Have you ever been hit (or even just threatened) with a cell phone service provider’s early termination fee – that is a fee for early cancellation of your cell phone service? Held hostage by your cellular service provider because of exorbitant (spelled “extortionist”) early termination fees and clauses?
Well, you’re not alone – in fact, not by a long shot. Whether your cell phone service provider is AT&T (Cingular), Sprint / Nextel, Verizon, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Alltel, Qwest, or someone else, it’s happening not only to you, but to countless others across the country.
In fact, this has become such a problem that people across the nation are worked to a fever pitch, and there are hearings being held in Washington, new laws proposed to rein in out-of-control cellular providers, and even a class action lawsuit being contemplated on behalf of people who have been stuck with unfair – some would say usurious – early termination fees.
This past week, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin Martin, presented a plan to regulate early cancellation fees charged by cell phone providers. While there would still be early termination fees for those who cancel their cellphone contract before it is up, the fees would be based on, among other things, how much time was left on the contract, the type of phone the customer had purchased (less expensive phones would bear lower early termination fees), and the level of service.
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Chairman Martin explained that “a $500 phone shouldn’t have the same early termination fee as a $50 phone.” Put another way, this means that a $50 phone which only uses basic cell phone services shouldn’t have a $200 early termination fee, while charging a $200 fee for early cancellation of a contract for a $500 phone, with all the expensive bells-and-whistles services might make (somewhat) more sense.
Martin also proposed that “when a consumer renews his contract without receiving new equipment, the early termination fee should not be extended.”
Of course, even if such changes end up taking effect, this won’t help the thousands, if not millions, of cell phone users who have already been adversely impacted by early termination fees levied for early cancellation of their cell phone contracts. And the hassle, and extra money to the cell phone company aren’t the only issues. As Jeffrey Silva writes in his provocative article for RCR News, people with otherwise perfect credit who challenge their fees may end up reported to a credit bureau and with a black mark on their credit report just for having the audacity to argue the early termination fees!
In fact, so many people have been so negatively affected by out-of-control early termination fees, that at least one law firm is currently looking into filing a class action lawsuit against the cellular carriers, and actively seeking people who have had bad experiences with early termination fees.
Explains the Law Offices of Barry Kramer:
“Wireless telephone carriers have charged early termination penalties despite their failure to supply adequate telephone service. The practice of charging these unfair fees to customers who terminate their unsatisfactory wireless phone service is designed to lock customers into staying with companies that cannot provide satisfactory service. The Law Offices of Barry Kramer is seeking plaintiffs to actively pursue major wireless telephone providers, including AT&T, Verizon, Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile, Nextel, U.S. Cellular, Alltel, and Qwest, who may have unfairly charged early termination fees even when they failed to provide adequate telephone service.”
If you feel that you may qualify, you can contact Mr. Kramer here.
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