Judge Rules That Early Termination Fees Are ILLEGAL In California

A California Superior Court judge has ruled that cellphone early termination fees are ILLEGAL and that Sprint must pay $18.2 M as part of a class action lawsuit. Of course, the decision could be appealed, but in the meantime…. (drum roll, please) the judge ordered Sprint to stop trying to collect the fees from customers in California who were refusing to pay them!

According to the lawsuit, this ruling will affect about 2 million Californians, and may affect other, similar lawsuits that are pending in other states, says the San Jose Mercury News.

“We are disappointed,” Sprint Nextel spokesman Matthew Sullivan told the paper.

Consumer’s Union (you know them as the publisher of Consumer Reports) were pleased with the ruling.

“This is a huge victory for consumers,” Chris Murray, senior legal counsel for Consumers Union said in a press release, but expressed concern that the FCC might step in and start regulating the fees.

“Not only did this case generate an extensive record showing that these fees are not really used to subsidize wireless phones, but are instead simply used to lock consumers into contracts. Contract law says that’s illegal. Let’s hope the FCC doesn’t turn around and give the wireless industry a get out of court free card.”

We’re looking forward to seeing how this affects our readers in California, so if you’re battling Sprint over an ETF and you live in CA, send your story to tips@consumerist.com. Let us know how they’re reacting to this ruling!

Sprint loses early termination fee case in California
[Consumers Union]
Sprint early termination fees are illegal, judge rules [Mercury News] (Thanks, Gilbert!)
(Photo: smcgee )

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