UPDATE: We Talk To Cingular About Their One-Way Contract

Since Beckie’s story about Cingular unceremoniously canceling her account proved so popular amongst the Fark crowd, I decided to give Cingular a call this afternoon. I’m not Ben, so I didn’t bother recording it: I just wanted some answers as to how this all worked from an actual human being.

I spoke to Therese in the Excessive Off-Network Roaming Department. Yes, they have a department. Therese spent about thirty minutes on the phone with me, trying to explain the system to me.

Hit the jump for an explanation of EON!

Apparently, excessive off-network roaming (EON) is a huge problem for Cingular, so much so that the president of Cingular commanded from the top that as of March, 2006, customers that excessively roamed needed to be canceled from the service.

The qualifying criteria for being canceled from Cingular for EON is that you need to be flagged as excessively roaming off-network for three months straight. Excessive off-network roaming is defined as anything more than 750 minutes or 40% of your AnyTime minutes.

What’s the problem from Cingular’s perspective? The issue is that Cingular has signed agreements with roaming partners and excessive roaming actually violates these agreements. The example Therese used was that if an AllTell tower could support on eleven callers, and six of those callers were from Cingular, AllTel’s customers would likely get dropped.

I asked Therese why Beckie had been given the option to cancel if it was already foregone that she’d be dumped. Therese said that she thinks this was a misunderstanding: Beckie was not being given an option to remain with Cingular as a customer. What she was being asked to do was to arrange to switch to another carrier. In these instances, Cingular will then cancel her account (waiving the fee) and, if she’d like to keep her number, unlock her sim card to be used on another number.

Essentially, once Beckie was flagged, she was going to be canceled no matter what. She was basically being asked for her last words.

To be honest, stepping through Therese’s logic, I could see Cingular’s side in this: if someone is going to spend the majority of their time on another network, isn’t it best for everyone just to join them? I can also see Beckie’s complete frustration, because the guidelines Cingular has put on their EON cancellation policy do not take any account to specific circumstances, and there is no arbiter.

Of course, Cingular’s arbitrariness and Beckie’s distress have their upsides for the rest of us: you can always use EON cancellation to your advantage to cancel your contract without a termination fee.

What do you guys think? Does this shed any light on the policy? Is Cingular still as big of a bad guy as they were before? Let us know in the comments.