Over the weekend, there has been a lot of outcry over AT&T’s new return policy, which has since been confirmed by AT&T. The policy, which has already gone into effect on Sunday, October 7, shortens the period where a customer can change their minds and return a phone without being assessed an early termination fee. Previously, AT&T offered a 30-day period for customers to try out the phone and decide whether to keep it or return it. Now, under the new October 7 policy, customers will only have 14 days, or two weeks.
It’s unclear how the policy will affect California residents. According to Engadget, California state law requires a 30-day return period, so likely AT&T will have to comply with that in California.
While AT&T’s return period has affectively been halved, the carrier is just matching what rivals Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, and Sprint Nextel are doing–all these national carriers have a 14-day return policy.
What’s more troubling is that hardware manufacturers are trying to rush products to market quickly. What that means is that likely, the phone that you buy will often have a glitch or two when it launches, and hardware manufacturers know that they can likely release a software patch or two over time to fix these problems. Customers who are picky about the phones they choose now only have 14 days to decide if the faults that they find are acceptable or if those glitches will be deal breakers.
Take the case with the iPhone 5. Users have begun noticing a sub-par maps experience, trouble with hanging on to an LTE signal, poor battery life on some units, and a purple haze affecting some cameras. With the camera issue, if a user does not frequently take pictures or begin taking pictures right away, they may not notice that problem until they do and when they do they may be out of the new 14-day period.
And even more troubling is that the return policy change affects your AT&T service agreement and ETF. What this means is that even if you purchase your equipment from a retailer that supports a 30-day policy for buyer’s remorse, you may still be subjected to AT&T’s ETF fees even if you return your equipment per that retailer’s policies. Retailers like Apple and Best Buy currently offer 30-day return periods. However, per AT&T’s language, you may be able to return items purchased at Apple and Best Buy for a refund within 30-days, you’d need to cancel your contract before day 14 or else you would still be subjected to the ETF.