Verizon Can Charge You$175 If They Cancel Your Service "For Good Cause"

Verizon can charge you $175 if they decide they feel like canceling your cellphone contract before the term is over.

We’re all very familiar with the idea that a consumer has to pay an early termination fee if they drop service before their contract is over, but this clause comes as somewhat of a surprise: “An early termination fee will apply…if we terminate [your service] early for good cause.”

Love how the syntactical sentence construction helps obfuscate its meaning. Good cause? What’s that? No doubt we’ll soon be contacted by a Verizon PR drone who will inform us that this only means if you’re using your cellphone to sell ak-47s to street gangs. “Good cause” seems overly broad. Who knows what they’ll interpret it as?

(Thanks to Dan!)

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  1. davebg5 says:

    Stuff like this frustrates the crap out of me. Far too many of these contracts w/mobile providers have clauses like this or arbitration, but what can a consumer do about it short of not signing up for cell phone service?

    I’d love to just go wild w/a red pen on the next cell phone contract that I sign, crossing out any of these objectionable clauses, but something tells me that’s not going to work.

  2. nursetim says:

    I wonder if some drone at Verizon saw all the comments here on doing things to get canceled on purpose to avoid the ETF.

  3. hypnotik_jello says:

    @nursetim: Probably. This site is really a double edged sword. While “empowering” the consumer, it sometimes also works against the consumer because big business can check up to see what we’re up to and what we’re planning.

  4. Falconfire says:

    I’d love to meet the scum sucking evil incarnate of a lawyer who came up with that questionably legal clause.

  5. swvaboy says:

    Since this is new, I got my copy yesterday, wouldn’t this be a material change and allow us to cancel?

  6. y2julio says:

    Cellphones will eventually ask for your first born son if you terminate ur service.

  7. jwarner132 says:

    At least in New Hampshire, street gang thugs can legally buy AK-47s from a gun dealer themselves, as long as they aren’t disqualified by a felony conviction, a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, or a few other things, and the pass the NICS. I know a place where they can get one for $399.95.

    I know this has nothing to do with Verizon, I just wanted to point out that selling AK-47s to street gangs isn’t necessarily illegal (just unethical).

  8. vex says:

    This is in response to people purposely abusing their phones to get out of their contracts without a termination fee.

    My solution, which works out perfectly, is just to not sign contracts. There are far too many options out there. These contracts are so one-sided and such a ripoff that I don’t know why people keep signing up, then complaining when they can’t get out of it. What’s the point? A free phone? Just save some money and buy your own if you really need a fancy phone. Walmart sells GSM phones for $18.

    This will continue until people start voting with their dollars.

  9. mistermarr says:

    I can tell you that one “good cause” would be if you are the secondary number on a family plan when the primary number is ported.
    I recently spend over an hour on the phone with a supervisor trying to figure this out. My wife, who had the primary number wanted to port her number and I wanted to keep Verizon service until the end of my contract, even offering to pay for the extra line.
    They said there was no way this could happen without me signing a new contract for at least another year. I asked why they couldn’t honor the contract I had already signed and was willing to honor. I asked for the language in the contract stating that this would happen, they mumbled some BS. I explained that I had read my contract and it wasn’t there. I asked for them to fax the language they were referring to and all they could do was mail me a new blank contract a week later, with no such language. I asked if they could switch the priority of the primary and secondary lines and they said no. Impossible. I asked them why these rules weren’t explained when we got the family plan. No explanation. I asked why they even told me I had a separate contract on my number if there was no way for them to honor it. No explanation. I eventually got the supervisor to admit that their policy was unfair and offer to cut my ETF in half. I decided to move on with my life and take it.
    It’s amazing how shortsighted these companies are when it comes to customer retention. Did the supervisor not realize I am 32 and have decades of cell service left to pay for? Was $175 worth losing me for years to come? I actually thought their service was good up until then.

  10. davebg5 says:

    You know, the more I think about this, the more angry I get. What exactly is “good cause”?

    I have been a VZW customer for years. In the spring I started getting illegal, unwanted spam calls that used automated dialers, opened w/a recording in Spanish and would result in being hung up on once you spoke English to one of their “reps”.

    VZW was seemingly helpless to stop the problem. So, I took it upon myself to waste their time as mine was wasted. Every time I got one of these spam calls, I called VZW customer service and wasted some of their time. Then I went the EECB route. I was bugging them so much that they assigned me my own personal customer service rep who would call me once/week to register my new complaints.

    Eventually the calls stopped, likely b/c VZW finally figured out who was responsible for them and filed a $450 million lawsuit against them for placing over 900,000 of these calls to VZW customers.

    My point? Well, couldn’t my repeated calls, emails and complaints be construed as “good cause” by VZW? The notion that VZW could possibly cancel my service AND charge me an early termination fee for having the “nerve” to complain about such a problem almost makes me want to buy an iPhone and switch to AT&T.

    I said ALMOST…I’m not that much of a sadomasochist.

  11. supra606 says:

    Remember what a backlash there was when Sprint “fired” those customers? That one even made the front pages of mainstream news sites like MSN. If a cell phone company were to do something like that AND charge the customer an ETF on top of it, I think the backlash would be so great that they would end up losing hords of customers and potential customers and may reconsider their position quickly.

    That said, I think this is despicable.

  12. TPK says:

    This is a no brainer. By definition, any reason they choose to terminate your contract will be viewed by them as “good cause”. Why would any company terminate a customer for “bad cause”?

  13. rmz says:

    Coming soon: audio ads being piped through the earpiece before every call you make!

  14. Trai_Dep says:

    …Only if Verizon catches you selling Muslim AK-47s to pedophile street gangs. Because, it’s not about telecoms abusing their oligopoly to make you into their serf. Nor is it their stealing $75m from consumers realizing they’ve been conned by the teleco’s syrupy lies. It’s For The (non-terrorist) Children! Don’t you love children?

  15. CurbRunner says:

    “Good Cause”?… Only good for Verizon of course.

    When they want to take a dump on their customers, why would they have it any other way? If playing on a tilted playing field in a democracy is the only way they feel they can do business it shows a total disregard for the customers that ultimately put food on their plates.

  16. goodguy812 says:

    at least sprint didn’t charge their problem customers a fee. i read both sides of the sprint situation, and i could see where some customers wouldn’t be worth the trouble. but in the same hand, your a multi billion dollar corp, just put up with it.

  17. mistaketv says:

    Here’s what I’m wondering:

    Say you have VZW service and they decide to “fire” you because you roam too much. And let’s say they consider this a “good reason” and go ahead and charge you the ETF. So you call and get nowhere with a bunch of poorly trained CSRs/corporate apologists. If you just decide not to pay the ETF and let it go to collections, can you just dispute it and have it removed from your credit report as having been charged unfairly? How does that work?

  18. Lewis says:

    I am not a lawyer, but in my experience contracts are pretty much in place to use as tools when bringing/defending against a lawsuit. Therefore, “good cause” is left to interpretation by a judge or jury (or, if applicable, an arbitrator.)

    I did not read the entire agreement, but I would have to imagine that the “good cause” test would need to have some bona fide merit – such as termination for not paying one’s bill for instance.

    Also, @VX001 – good on you for not signing long-term service agreements (seriously) but remember that you are still agreeing to the carrier’s Terms of Service (or acceptable use policy, or EULA, or whatever they call it) so your use of your phone and the carrier’s network is still governed by *A* contract – just not one that defines a specific term of service.

  19. kc2idf says:

    @mistaketv: That’s when the arbitration clause kicks in.

  20. Shizlak says:

    I know what ‘good cause’ is.

    “Good Cause” should be interpreted in an as pro-verizon way as possible, because this is how their customer service employees/managers will interpret it. So unless you plan on taking them to court, know that they can and will screw you at any time, for any reason.

  21. @mistaketv: Arbitration, Buddy.

  22. bohemian says:

    Our phone contract is up next year. I am seriously considering buying unlocked phones and just going month to month for service. We have lousy options though. Sprint, Verizon, Virgin and Alltel.

  23. derobert says:

    @mistermarr: Hmm, Verizon managed to change the primary line on my parent’s family plan. Gotta love their, ummm, world-class support.

    @consumerist: As for what “good cause” means, it’s a legal term, and it really doesn’t mean “whenever we feel like it”. Editor, I know that Google is hard to use, but a little research would be appreciated!

  24. mammalpants says:

    luckily, i use my at&t account to sell ak’s to street gangs. whew! i got worried there for a minute.

  25. Geekybiker says:

    Yup.
    Nebulous “good cause”? check.
    Mandatory Arbitration? check.
    Arbitor in the back pocket of Verizon? Check.

    Consumer protection? Zero.

  26. FLConsumer says:

    @mistermarr: Porting a secondary number on a family plan will also cause Verizon to issue an ETF, as a friend of mine found out when his sister decided to port over to T-Mobile 3 days before the contract ran out. Fortunately, Verizon DID refund the ETF, but it took quite a few phone calls before they finally realised he was out of contract and charging ETF feeds isn’t a way to win customers over.

  27. Not a likely scenario, but shouldn’t they pay you the ETF if they don’t hold up their end of the contract? In a perfect world, the canceling party would owe the money instead of Verizon benefiting from either instance.

    The fee system should tend to reflect the true nature of the symbiotic relationship between customer and corporation. They need you as much as you need them, even if they won’t admit it.

  28. ShadowFalls says:

    Watch Verizon will bring up some BS excuse for “Good Cause”. All the companies seem to do this to try and save face.

  29. Zimorodok says:

    Verizon’s definitions of “good cause” are a riot. (It’s on Page 8 of the new pamphlet). Some winners:

    …(i)(f) lie to us…
    …(ii)(b) uses vulgar and/or inappropriate language toward our representatives…
    …(d) harasses our representatives…
    …(g) modifies your phone from its manufacturer’s specifications…

    Personally I think it’s a way to get leverage over anyone who complains about a charge or billing issue. Don’t want to give them the rebate you promised on their new phone? Get them to swear for the recorders and threaten to cancel their service and slap them with a $175 fee unless they roll over. How many phone calls to customer service in a month would be considered harassment?

    Plus there’s the mandatory binding arbitration through AAA… I’m gleefully counting down the last 14 days of my contract.

  30. ninjatales says:

    I knew Verizon was teh devil! AT&T is his henchman.

  31. Jesse in Japan says:

    So which charity are they going to donate the 175 dollars to?

  32. Ratty says:

    @goodguy812:
    It takes a lot to get a company to cancel your account, but when it does happen, it’s with good cause.

    Where I work there was a customer who would call in multiple times daily. Why? he wanted to speak to representatives that would call him a certain title he picked, and loved to call the representatives really foul, derogatory things. Wasting hours of the company’s time daily to call people *insert any expletive you want here* and just kill the morale of anyone who took the call… yeah. it wasn’t good. people cried over that guy. Eventually after one poor girl got his calls three days in a row a supervisor put an end to it–and the account.

    But there wasn’t an ETF then even though I would have felt it was justified.