Help, Verizon Doubled My ETF Behind My Back!

The spark had left his mobile phone relationship, and Dean left his iPhone 3G for a Droid. He happily paid an ETF to escape his AT&T contract, only to find himself trapped in a strange void between Verizon’s previous early termination fee for smartphone contracts and the newly doubled fee. Now, he tells Consumerist that due to the ETF change, he is trapped in a contract that he claims he never signed.

I was previously on a contract with AT&T for the iPhone 3G for a
little over a year. The Droid arrived, and I researched the phone and
services and decided to switch, paying AT&T a cancellation fee in
order to do so. I placed the order with Wirefly.com Nov. 12, 2009. I
received the phone on Nov. 17th and could not activate it until Nov.
18. I read Verizon’s T&C’s and Wirefly’s T&C’s and whatever
documentation I received, especially noting that the early
cancellation fee stated on the Verizon terms and conditions was $175,
reduced $5 per month if activated after 11/16/06. Fast forward about
2 weeks when I received my first bill from Verizon wireless…nothing
out of the ordinary except the part that states that depending on the
device, if I cancel early I may face a $350 cancellation fee. I
called Verizon wireless Friday evening to clarify and spoke with S.
He told me that yes, the $350 ETF would apply to me, but to
fax me the T&C’s that I received and he would look through it and get
back to me. I faxed it out the following Monday and no one got back
to me. I called Tuesday, spoke with a F., and he emailed S. to
get back to me. Wednesday, I called again and spoke with H. She
asked me to fax the T&C that I had to her and she would review it and
get back to me that day. She called later that day and said that they
have to hold the $350 ETF and that I would need to contact Wirefly if
I wanted to cancel and return the device.

I contacted Wirefly and their return policy is to contact them within
14 days and no more than 30min of usage on the device. I have been
using this phone for close to a month, so am about 10 times over their
usage limits as well as far beyond the 14 days. I was told that I
would have to contact Verizon Wireless because it is Verizon’s terms
and conditions that are in dispute, not Wirefly’s.

I contacted Verizon again, forgot who I spoke with though, and plead my
case again that I have no problem with the device or service but am
not happy about being held to Terms and Conditions which were not made
available to me for 2 weeks after I had activated and used the device,
making me well beyond the return condition to Wirefly. I don’t
remember who she spoke with and she would not transfer me to a manager
or anyone else, she just maintained they will tell me the same thing
and that if I cancel, the $350 ETF would apply.

To throw things in perspective, I love the Droid, I have had no
problems with Verizon service so far, and have no intention of
canceling early, UNLESS there is an unforeseen circumstance that would
force me to cancel.

I have researched the ETF increase and also see that the FCC is
investigating the increase in Verizon’s ETF. I am surprised that even
with the FCC raising an eyebrow to this, why they would not make an
exception for the few people caught between the change-over such as
myself, over an early cancellation that may not even happen.

How would you suggest I proceed in this case?

The catch in Dean’s situation is that he has no intention of canceling his Verizon service at the moment, so the contract change isn’t relevant. Verizon doesn’t need to worry about the ETF that applies to a particular customer unless he tries to cancel.

Consumerist’s advice to Dean, and any other Verizon customers who find themselves in this situation, is to hold on to every scrap of documentation that you have of the original contract that you signed. This will be crucial if you do end up needing to break your contract early.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for a response from Verizon to the FCC’s questions about ETF doubling, and enjoy your Droid.