To Avoid Billions In Lawsuits, Cellphone Companies Propose Tepid Early Termination Fee Reform

In exchange for amnesty from a series of potentially billions of dollars in class action lawsuits over early termination fees (ETFs), the cellphone companies have proposed some namby-pamby ETF reforms to the FCC. Their ideas:

  • Pro-rating early termination fees, so the cancellation fee goes down every month
  • Customers can cancel without ETF up to 30 days after singing contract, or 10 days after receiving their first bill
  • The overall fee would be slightly reduced

Cellphone companies main justification for early termination fees is that they have to recover the costs of selling cellphones at a discounted rate. True, but why then do I get charged an ETF if even if my cellphone was bought off eBay?

A cellphone manufacturer may charge the cellphone company $500+ per phone, but does it have to? Has anyone looked at whether the price reflects the real production cost? I’m not just making an argument here, I really am curious. Whether this model came about by malicious design or fortuity, the result is legal way to prevent consumers from exercising consumer choice and punishing companies for poor service. Early termination fees are the only reason why the entire cellphone service industry gets away with having below average customer satisfaction scores.

Proposal may ease cancellation fees for cell phone users [AP] (Thanks to Tom!)

(Photo: R80o (Mark Strozier))