Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sprint Secures Preliminary Approval To Settle Wireless Contract Disputes on ETF

Here's some good news for those who have wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee. According to RCRWirelessNews.com, a New Jersey court has given Sprint preliminary approval to settle pending lawsuits over early termination fees. Now that's great news for those involved in wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee.

Sprint will be doling out up to $17.5 million and would cover cases on wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee across the country. However, those connected with wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee in California were not included in the approval to settle pending lawsuits.

The approval to settle the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee has also put a separate $1 billion ETF lawsuit in jeopardy. Apparently this wireless contract dispute was filed by a different team of plaintiffs’ lawyers.

The judge in charge of the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee in California has ruled that the fees charged by Sprint Nextel to subscribers in the state between 1999 and 2007 could not be collected because it is illegal. In response, Sprint said that it will not go after the $225.6 million in unpaid ETFs of those concerned in the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee in California.

The team of plaintiffs’ lawyers who filed the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee in California will contest the ruling that gave preliminary approval to allow Sprint to settle pending lawsuits. They believe that the $17.5 million settlement that the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee is not enough.

To deal with the numerous wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee, the company has decided to instituted a new policy to pro-rate its ETF. Sprint is now among the carriers that implement a pro-rated ETF policy. Perhaps this new policy will cut down on the wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee.

That ends this post on Sprint getting approval to settle with wireless contract disputes involving Sprint's ETF or early termination fee. Tune in to this blog for more wireless contract updates.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sprint Pro-rated ETF Policy Now Official!

Sprint has finally made it official. In my previous post, I blogged about Sprint's plans to finally pro-rate its ETF or early termination fee. A few days ago, Sprint released an announcement containing the details of its new wireless contract policy on pro-rated ETF or early termination fee.

Sprint's announcement contained the details and benefits that are included in its new contract policy on pro-rated ETF. Sprint's new ETF policy is basically designed to give customers who have signed wireless contracts more freedom. By pro-rating its ETF or early termination fee, Sprint is making it easier for customers to make changes or opt out of their wireless c0ntract.

Sprint's old ETF policy charges customers who want to get out of their contracts a flat early termination fee of $200. The carrier's new wireless contract policy allows subscribers to pay a reduced fee based on how long they have remained faithful to their wireless contract.

Starting on November 2 Sprint subscribers with new or renewed contracts will have a $200 ETF for the first six months. Then Sprints ETF will be reduced by by $10 for the succeeding months that the customer stayed with the wireless contract. The old early termination fee will only apply for customers who want to get out of a wireless contract for the fir six months.

Subscribers who stay faithful to Sprint's wireless contract after six months will have the benefit of paying a reduced early termination fee based on the new pro-rated ETF wireless contract policy. The new Sprint pro-rated ETF policy will charge only $100 for customers who have stayed on a contract for 15 months. The pro-rated early termination fee policy allows a fee of as low as $50.

However, this new Sprint ETF policy does not apply for old wireless contracts that were signed before Nov. 2. Subscribers have signed a Sprint Wireless contract will be under the old ETF policy that demands a flat amount. Old wireless contracts will not benefit from the pro-rated early termination fee of Sprint's new wireless contract policy.

Sprint also announced other initiatives and programs designed to improve the customer experience in their announcement for the new pro-rated ETF policy. These new Sprint programs include one-on-one interaction between subscribers and sales representatives and detailed summaries that explains transactions.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wireless Contract Update: Sprint to Prorate Early Termination Fee

Here's some great news for all Sprint subscribers. According to an AP article, Sprint is planning to follow other mobile phone carrier's with pro-rated Early Termination Feesor ETF's.

Now ETF's are probably the most controversial aspect of mobile phone contracts because they prevent customers from moving to another carrier before their existing contracts expired. In the past, national and regional US carriers used to charge a flat rate of around $150 to customers who want to get out of a contract before it expired.

Carriers impose this wireless contract policy to recover the cost of subsidized cell phones and to reduce the expense spent on signing up new customers. Of course, subscribers and consumers are no fans of ETF's because it restricts their freedom to move to other carriers and the fee is quite expensive for those who have multiple handsets or phone lines.

Fortunately, many of these carriers have decided to prorate the Early Termination Fees that bind their customers to their existing wireless contracts. And Sprint seems to be on the verge of deciding to prorate its Early Termination Fee. But what is a prorated ETF anyway?

A contract with a prorated ETF will charge a reduced reduce the fee based on each month a subscriber stays with the plan. This means that a subscriber who has stayed with a contract for 14 months will pay less than a customer who wants to opt out of a contract after three months. The less number of months remaining in a contract, the lower the Early Termination Fee.

Sprint's plans to reduce their ETF charges was revealed by CEO Dan Hesse during an an interview. Hesse indicated that the wireless carrier will be able to implement a prorated early termination fee system as early as December.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse explained that a new billing software should first be put in place before the prorated early termination fee system can operate. Customers will be able to benefit from Once is has the new software in place, it will deduct a small amount of money from the $200 ETF for each month that a subscriber stays with the plan.

I thin that this is a great update. One that many Sprint subscribers have been hoping for and they won't have to wait long. Sprint has been facing a lot of disputes and lawsuits based on ETF and perhaps this decision will provide a solution. Tune in to this blog for more information on wireless contract policies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

US Carriers Respond to Rising Text Messaging Rates Concerns

Here's an update to the concerns over the rising rates of Text Massaging that are being charged by Wireless carriers.

A few weeks ago, I made a post about Sen. Herb Kohl, chair of the antitrust subcommittee sending a letter to the four major U.S. wireless network providers. The letter conveyed the senator's and consumer's concerns about the doubling of the rates for sending text messages even though the cost involved with sending them remained constant. The letter was sent ot the offices of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

Now, these carriers have expressed their response to Sen. Kohl's letter on the doubling of the rates for sending text messages. According to an RCRWireless article, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have denied that anything illegal was involved in the doubling of the rates for sending text messages.

According to the carriers, they have offered competitive bulk texting plans that have actually made the costs of sending text messages more affordable for mobile phone to consumers. They also would like to express that thay have suffered an increase in antitrust class-action lawsuits due to the congressional questions about the rising text messaging charges.

T-Mobile's representative defended his company by declaring that charges for text messages charged by the carrier has even dropped by half. He also expressed that the concerns over the rising cost of text messaging are exaggerated and untrue. Sprint and AT&T have also released public responses to Sen. Kohl's letter. Interestingly, Verizon Wireless requested that its response remain confidential.

The wireless carriers want to make an effective response to the inquiry because a number of class-action lawsuits have been filed against them citing Sen. Kohl's letter as the foundation for the complaints. They want to clear up this problem as soon as possible since text messaging is a major part of their revenues.

Well, I expected the major US carriers to respond effectively to this inquiry. Text messaging has steadily grown in popularityover the years so they have to take it seriously. Of course, the antitrust class-action lawsuits that have been filed against them also needs to be taken seriously. Tune in to this blog for more updates on this wireless contract issue and other related news.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Roaming in Rural Areas may be Enforced by Legislation

Here's an interesting update for mobile phone users residing in rural areas. A US Representative has introduced legislation that aims to require telecom recipients of rural universal-service funds to provide automatic roaming to wireless service carriers. But before we discuss this bill let us us first discuss mobile phone roaming.

Now I have discussed roaming in my previous blog posts but it wouldn't hurt to give another little introduction to this wireless contract term. Roaming as used in wireless telecommunications refers to the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered.

Roaming is significant because it allows users to communicate beyond their wireless networks. It is an important service to those who live in rural areas are because the reach of wireless networks is usually limited. Roaming is also significant to customers because it's an important part of their monthly mobile phone service bills. If you "roam" a lot when you use your mobile phone, then you might be looking at a huge bill. Now let's proceed to the legislation that might force roaming in rural areas.

The bill is officially named the Universal Roaming Act of 2008 and was introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation aims to attach the automatic roaming obligation to any affiliate of a telecom carrier that receives high-cost USF subsidies. Some experts feel that this bill will affect the current debates on on roaming rights by some auction winners that cannot yet access their spectrum. However, the current economic crisis will keep congress busy so further action on the bill is expected to be done next year.

This legislation has been met with some opposition from large carriers because they feel that they not be forced to provide access to licensees that own spectrum but have yet to established networks. If they provide roaming access to these licenses, then a delay in build out of wireless systems is a good possibility.

However, the Universal Roaming Act of 2008 also have its share of supporters. The Rural Cellular Association feels that the legislation introduced by Waxman is far-reaching and beneficial to smaller wireless carriers. The Rural Cellular Association would also want to abolish the cap on USF subsidies given to wireless carriers desiring to build systems in rural areas.

Well, I guess we have to wait until the economic crisis has subsided to gauge whether this bill will pass. This legislation has significant impacts on the current roaming scene so it will be interesting to see further action on it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Courts Hand Different Rulings on Carriers Billing Litigation

Here's an update to the complaints that have been filed against a few mobile phone carriers. According to a RCRWireless.com article, various federal courts made different decisions on the billing litigation against Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility. The article also indicated that the number of antitrust class-action texting lawsuits filed against major US carriers have increased steadily. All of these factors indicate that the mobile phone industry will continue to face challenges from frustrated customers and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Let's look at the various federal courts decisions on the billing litigation. Verizon Wireless scored well when a U.S. District judge ruled that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts New Jersey law. This means that Verizon's motion on the enforceable arbitration clause was granted. However, the story doesn't end there.

Verizon Wireless did not scroe well with other courts including the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. These courts ruled in favor of consumers by deciding that class-action complaints cannot be necessarily foreclosed by individual arbitration clauses.

AT&T also faced some rough waters in the decisions made on the litigations and suits that they are facing. For instance, a federal court in San Diego did not rule in favor of the top US mobile phone carrier. The case filed against AT&T and other carriers including T-Mobile for charging customers for unauthorized mobile content on their monthly bills was not dismissed. The judge in charge of this case has temporarily ordered that AT&T cannot settle the class action case in Georgia.

However, AT&T Mobility has not yet raised the flag of surrender even though, the judge ruled in favor of the consumers. The company is currently reviewing and considering their next course of action.

Well, it seems that the battle is till raging. Class action suits are still being filed against carriers despite the waivers on the wireless contracts they require from their customers. We just have to wait and see who gains the upper hand on this one. Weill it be the consumers or will the carriers win at the end of the day. Tune in to this blog to find out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Senate Questions Wireless Carries on Rising Text Rates

Here's some interesting info for mobile phone subscribers who send a lot of text messages. According to this article, Sen. Herb Kohl, chair of the antitrust subcommittee sent a letter to the four major U.S. wireless network providers.

Sen. Kohl's letter was delivered to the offices of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. The chair of the antitrust subcommittee wanted the letter to convey his concerns about the doubling of the rates for sending text messages even though the cost involved with sending them remained constant.

Here's the statement released by Sen. Herb Kohl the chair of the antitrust subcommittee:

"What is particularly alarming about this industrywide rate increase is that it does not appear to be justified by rising costs in delivering text messages. Also of concern is that it appears that each of companies has changed the price for text messaging at nearly the same time, with identical price increases. This conduct is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace."


The current charge for sending text messages is 20 cents which represents double the messaging rates imposed by carriers three years ago. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless serve roughly 90 percent of cell phone users in the US and charge them the same text messaging rate.

The letter sent by Senator Kohl contains a formal request to the network operators asking them to explain the reasons behind the text price increases. Sen. Kohl is also asking AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless to justify the 20 cents rates compared to the rates of sending / receiving emails and other services.

As of the making of this wireless contract post, the recipients of Sen. Kohl's letter has not yet responded. Well, this is certainly an interesting development. I for one, do not comprehend why the rate for text messages has doubled when the cost of sending them remained the same. It would be interesting to see how AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless respond to this letter. That is, if they will offer any response.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Standardized Billing System Might Solve Third-party Services Struggles

Here's an interesting wireless contract scoop. According to this article, Mobile phone carriers are trying to find ways to gain more control their third-party content partners. Third-party content is a part of most mobile phone contracts. Let's delve into this story.

Apparently, carriers like Sprint have been finding ways of dealing with their partners. Sprint for example have have warned their partners that they will forfeit their profits and lose their short codes if they continue to violate Mobile Marketing Association guidelines. Some Mobile Marketing Association guidelines violations involve failure to report billing errors and high refund rates. This move Sprint has encourage other mobile phone service providers to make similar warning to their third-party partners.

But why are the carriers trying to control third-party providers? Well, the main reasons seems to be the increasing complaints in the form of lawsuits from consumers and advocacy groups. All the major carriers and content-subscription service providers have been targeted by consumer advocacy groups.

Mobile phone carriers are also concerned about the reaction of customers to the incompetence and deception of some third-party providers produce. These unsatisfactory performance may cause the carriers to lose customers. Complaints about poor third-party also increases expensive calls to customer-service centers of mobile phone carriers.

There have been some suggestions that a standardized mobile payment platform will be a solution to the problems associated with third-party providers. A standardized mobile payment platform may also ease some the m-commerce space problems. However, a system in the US would would require an enormous effort from carriers and service providers. It may take some time before such a system can be implemented in the US.

let's take a look at some wireless contract policies that deal with third-party services. Here's a statement from Alltel's wireless contract:

The Services will be provided either by us or by our third party vendors or contractors. We reserve the right to change or modify the source of any Services provided to you without notice.

And here's the statement form AT&T's contract:
Third-party content or service providers may impose additional charges. Policies regarding intellectual property, privacy and other policies or terms of use may differ among AT&T's content or service providers and you are bound by such policies or terms when you visit their respective sites or use their services. It is your responsibility to read the rules or service agreements of each content provider or service provider. Any information you involuntarily or voluntarily provide third parties is governed by their policies or terms. The accuracy, appropriateness, content, completeness, timeliness, usefulness, security, safety, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, transmission or correct sequencing of any application, information or downloaded data is not guaranteed or warranted by AT&T or any content providers or other third party. Delays or omissions may occur.

Tune in to this blog to know more about wireless contracts and related topics.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

FCC Undecided on Changing Mobile Phone Roaming Rules

Here's some interesting wireless contract scoop for those who make a lot of roaming calls. According to a Reuters article, the Federal Communications Commission or FCC has not yet made a decision on chaining certain cellular roaming issues that have caused some problems for some mobile phone carriers.

This delay on changing the mobile phone roaming rules was seen as significant since smaller carriers have been expecting a decidion on this issue. Let's look at the heart of this conflict since roaming is one of the many aspects of mobile phone contracts.

The problem lies on whether carriers should be allowed to roam in areas where they own airwaves, but have not built networks, are affecting smaller carriers. Smaller carriers own spectrum in certain markets but lack the means to build the wireless networks and so they have to rely on o roam on the existing networks of larger rivals. The FCC has decided to look at this issue after the commission reaffirmed the rights of smaller carriers to roam on the networks of bigger wireless companies about a year ago.

Minor wireless network providers wanted to gain access to areas where they had acquired spectrum. unfortunately, they lack the means to build networks top exploit those areas. Neverthe less, thses small carriers wanted to preserve their right to roam in those areas.

Earlier, the FCC made a proposal that allowed smaller carriers who owned unused spectrum could continue roaming for four years before they lost roaming rights. The FCC wanted to give smaller carriers time to build out their own networks or to give the spectrum back to the government and continue roaming.

However, the FCC's five commissioners were unable to agree on the proposal so it was withdrawn. Some commissioners were concerned that they need more time to study the issue while some wanted to grant a longer phase-in period to smaller carriers.

The FCC did not indicate a specific time frame for making a decision in this issue. Well, this looks like an issue that won't go away soon. This issue affects regional customers who might lose their ability to make roaming calls if the FCC did not grant smaller carriers to roam on major net works.

Tune in to this blog for more news and updates regarding issues related to mobile phone contracts.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sprint's ETF Lawsuit Loss Could Shake the Industry!

It been a few weeks since I've made a post here. The wireless contract scene has been quite so There wasn't anything to write about. But that's not the case right now. I've just found out that Sprint lost a lawsuit on its ETF wireless contract policy. Let's explore the details of this story.

Apparently, Sprint's early termination fees has violated a state law according to a California state judge when he ruled against the company. The members of the class who sued Sprint for it's ETF were awarded a total of $73 million in reparation for the fees.

The judge's tentative ruling says that Sprint will have to pay $18.3 million to customers who sued over the fees. Sprint should also credit $54.8 million to those who were charged but did not pay the fee. Well, Sprint seems to be in a bind now but the company does have two weeks to contest the ruling.

Not on to the bigger picture. The judge is also considering other lawsuits against telecommunications companies over mobile phone contract policies covering early termination fees. And recently, Verizon Wireless agreed to pay $21 million to settle an identical lawsuit. Overall, things are not looking well for mobile phone carriers.

FCC representatives refused to release any comment on this pivotal court decision however they did indicate that it will not affect the agency's plans on ETF. Currently, the FCC is dealing with lobbying over how best to handle the ETF policies in the wireless contracts of carriers.

The FCC has been asked by various Telecommunications companies to regulate the fees. They want the agency to protect them from class action lawsuits in state courts. The FCC has released information on a plan in which the cancellation fees would be reduced over the life of the contract.

Customers and consumer groups have continually assailed the ETF policies in the mobile phone contracts of cell phone carriers. Perhaps this important decision will fuel the efforts to regulate this troubl;e some fee. Tune in to this blog for more wireless contracts info, news and updates.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wireless Contract Updates: ETF Settlements and Wireless Wiretap Immunity

Here are a couple of news update that are related to wireless contracts. Let's begin with Verizon agreeing to pay some ETF settlements.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon Wireless has settled with subscribers who have filed class-action lawsuits over early-termination fees in wireless contracts. The mobile phone carrier is willing to pay $21 million to settle these wireless contract disputes. Some experts say that this move will to put renewed focus on a federal effort to restrict early termination fees.

Well, this is certainly good for Verizon wireless subscribers especially those who are disputing ETF's. It will be interesting to see the effect of this move. Perhaps the other carriers will also decide to settle the class action suits that they are facing. Maybe the FCC will implement guidelines to take control of these fees.

Let's move on to the news about telecommunication getting immunity from warrantless wiretaps.
http://www.rcrwirelessnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080710/FREE/732008705/1078

The US President Bush will soon sign the new electronic surveillance legislation that can free companies from dozens of privacy lawsuits. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was revised and the changes were passed by the Senate yesterday and the House last month. These revisions effectively grants AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint Nextel Corp. retroactive immunity to in connection with their participation in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretap program.

Here's a statement from the American president regarding the wireless wiretap immunity granted to the carriers.
“This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they’re saying, and what they're planning. It will ensure that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will, themselves, be protected from lawsuits for past or future cooperation with the government. It will uphold our most solemn obligation as officials of the federal government to protect the American people.”

Well, I think this is great news for both subscribers and and the carriers. The mobile phone carriers will be able to protect the privacy over their customers and won't have to worry about privacy lawsuits. Privacy is part of the wireless contract between the two parties. No customer would want to trust any carrier who will not be able to provide security and privacy so they can be protected from losing customers.

This deal is also great for customers because they won't have to worry about the threat of wire tapping. They know that their private conversations and messages will be safe from the prying eyes of the government.

Tune in to this blog for more wireless contract updates.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lawmakers Argue Over Roaming

Here's some more wireless contracts news. Apparently, lawmakers have been debating about over roaming. Some experts say that the controversy over this wireless contract policy may grow into a major fault line in the mobile-phone industry. Let me discuss roaming before we proceed to the meat of this news.

The term "Roaming" is used in wireless telecommunications to describe the extending of connectivity service in a location that is different from the home location where the service was registered. Now every carrier has it's own wireless contract policies on roaming and the charges that come with it.

Here's a statement from the wireless contract of on roaming:

Roaming charges for wireless data or voice service may be charged with some plans when outside AT&T's wireless network. Display on your device will not indicate whether you will incur roaming charges. Services originated or received while outside your plan's included coverage area are subject to roaming charges. Use of Services when roaming is dependent upon roaming carrier's support of applicable network technology and functionality. Check with roaming carriers individually for support and coverage details. Billing for domestic and international roaming usage may be delayed up to three billing cycles due to reporting between carriers. If your usage of the Services on other carriers' wireless networks ("offnet usage") during any two consecutive months exceeds your offnet usage allowance, AT&T may at its option terminate your wireless service or access to data Services, deny your continued use of other carriers' coverage, or change your plan to one imposing usage charges for offnet usage. Your offnet usage allowance is equal to the lesser of 6 megabytes or 20% of the kilobytes included with your plan and for messaging plans the lesser of 3000 messages or 50% of the messages included with your plan. AT&T will provide notice that it intends to take any of the above actions and you may terminate your agreement.

Now that we have discussed the concept of roaming, it's time to get back to the news. The trend to consolidate roaming policies and fees among mobile phone carriers is making an already rough-and-tumble roaming dispute even more volatile. Small carriers have remained dissatisfied with last year’s FCC ruling that declared automatic roaming a common-carrier obligation for cellular operators.

Unfortunately, the FCC ruling has fan the flames over an in-market exemption, the applicability of the mandate to push-to-talk service and the possibility of extending the new rule to high speed wireless Internet services.

To make matters worse the FCC has yet to rule regulatory challenges to its roaming order. Some lawmakers have made inquiries ion to the FCC's plans to proceed on challenges to the automatic roaming ruling.

The legislators are also
concerned that the in-market exception will affect districts with large concentrations of low-income and minority citizens. This market is largely served by small and regional wireless providers.

Leap Wireless International Inc., SouthernLINC Wireless, U.S. Cellular Corp., MetroPCS Communications Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA Inc. and several rural telecom associations are questioning the
FCC roaming rule.

Well, I hope that the legislators and the FCC can figure out the best solution to this roaming controversy. Tune in to this blog for more wireless contract info and news.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

T-Mobile Announces New Approach to Early Termination Fees

Here's some interesting wireless contract news for T-Mobile fans. According to Gizmodo.com, T-Mobile has just announced that they are taking a new approach to the early termination fees for their mobile phone contracts to provide greater flexibility for their customers.

Well, it seems that that ETF's are still a hot issue in the mobile phone industry. This announcement may also be related to AT&T's announcement that they have begun prorating their early termination fees. Here's a statement from Sue Nokes, Chief Customer and Operations Officer, T-Mobile USA, regarding this new approach,

“T-Mobile continues to set the pace in offering customers a number of flexible plans and services that don’t require a contract to help them stay connected to those who matter most. In addition, by providing this flexibility and choice, our hope is that T-Mobile customers will be happy customers for years to come.”

Let's discuss the details of this new T-Mobile early termination fees approach as it may be a bit confusing. T-Mobile wants their customers to know that starting on June 28, 2008, the ETF for customers who choose a one-year or two-year service agreement will decline during the course their contract.

This means that if customers terminate service with 91 to 180 days remaining on their agreement, then the ETF decreases from $200 to $100. It will then decrease again to $50 with fewer than 91 days remaining. Now in the event that a customer want to terminate in the last 30 days of their term, then the ETF is $50 or their standard monthly charge, whichever is less.

Now according to Gizmodo, this new approach to the ETF's of wireless contracts is not the same with pro-rated ETF's because the fee goes down in increments and never touches zero.

I think that this is a positive step towards resolving the wireless contract disputes between the mobile phone carriers and customers. Much of those complaints are focused on ETF's so any move towards reducing it should appease customers. Even the FCC has made proposals to reduce the conflict over early termination fees for cell phone contracts. Perhaps this move by T-Mobile will encourage other carriers to develop their own consumer friendly approach towards ETF's.

Tune in to this blog for more wireless contract news and information.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

FCC Plans for Wireless Contract and ETF

In my last post I discussed the struggles that are centered on the controversial ETF or early termination fees that are charged for canceling a wireless contract.

Mobile phone companies usually charge early termination fees that can range from $150 to $225. These fees help them to recover the cost of devices, which they subsidize under long-term wireless contracts. These ETF's also lessens the burden signing up new customers. However, these fees have been assailed because they have curtailed the freedom of customers to shift to another carrier. The imposition of these fees have resulted in class-action lawsuits in several states and legislative proposals.

Now it seems that the FCC has decided to act and laid out some proposals on ETFs. Hopefully, these proposals will solve some of the problems concerning this policy but let us first take a look at the FCC proposals.

Kevin Marti, the current FCC Chairman, expressed that the proposal is similar to an industry plan that was offered by mobile phone carriers headed by Verizon Wireless. He also expressed that the proposal was drafted because ongoing class-action lawsuits would probably not provide an answer to the ongoing issues about the unpopular fees.

Here are the main elements of the proposal:

  • the ETF would be related to the actual retail price of the device being purchased so that a $100 handset would have a cheaper ETF than a $300 phone
  • ETFs should be prorated and reduced over the length of a cell phone contract
  • wireless contracts should only last for a reasonable length of time
  • Extended wireless contracts should not necessarily have their ETFs reinstated
  • allow class action lawsuits regarding ETFs against certain carriers to move forward

These proposals seems to provide some answers to the problems that are plaguing the mobile phone industry, However, some experts think that the proposal lacks many vital elements. For instance, the proposal did not offer specific information on the government body that would be in charge of monitoring ETFs. The proposal also did not propose any federal program that would preempt state governmental rights.

I guess we have to wait for more updates on this development. Let's hope that the FCC and the mobile phone companies can come up with plans to provide the best service to customers. Tune in to this blog for more wireless contracts news and information.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Battles Over the ETF Policies of Wireless Contracts

I have often blogged about ETFs or early termination fees in this wireless contract blog. That's no surprise because ETF's are probably the most controversial fees charged by wireless contracts.

These fees are very restrictive and expensive. The huge numbers of contract disputes and consumers complaints arising from early termination fees have been documented. All you have to do is to visit consumer rights websites, and you'll see that plenty of consumers are unhappy with these fees and the wireless contract policies that enforce them.

Currently, significant battles or disputes over early termination fees raging in major courts while carriers are being encouraged to make commitments on embracing consumer-friendly practices and opening their networks. The current scenario indicates that the foundation of a decades-old reign of ETF's are under attacked on all sides and it could be on its way out. I'm sure many consumers would like to see the demise of ETF wireless contract policies. Let us explore it more deeply.

Apparently,
the mobile phone industry’s long-held argument that ETFs allow carriers to recoup costs associated with subsidized handsets are being undermined by a series of class-action lawsuits in California state court against national cellular carriers. Complainants feel that ETF's have another purpose and they intend to show the ETF was embraced as an arbitrary penalty. Experts say that other suits will use the same line of argument in pending class actions.

The disputes are also being held in the nation's capital.
CTIA continues to lobby the Federal Communications Commission to approve a 2005 request to declare ETFs a component of wireless rates and therefore off limits to states. A 1993 law pre-empts state regulation of wireless rates, but reserves limited powers over “terms and conditions” to states. Some senators are also pushing a wireless consumer empowerment bill that would mandate pro-rated ETFs.

Experts are also saying the the impact of these battles over wireless contract ETF policies might be significant. For example, if courts rule in favor of the complaints then carriers may be forced to pay huge amounts of money. Some estimates say that the figures run in the billions.

The disputes over early termination fees might also have a huge impact on
churn or the transfer of consumers from one carrier to another. Some carriers may be deeply affected if frequent shifts in subscribership results from the absence of wireless contract ETF policies.

I guess there's nothing we can do but wait. the battles are still raging and there are no clear winners. Tune in to this blog for more updates on wireless contracts, early termination fees and related topics.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

AT&T's Prorated ETFs Are Now In Effect

Here's some excellent wireless contract news for AT&T subscribers.

The wireless carrier has formally announced that the change ion their wireless contract policy regarding ETFs or early termination fees has been implemented. Customers who have signed up an agreement or wireless contract with AT&T starting on May 25 will be charged with a prorated early termination fee should they choose to end or terminate their contract or agreement before it expires.

Here's the official press release issued by AT&T:
More Flexibility for Wireless Customers

San Antonio, Texas, March 31, 2008

AT&T (NYSE:T) today announced a new approach to early termination fees (ETFs) that provides greater flexibility for wireless customers.

Beginning on May 25, the company's new and renewing wireless customers who enter into one- or two-year service agreements will no longer be required to pay a single, flat early termination fee. Instead, that fee, which is $175, will be progressively lowered by $5 during each month, every month, for the term of the contract. (The single, flat ETF will continue to apply to new and renewing customers who enter into one- or two-year service agreements prior to May 25.)

The company noted that it continues to offer options for those customers who do not want term commitments or ETFs, including:

* Buy a phone at full price and go on a month-to-month service plan.
* Bring your own compatible GSM device. With this option, you can buy a SIM (subscriber identity module), slip it into the back of the phone, and select a month-to-month service plan.
* Choose one of AT&T's GoPhone prepaid wireless plans.

I know that a lot of customers have been waiting for this to happen. I have read countless of complaints about the high cost of these fees. Early termination fees can be a pain especially if you have signed several contracts. This decision by AT&T should make it easier for customers to shift to a different carrier.

You can tune in to the AT&T News Room for more press releases regarding wireless contract and important announcements.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Proposal to Ease ETF's of Wireless Contracts

Here's some more interesting wireless Contract news. CNN.com reported that the government is quietly negotiating to help cell phone customers avoid expensive early termination fees when they decided to cancel their wireless contracts.

Verizon Wireless has submitted a proposal to the FCC after the carrier consulted with other leading mobile phone service providers. The wireless contract proposal to the Federal Communications Commission states that the wireless industry would give consumers the opportunity to cancel service without any penalty. This would only apply up to 30 days after customers sign a cell phone contract or until 10 days after they receive their first mobile phone service bill. The proposal ton the FCC also suggests that the fees should be capped and and be reduce month by month over the course of a contract based on how long customers have left.

The article posted on CNN.Com reports that cell phone companies will be freed from suits filed in state courts by angry customers, in exchange for the government's approval. The proposal ,made by Verizon also request that the authority of states to regulate the charges, known as early termination fees should be taken away. Interestingly, the Federal Communication Commission declined to release any comment on this issue.

However, there have also been reports that the proposal is doomed even before it was filed to the FCC. Those who are close to the issue have suggested that the negotiations are on the verge of collapsing. Key stakeholders are continuing to negotiate on an ETF compromise but there are indications a deal remains an uphill battle. Two consumer groups approached by Verizon Wireless appears not to believe that the concessions offered by industry are adequate when consumers could surrender the ability to take legal action against mobile-phone operators.

I have blogged several times about wireless contract complains arising from ETF's or early termination fees. The wireless industry is currently facing a series of long-running, class-action lawsuits in state courts. If this proposal is unsuccessful, then I don't see the class action suits beign filed against carriers decreasing any time soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sprint May Change Wireless Contract to Limit Data Usage

Here's some bad wireless contract news for Sprint Data subscribers.

According to sources at the Sprintusers. com forum, Sprint will be updating its Terms Of Service or wireless contract in mid-July and will be capping its mobile broadband data usage at 5GB. A sad bit of news for subscribers who enjoyed the unlimited services of "best data" carrier.

Here's the statement that conveyed the decision:
Sprint reserves the right to limit throughput speeds or amount of data transferred and to deny, terminate, modify, or suspend service if usage exceeds 5GB per month in total or 300MB/month while off-network roaming. Check your subscriber agreement rights on Sprint.com

Before this disheartening announcement, Sprint was praised for offered truly unlimited mobile broadband. Remember that once the new Terms Of Service or Cwireless contract policy becomes active, users who go over the 5GB cap, or a 300MB roaming cap will incur extra fees. This policy will be applied to both network cards as well as tethering mobile phones to laptops.

Sad as it may seem this decision is not out of line with other carriers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless also impose the same limitations to subscribers. I guess, it's in Sprint's interest to place the cap on mobile broadband data usage. However, these means that many Sprint subscribers will migrate to other carriers. I thought Sprint was trying to keep their subscribers from migrating to other networks.

Some experts say that the CAP could be rolled out in advance of the QChat introduction. Sprint may have a vested interested in cleaning up their network throughput because QChat will replace the older iDen Direct Connect and requires EVDO Rev A. The impact of the data cap on the widely anticipated WIMAX rollout is an object of interest for those in the know.

Anyway, this is being seen by some as a good opportunity to cancel their Sprint wireless contract due to a material change in the policy. Disappointed subscribers have the normal 30 day window to cancel without paying the ETF or early termination fee fee. If you have been waiting for a good opportunity of getting out of a Sprint wireless contract then this maybe your chance.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New Class Action Suits Filed Against Sprint and Verizon

Here we go again. It seems that class action suits are once again targeting wireless carriers. I have made several post that documented the disputes between carriers and customers over wireless contracts and other aspect of consumer-seller relationship. Let's take a look at the case filed against Sprint.

Sprint has been the subject of numerous class action suits and this time the mobile phone carrier has been accused of charging subscribers for unauthorized mobile content. A similar complaint was hurled against Alltel more than a month ago in Illinois federal court.

Subscribers have accused
Sprint of billing customers of unauthorized charges that are caused by collaboration between wireless carriers and aggregators that represent premium mobile content providers. The lawsuit that began in state court before being moved to federal court in Kansas states:
“Sprint has for years been systematically, repeatedly and without authorization, billing its customers for purchases of products and services not agreed to by those customers. Sprint and third-party service providers have, on information and belief, profited significantly through this practice.”

In response to this accusation, Sprint emphasized that they are adhering to standard industry practices. A spokesman commented that "we adhere to the Mobile Marketing Association guidelines which emphasize the need for subscriber consent before third-party content is delivered to a handset.”

Sprint's wireless contract devotes a paragraph to third party-content. Here is a part of that paragraph

To protect our network, Services, or for other reasons, we may place restrictions on accessing certain Data Content (such as certain websites, applications, etc.), impose separate charges, limit throughput or the amount of data you can transfer, or otherwise limit or terminate Services. If we provide you storage for Data Content you have purchased, we may delete the Data Content with notice or place restrictions/limits on the use of storage areas. You may not be able to make or receive voice calls while using data Services.
Let's now look at the class action suit launched against Verizon Wireless. The wireless carrier is once again being accused of violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The complaint filed inn Alabama federal court claims that TransUnion L.L.C. and Verizon are ruining the credit of a wireless subscriber. Verizon Wireless and Alltel Communications L.L.C.. were also accused of violating FCRA laws in Pennsylvania and Georgia federal courts because of alleged breaches of credit privacy.

According to the plaintiff, Verizon Wireless is continuously trying to collect more than $1,000 from him. He feels that this is unlawful because The carrier falsely reported the disputed debt on his credit reports. The plaintiff claims to have followed Verizon Wireless’ instructions with regards to dealing with possible identity theft by filing l out a police report and sending a copy to the carrier.

Unfortunately, the problem remained even though, a collection agency later received the police report. The plaintiff was forced to
contact TransUnion L.L.C. and Equifax because the overdue account remained on his credit reports. Equifax responded by removing the account but TransUnion allegedly did not do the same.

Verizon declined to release any statements in response to this accusations. Here is a part of Verizon's wireless contract statements on credit information,

You’ve authorized us to investigate your credit history at any time and to share credit information about you with credit reporting agencies and our affiliates. If you ask, we’ll tell you the name and address of any credit agency that gives us a credit report about you. It’s illegal for unauthorized people to intercept your calls, but such interceptions can occur. For training or quality assurance, we may also monitor or record our calls with you.
I hope that both parties can sort out their differences and reach a settlement. Of course, it would be naive to think that wireless contract disputes and other problems will cease.The mobile phone industry is among the leader at customer complaints so it's unlikely that customers will stop filing complaints against their service providers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Deceived into Signing Unneeded Wireless Contracts

I stumbled upon an interesting wireless contract article as I was surfing the web today.

I found an article that reports on the finding of an investigation into mobile phone contracts or agreements. The investigation discovered that consumers are wasting a lot of money by signing up for wireless contracts they do not need. Another interesting finding derived from the mobile phone contract investigation points that customers are allegedly being hit by hidden charges that make profit for mobile phone networks.

The investigators who made these discoveries were also able to gather claims of shady techniques used by mobile phone salesmen to convince consumers to sign up for wireless contracts. For example, they may persuade parents to switch a child's pay-as-you-go service to a more costly monthly subscription. Senior customers were also targeted by these techniques.

A few of the sales man confided to the investigators that they were paid extra to lure consumers into signing wireless contracts. Here's a statement by a former mobile phone salesman:

"I'd say that that was the number one thing that they were trying to do - get people off pre-pay and get them onto contract almost regardless of their usage. If you could get them on to contract, that was a result for you, your store and the company."

The head of the investigation on wireless contracts expressed that the result requires action. The people in charge also emphasized that actions should be taken to control or manage the mobile phone industry to keep it from making fortunes by deceiving customers.

The mobile phone industry is among the highest when it comes to customer complaints. And complaints about mobile phone contracts are abundant. I have made a few posts on wireless contract disputes and complaints. And I have read a few complaints from customers claiming that they were deceived. This investigation supports consumers who claim they have been deceived into signing up for a contract.

This also made me realize why so many people want to opt out or terminate their mobile phone contracts. If they were deceived into signing them, then I can't blame them for wanting to be released from a contract. Some of these consumers may have realized that their contracts are costing them more so naturally they would want to end the agreement.

Before you sign any agreements, you should first do a bit of research. People should read, articles, advices and tips before committing to a contract. Consumers usually turn to reviews, phone advisors and forums before they purchase handsets and the process should be the same with mobile phone contracts. Doing your home work always pays off.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Two Carriers Defy Class-Action Suit over Credit Privacy

I've blogged about disputes and conflicts between customers and Mobile Phone carriers in this wireless contract info blog. Most of these disputes originate from problems over wireless contract polices.

Now it seems that plaintiffs’ lawyers have found a new weapon to pursue class-action consumer litigation against the mobile-phone industry. It's known as the "Fair Credit Reporting Act". After doing a bit of research I found out that the Fair Credit Reporting Act is an American federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer credit information.

Amendments made to the FCRA about five years ago, orders that account information on printed receipts given to customers should be significantly limited by businesses that accept credit cards or debit cards for payment. This new guidelines have been imposed by early December 2006.

Recently, class-action lawsuits have been filed against Verizon Wireless and Alltel Corp. because of alleged noncompliance with the law. The financial implications of the class-action suits are potentially massive because both companies have millions of subscribers.

If a court finds willful noncompliance with the law, then the consumer is entitled to a maximum of $1,000 in statutory damages, plus actual damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The lawsuit against Alltel states that:
“Although defendants had up to three years to comply, defendants have willfully violated this law and failed to protect plaintiff and others similarly situated against identity theft and credit card and debit card fraud by continuing to print more than the last five digits of the card number and/or the expiration date on receipts provided to debit card and credit card cardholders transacting business with defendants,

In court filings, Alltel and Verizon Wireless have denied allegations in the lawsuits. Let's see the wireless contract policies of both carriers when it comes to credit information. I have posted on this topic before but this should refresh you minds.

Here is Verizon Wireless contract policy on customer credit information.
Further, you’ve authorized us to investigate your credit history at any time and to share credit information about you with credit reporting agencies and our affiliates. If you ask, we’ll tell you the name and address of any credit agency that gives us a credit report about you.
This is a very interesting piece of news because of its possible impact. Verizon has a lot of customers so this may be a big blow for them. The same goes for Alltel. It's a smaller company so it would be interesting to see how they handle themselves if the court rules for the plaintiffs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wireless Contracts and the CTIA Mobile Phone Tax Petition

I stumbled upon some interesting mobile phone news today. I found out the CTIA is petitioning for a five-year hiatus on new discriminatory state and local wireless taxes. A new bill was also drafted to put this petition into action.

I was intrigued by these scoop because wireless taxes are part of the wireless contracts offered by mobile phone carriers. But before we look at the wireless contract policies that deal with these taxes, let us first go over the details of the petition.

CTIA issued the petition for a five-year ban on any taxes on mobile phone bills because these taxes may slow the growth of the wireless phone industry. The Association based the petition on studies indicating state and local wireless taxation receive nearly fifteen percent of each mobile phone bill. The researches also show that the taxation rate on wireless bill grew four times than that of other goods and services in the last four years.

In support of the CTIA petition to impose a five-year freeze on new discriminatory state and local wireless taxes, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah) introduced a bill.
The bill that was introduced to the House of Representatives is called the "Cell Tax Fairness Act".

About a year ago, presidential candidate John Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) sponsored a similar legislation. The bill they authored would mandate a three-year moratorium on new discriminatory wireless taxes by states. There are also some bills that may have an impact on the wireless industry such as the The Wireless Consumer Protection Bill and the The Cell Phone Consumer Empowerment Act of 2007.

CTIA President, Steve Largent made this statement to explain the petition:

“Keeping wireless taxes at a fair and reasonable level is critical to growing the economy and making the workforce more productive, efficient and informed. We should do everything in our power to remove the roadblocks -- such as excessive, discriminatory wireless taxes -- that stand in the way of progress.”

Now let us see a few wireless contract policies that deal with government and state taxes. Here is the policy from Sprint. This statement indicate that Sprint is required to collect taxes that may change without any notice. You have to provide a genuine certificate if you want to be exempted from any taxes.
You agree to pay all federal, state and local taxes, fees and other assessments that we're required by law to collect and remit to the government on the Services we provide to you. These charges may change from time to time without advance notice. If you're claiming any tax exemption, you must provide us with a valid exemption certificate. Tax exemptions generally won't be applied retroactively.
Here is Verizon's version.This policy is similar to Sprint's policy. A certificate is required for exemption claims and notices may not be issued.
You agree to pay all taxes, fees and surcharges set by the government. We may not always give advance notice of changes to these items. If you’re tax–exempt you must give us your exemption certificates and pay for any filings we make.

Well, I hope that CTIA's petition and the Cell Tax Fairness Act will be approved. I'm sure that all wireless consumers can appreciate a ban on wireless taxes. The wireless contract policies show that subscribers are required to pay them so we can all benefit from the petition and the bill.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Break Free from Expensive Wireless Contract Fees

There is no doubt that people spend a lot of money on mobile phone expenses. They spend a significant amount of money on minutes, mobile phones, plans and fees. No one can also deny that this is a business so carriers are also trying to make a profit through the services they provide to customers.

Many experts have observed that making a phone call has become less expensive. A great example of this trend is the unlimited calling plans that have been launched by wireless carriers. For a hundred bucks a month, a subscriber can make unlimited phone calls!

The trend of less expensive calls also indicate that carriers to market data plans. After all, this the the age of the Internet so it's only logical that data plans would become a good source of income for carriers.

Carriers have also turned to text messaging as a goos source of income. Many text messaging providers have installed a series of increase on text messaging rates in the past few months. Text messaging rates in some wireless plans recently increased from 15 cents to 20 cents.

These changes prompted many consumers to explore the option of canceling their wireless contract without paying any termination fee. Many wireless contracts have a clause that allows the subscriber the option of opting out of a contract if a change in fees have a material effect on your service.

However, caution must be applied with using this option. A consumer should examine the policies of a wireless contract before informing the carrier of this decision. Keep in mind that an early termination fee is charged to customers who choose to switch to a different cell phone carrier before the contract expires. Due to consumer complaints, cell phone providers like AT&T have decided to decrease this penalty as the consumer moves closer the end of his or her contract.

To avoid paying for fees attached to carrier switching, some consumers use third party carriers. These sites usually work by matching prospective buyers with cell phone owners with prospective buyers. The site would require a small fee to allow a consumer to post wireless contract terms. The site will then facilitate the transfer opf contracts between a buyer and an owner.

Consumers who want to settle disputes with their carriers may find success by negotiating near end of their wireless contracts. Carriers may give in to your demands if you express that you are thinking about transferring to another carrier if some fees are not reduced or waived. The stiff competition in the mobile phone industry may work in your favor.

Consumers should also exercise caution when they decided to add a new service or make changes to their wireless plans. Carriers may automatically renew your wireless contract if you make changes to your plan or activate new services. Many wireless contract disputes have originated from contracts being renewd without the knowledge of the consumers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Changes in the Wireless Contract Policies of AT&T

Many mobile phone service providers announced that they will pro rate the early termination fees they charge to customers who want to cancel their wireless contracts. It seems that they are starting to make good on those promises this year. AT&T recently announced that their subscribers will benefit from greater flexibility provided by the company's new approach to early termination fees.

Existing and new AT&T subscribers will not be charged with a flat early termination fee for canceling a service agreement, as long as they signed a one or two year wireless contract beginning on May 25, 2008. They will be charged with a rate that will decrease by "$5 during each month, every month, for the term of the contract."

However, the customers who have signed wireless contracts with AT&T before May 25 will still be charged with a single, flat ETF of $175. Well, I guess these customers will have to finish their contract. These pro rate policy is certainly more customer friendly then the flat rate ETF charged for terminating a wireless contract.

Customers who want no part of any wireless contracts also have new options. If you do not want to tangle with ETF's or other contract policies then you may:

- Choose to briung a compatible GSM device and purchase a SIM (subscriber identity module). You may then slip it into the back of the phone, and select a month-to-month service plan.

- Purchase a handset at full price and choose to go on a month-to-month service plan.

- Sign up for the GoPhone prepaid wireless plans offered by AT&T


The company also announced a few more customer friendly policies. For instance, AT&T now offers a 30-day return policy. This is a no-questions-asked grace period for service and equipment for customers who are unsatisfied with the equipment or service they have purchased.

AT&T Customers will also benefit from street-level coverage maps. They can use this online interactive mapping tool to view AT&T wireless coverage down to a neighborhood street level. This tool can even estimate the likelihood of coverage inside a building or a vehicle and outdoors to help subscribers.

These are just some of the customer friendly policies that have been launched by AT&T. I'm sure that others will follow. I have witnessed a lot of wireless contract complaints so I hope these changes will appease dissatisfied customers. These changes points towards a positive future for relations between wireless carriers and customers. I expect the other carriers to offer similar policies to make their own subscribers happy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Suit Attacks Class Action Ban on AT&T's Wireless Contract

Recently, a class action suit against AT&T was filed in the federal court in Washington state. This complaint wants to invalidate the class-action ban AT&T Mobility’s wireless contracts.

Mobile phone service providers usually place
class-action bans or waivers in their wireless contracts as a form of protection against legal action. However, these policies have been criticized by consumer rights groups and by subscribers. These policies have also not prevented angry and dissatisfied customers from filing suits and legal complaints against mobile phone carriers.

Harvey Rosenfield, a lawyer with the non-profit Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights made a statement regarding the significance of this complaint. He explains that, “At stake here is the right of AT&T customers to get a fair hearing and obtain justice. If the court rules that AT&T and Cingular's customers cannot join together to sue these companies, then the companies will never be held accountable.”

According to the plaintiffs, that
Cingular Wireless promised regulators and the public that customers would continue to enjoy the same quality service when it merged with AT&T Wireless. Problems began to surface when Cingular allegedly degraded the quality of the AT&T network. It was alleged that this move was designed to force AT&T customers into moving to Cingular's network, paying an $18 upgrade fee, buying new phones and signing up for new two-year plans. To make matters worse, early termination fees of $150 or more were charged to dissatisfied consumers who wanted to move to a different Mobile phone service provider.

In response to this complaint, AT&T released statements regarding the way the handle consumer complaints and grievances. The company stated,

“We continue to believe that a consumer is better off pursuing a claim under our arbitration clause, rather than pursuing a class action. Arbitration is typically a fast, cost-effective, and pro-consumer way to address disputes, and AT&T's arbitration agreement is among the most consumer-friendly in the nation. “In fact a year and a half ago we changed our arbitration clause to make it even more consumer friendly. Our current arbitration clause calls for the company -- if it does not settle a consumer complaint and loses arbitration -- to pay the greater amount of either the arbitration or the state's statutory definition of a small claim (commonly $5,000). Also, if the consumer has used a lawyer in winning an arbitration case, the company would pay two times the lawyers fees. Finally, we pay the entire cost of the arbitration.”
This is certainly interesting. AT&T responded to the complaint when carriers facing class action suits decline any comment. I hope that this dispute will be resolved and end in a compromise that will be fair for both parties.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Options for Consumers who Hate Wireless Contracts

After working on this blog, I have come to the realization that a lot of consumers dislike wireless contracts. Many of them have no love for contracts that bind them to a carrier or plan for a long period. Well, it doesn't take a MENSA member to figure that out.

I have read a lot of complaints against wireless contracts. This year, mobile phone carriers have been assaulted by numerous class action suits because of wireless contract disputes. I have also read the waivers and other statements that protect carriers from consumer complaints. All of these pointed to the fact that wireless contracts are not the most lovable aspect of owing a mobile phone.

After coming upon this brilliant realization, I decided to discuss a couple of the best options available to consumers who do not feel inclined to sign a long term mobile phone contract. Hopefully, these options will be able to guide contract-hating consumers to solutions that will givce them satisfaction.

One of the best ways to get mobile phone services without being caught in the clutches of wireless contracts is by purchasing a mobile phone on its full price. Mobile phone carriers encourage a lot of people to sign wireless contracts by giving a significant discount on the handsets. Customers are obliged to sign the contract so that they can take advantage of the discounts and perks. Never mind that contracts also come with numerous disadvantages.

A few weeks ago, Massachusetts Representative Edward J. Markey authored the Wireless Consumer Protection Bill. This bill aims to nullify the need for consumers to sign a mobile phone contract when they pay the full price for handsets. This bill is still being debated upon in Congress but some carriers allow customers to be free of contracts if they pay for the whole price but they do not advertise this option.

If you are a rich hombre, then you can probably march to a mobile phone retail store and purchase the hottest phone without signing a wireless contract. However, we can't all afford to purchase cool mobile phones at full price. Some customers have to turn to the Internet to get away from wireless contracts and get mobile phones at the same time.

You can get mobile phones at online auction sites like eBay at affordable prices. These phones
are free of contracts so customers can simply go to a cell phone service provider and activate the phone. However, purchasing gadgets and other items from online auctions can be risky do customers should consider this option carefully.

If you hate wireless contracts and can't afford to purchase a phone at full price or discount phones on the web, then you have another option. You can turn to prepaid plans if you don't want to be restricted by a wireless contract.

Consumers who get prepaid plan will be able to pay for minutes upfront. They can then simply get a new one once those minutes have been used up. You can say good riddance to wireless contracts if you choose this option. There will be no more complaints over unfair bills, contract extensions, fees and credit checks.

Unfortunately, getting a prepaid plan to escape a wireless contracts is not a perfect solution. You will be missing out on perks and promotions if you go prepaid. Contracts can be restrictive but they do offer discounts and promotions that make up for it. Customers have to weigh the options care fully before they choose this option. Some lifestyles may be compatible with prepaid plans but some people may be better off with wireless contracts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Wireless Contract Complaints

I looked around for some consumer complaints that are directed towards wireless contracts. Some of these complaints are a few years old but it will also be interesting to see if the wireless contracts adapted to cater to those complaints. We may also be able to learn a few things by looking at these wireless contract complaints.

I visited consumeraffairs.com and found numerous wireless contract complaints. here is an example filed by Lonnie of Sullivan IL.

"U.S. Cellular sold me a two year plan in December 2002. They carefully pointed out there was a $150 early cancellation fee if we cancelled before the two years was up. In November 2003 U.S. Cellular lost their ability to use Verizon's tower in our area. Suddenly our phone service tanked. We could not call out many times. During calls we would frequently get dropped. We were often unable to get calls. Our messages never showed up. We gave U.S. Cellular until this month to fix the problem, which is their problem as far as I am concerned. However, the service never improved and I finally cancelled this month. Naturally the customer service representative told me I had to pay the $150 cancellation fee, even though I was cancelling because of their erratic service. As far as I am concerned, U.S. Cellular's much vaunted customer service stinks."

This wireless customer claims that he had no choice but to cancel his wireless contract because of the poor service he was getting. When US Cellular was unable to get service from a Verizon tower in Lonnie's area, the customer began to experience problems like dropped calls and lost messages.

The customer asked the carrier to remedy the problem but there was no response from the network so Lonnie had no choice but to cancel his wireless contract. Unfortunately, Lonnie was asked to pay the early termination fee because he opted to terminate his contract.

This complaint encourage me to look at the coverage policy of US cellular. May the wireless contract has offered a solution or a statement regarding customer getting poor coverage. this is what I found:
You understand that Service may be interrupted or unavailable due to atmospheric or topographical conditions, governmental regulations or orders, or system capacity limitations. Representations of coverage by U.S. Cellular or its agents are not guarantees.
The wireless of US Cellular states that many factors can lead to customers having poor coverage or service. Thus the carrier cannot guarantee coverage to customers. Maybe this statement was crafted to discourage customers from continuously complaining about getting bad coverage. Perhaps this statement was meant to inform customers that coverage may not always be available. The important thing is that customers have to remember that US Cellular do not guarantee coverage.

Here is another wireless contract complaint from Keith of Derry NH. This compaint involves warranties.

"I bought phones for me and my two kids. My daughter's phone stopped working and Go Wireless refused to honor the warranty. They have a Verizon Wireless sign bigger than their own sign and represent themselves as Verizon. But when it comes to customer service they did NOTHING. The manager Nathan was rude and unprofessional. When I complained to Verizon Wireless directly, they made it clear that Go Wireless does not speak for Verizon."

This customer claims that Go Wireless representing themselves as Verizon offered a warranty for theuir mpobile phones. However, when the devices failed to perform, the vendor did not honor the warranty. Verizon denied any relationship with Go Wireless and any responsibility for the defective devices.

I scanned the Terms and Conditions of Verizon Wireless for any policy or statement concerning warranties. I found this statement in capital letters:
WE MAKE NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW, ANY IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE CONCERNING YOUR SERVICE OR YOUR WIRELESS PHONE. WE CAN’T PROMISE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR–FREE SERVICE AND DON’T AUTHORIZE ANYONE TO MAKE ANY WARRANTIES ON OUR BEHALF. THIS DOESN’T DEPRIVE YOU OF ANY WARRANTY RIGHTS YOU MAY HAVE AGAINST ANYONE ELSE.

So I guess this disclaimer makes it clear that Verizon Wireless does not authorize any one to claim any warranties on the behalf of the company. Customers must avoid shady dealers who claims that a warranty is backed by the company. This statement from the wireless contract clearly indicates that warranties made by dealers for the company are not genuine.

Well, I guess that's it for today. Reading complaints from consumers can give some feedbacks about a company. You might even find it helpful to post your own complaints in these sites. Perhaps your sentiments may move carriers or law makers into action.

Friday, March 7, 2008

More Class Action Suits Filed against Sprint and T-Mobile

Here we go again. This certainly seems to be the year of class action suits against mobile phone carriers. New just a few days ago. Both of these companies have already been hit with class actions suits this year, and the new complaints are sure to bring new problems.

Let us begin with the complaint against Sprint. This is the third class action suit filed against the wireless network this year. The first complaint filed against the company was based on complaints that Sprint illegally extended the wireless contracts of customers after they made minor changes to their service. In the second complaint, Sprint was accused of misleading consumers by improperly charging roaming fees in connection with two “fair and flexible” plans.

The third complaint against the carrier this year is also on roaming charges. The complaint that subscribers were charged for roaming charges after being told they would not incur such fees under a major calling plan were filed in Florida and in North Carolina. The suit states that,
Sprint knew or reasonably should have known that these representations were materially false, deceptive or misleading because it not only routinely charged PCS Free and Clear Plan customers roaming rates for calls made and received ‘on the network,’ Sprint even charged these customers roaming rates for calls in their home cities where the plan was sold and where Sprint purportedly provided comprehensive network coverage. In fact, Sprint not only charged its customers roaming charges for calls made on the Nationwide Sprint PCS Network, it even charged them roaming charges for calls received on the Nationwide Sprint PCS Network.”
Roaming charges are certainly controversial. People have questioned how carriers were calculating these charges and it often results in class action suits or wireless contract disputes. This recent complaint against Sprint accused the company of charging customers even if they were making calls in the location where they purchased their plans. Customers claim that they were even charged for roaming even if they only received the calls.

Let us take a look at the company's s wireless contract. Maybe we can get some info on how the carrier charges customers for roaming. Here is the statement from the wireless contract of Sprint.
"Roaming" typically refers to coverage on another carrier's network that we make available to you based on our agreements with other carriers. These agreements may change from time to time and roaming coverage is subject to change. Your ability to receive roaming coverage depends on the radio transmissions your Device can pick up. You can pick up roaming coverage both within and outside our network coverage areas. Your Device will generally indicate when you're roaming. Depending on your Services, separate charges or limits on the amount of minutes used while roaming may apply. Certain Services may not be available or work the same when roaming (including data Services, voicemail, call waiting, etc.).
Interestingly, the terms and conditions of Sprint affirms that customers may pick up roaming coverage within and outside of their coverage areas. however, the customers claim that they were told that they will not incur these fees because they were under a major wireless plans. I guess we'll have to leave it to the authorities to figure this mess out.

Let us move on the complaint against T-Mobile. The wireless company also faces a class action suit filed in California federal court. The complaint accuses the company of not providing enough information on an “upgrade fee” that are applied on current subscribers who want to get new mobile devices.

T-Mobile’s use of wireless contract clauses that impose mandatory arbitration and waive the right to participate in class action suits was also attacked. here is a sample of this type of clause taken form T-Mobile's terms and conditions:
CLASS ACTION WAIVER. WHETHER IN COURT, SMALL CLAIMS COURT, OR ARBITRATION YOU AND WE MAY ONLY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST EACH OTHER IN AN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY AND NOT AS A CLASS REPRESENTATIVE OR A CLASS MEMBER IN A CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTION. NOTWITHSTANDING SEC. 22, IF A COURT OR ARBITRATOR DETERMINES IN A CLAIM BETWEEN YOU AND US THAT YOUR WAIVER OF ANY ABILITY TO PARTICIPATE IN CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE ACTIONS IS UNENFORCEABLE UNDER APPLICABLE LAW, THE ARBITRATION AGREEMENT WILL NOT APPLY, AND YOU AND WE AGREE THAT SUCH CLAIMS WILL BE RESOLVED BY A COURT OF APPROPRIATE JURISDICTION, OTHER THAN A SMALL CLAIMS COURT.
All the wireless contracts I've read has their own version of these clauses but a federal circuit court in San Francisco ruled that T-Mobile’s terms and conditions are unenforceable. I guess we'll have to see the lawyers of both parties duke it out. Perhaps the new consumer bills being drafted in congress will provide a way to solve these disputes.