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.

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.

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