year contract but after 18 months you qualify for new customer pricing. You don't sign a contract after that, you just ride out the remainder of the first one and then you're free to leave, but it's another 18 months before you get new customer pricing again. And you can buy months off with reward points you get for paying your bill and stuff. I think the minimum cycle is 11 months. It's CDMA and you get free roaming on Verizon and Sprint. All incoming calls, texts, and MMS are free. It's a very good service. I would say people still getting service with Verizon and AT&T lets companies get over on customers, if anything. If more people went to the one with the nice benefits, maybe the others would implement them.

        • NexusKoolaid

          Upon returning the $600 phone, the unit gets a makeover and a reboxing. It’s then sold as a refurbished device. The carrier eats a little more of the cost in the form of a larger subsidy, and the rest is absorbed by the next customer. The carrier doesn't lose that much, considering the customer is on the hook for a 2 year deal worth in excess of $2000 for highly profitable services.

          A little research before buying a phone? I’m all for that. But using all the phones in the store for free doesn’t tell you much. It takes a real-world
          field trial to know how well the device functions where it will actually be
          used. Modern handsets are complex, and people will need to be satisfied with the software they intend the phone to run as well as make calls and exercise other phone features. Problems that might prove a phone to be unacceptable may not become apparent right away - people have lives, and it can take a good week to try a unit out and consider whether they can live with any discovered shortcomings. Given personal schedules, there might not be enough time left to return a unit within a 14 day window. Best Buy and Fry’s understand this, which is why their return windows are 30 days, like AT&T’s used to be.

          I've worked both sides of the retail counter so I understand what you're saying, but IMO this is nothing more that AT&T trying to squeeze a little more profit from customers. This is, IMO, not at all fair or reasonable.

          • Nathan J

            With you until the last part. How does AT&T make more money by reducing the trial time? I would say it's just AT&T proving that they're not a good carrier to have. No more, no less. My feeling that 14 days or even 7 days is enough time is just me knowing myself. I'm okay with others taking longer. Then again, my research is a little more thorough and comprehensive than others. I look at the specs, so I know what it can do. Then I hit up XDA and see if it can be rooted and unlocked, and what ROMs are available. That tells me a lot. Thanks for the insight though, your post was very good.

    • Asphyx

      Your fogetting one thing...It doesn't cost them anymore to give you 30 days than it does to give you 15! Once the box is opened it's opened. It's not worth more as a used refurb after 14 days than it was after 30 and the new phone still costs as much as it will on day 30.
      They are just trying not to give you the ability to change at all and maybe it is fair or maybe it isn't but this is the price we pay for subsidized phone purchases. If we all had to pay full price none of us (well few of us) would upgrade at all!

      • DCMAKER

        awesome a troll using my name!!!! You can tell because i dont use ' and i almost never use more than one paragraph.

        • DCMAKER

          well i guess they changed his name from mine.

      • Nathan J

        No, if they wanted to take away your ability to change at all, they would do exactly that. I think moving from 30 days to 14 days makes customers more aware. You're already signing and dating forms in 6 places, to say "Today's a Saturday, by the Saturday after next if you're unsatisfied you can return it." It's a closer date but still far off enough that you can go through two work weeks -- most peoples' life cycles in seven days. Work five days, get two off. On your work days you test signal at work, and see if the phone works with you. On your days off you take it where you go to relax, make sure you get signal there, make sure it fits in with your lifestyle. You do this twice (two weeks). If you're undecided by then maybe you should stick with it because the change would be permanent.

        • Asphyx

          What you say works great for people who are Phone and tech savy or moving to the same OS platform just on a new piece of hardware.
          But try to get a Blackberry user comfortable using Android in 14 days.
          How about that person who is coming from a dumb phone and dealing with a smart phone for the first time?
          In most of these change of mind cases the reason for the change is because the salesperson sold you a phone you really should not have bought or is totally unsuited for the person they are selling to. Sold you a piece of crap unit only to find out later when your friends clued you in that you should have gotten model B instead.
          Since they aren't losing ANY money for the extra 15 days there really is no reason to reduce the grace period. Most stores give you a 30 day replacement policy and if they really want to rush things for thier own convenience they should give you a 15 day CANCEL without penalty grace period to go with it.
          Because of the fact that the extra 15 days do not cost anymore to the carrier there really is no credible reason for shortening the time other than to try and screw more people into using a phone they don't like merely based on the fact that they didn't have enough time to recognize it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004065340628 Mass Effect

            imo these people are retards. why should i care about idiots of society. have you seen some of these people if real life. they blow my mind how absolutely stupid they are. explains why they have crappy jobs and are fat cows. they deserve to be either not even use a cell phone, or get reemed with etf

          • Freak4Dell

            Actually, it's quite possible that the extra 2 weeks could cost them more money. That's double the time for people to damage the phones, which increases refurbishing costs. Also, it could throw off their inventory, making them order new batches of phones when it turns out that people aren't liking the phone all that much. This is not so much a concern a couple months after a phone has been out, but in those first two or three months, this could cost them a lot of money and they could have a ton of phones on their hands that they simply can't sell. It also could be bad for accounting. 30 days means people that buy on the 2nd of the month don't have to return until the 2nd of the next month, pushing that transaction to the next month, or more importantly, possibly to the next quarter. One or two transactions like that don't seem like a big deal, but every little thing adds up in accounting, and stuff like that can get your new quarter off to a bad start.

            To consumers, it seems to make no difference if we keep something for 14 days or 30 days, and we wonder why companies are so ruthless in doing things like this, but when you run a business, you have to think about every little cost. There's a lot of costs that consumers never even realize exist, and you have to take all of those into account.

  • Asphyx

    Anyone starting to feel like the Heroin Junkie at the mercy of the drug pusher?
    Get you hooked on Data by offering Unlimited Data plans and then once the system gets up to a speed where using data is actually a nice thing to do pull it out from under you?
    They know your not going to go without a Cell Phone now we are all addicted!
    So just bend over and take it unless someone is prepared to take a stand, Cancel your phone accounts and show them that we are not as captive as they would like us to be!
    Unfortunate truth is they are right!


      thats why i have sprint....horrible service where i am at but it is cheaper and the better of 4 evils

      • Asphyx

        But thats why Sprint still gives you all those things because having unlimited data is kind of pointless if you can't get a signal.
        I could not switch to Sprint if I wanted to. I'm pretty much stuck with Verizon.
        Captive Audience.

        • DCMAKER

          well i get signal...just no data. Even though a data connection exists...it won't load pages depending on what town i am in (chicago). Aurora is the worse. Pages won't even load lol.

      • Techie_Honey

        So you pay money for "horrible service" (your words) when you could easily pay 10% more and have excellent service?

        Not smart.

        For me... even if I paid $0 per month... "horrible service" isn't what I want.

        I need a phone that w-o-r-k-s. "The price" is secondary.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Shinakuma George Millhouse

        you are happy that you have unlimited *cough slow cough* data on Sprint and then say they have horrible service in the same sentence? You have issues

  • Miss_Teacher

    They know that people try AT&T, notice the horrible coverage, and try to cancel their contracts.

    Now, you have to just do it quicker.

  • Nick

    What is the Device Return Policy for the big rest of the big four? (Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint)

  • Ben Baranovsky

    Cell carriers: We're always here.....to screw you over.

  • dude

    "Thinking of getting a new phone on AT&T just to see what it's all about?" No, and never. But I watch family members paying up the nose to ATT although its good to know to warn them.

  • LouieTran

    who cares. that's plenty of time on whether you want to keep the phone or not

  • Rob

    I think Sprint shortened its return timeframe a while back as well. Of course, these companies are going to capitalize on people not being state law savvy. If a state's law prohibits a return policy less than 30 days, then any company that tries to enforce a shorter period for returns is in violation of said law. But - and this is the important part - if the customer is unaware that the company is breaking the law then nothing comes of it.