Penalty Fee for Terminating Your Cell Phone Contract Early
This seems to be getting more common, people being charged a fine for terminating their cell phone contract. And now some telecom companies are sticking it to their internet subscribers too.
I have no idea whether these fees are collectible or enforceable. After all, if you’ve ended your dealings with a telecom company, what are they gonna do, disconnect you? And what kind of “free enterprise” is this anyway, penalizing a customer for patronizing a competitor? What's next, Safeway fining their customers if they catch them shopping at Albertsons?
There's a reason I’m interested in this. About 2-½ years ago we terminated our 2-year contract with a cell phone company — after two months. We had just moved and we wanted to have cell phones at least until we could get a conventional land line set up. Neither of us had ever had a cell phone before.
We went to a kiosk at Wal-Mart and told the sales rep that we needed cell phone service for just a month or two while we were getting settled in. He said “sure, I can get you started.” The whole thing took just a few minutes and I signed the forms and we got our phones.
I didn’t realize I had signed a 2-year contract that called for a $300 fine if I ended the contract early. Yes, I should have taken a few minutes to pore over all the fine print, even though we were in a hurry and there were people waiting in line behind us. Yes, I should've been more careful and not allowed us to get suckered.
After two months we were disgusted by the shitty phone service, and the fees turned out to be much higher than the slick salesman at Wal-Mart had told us. So we called them up to cancel. That’s when we were told about the $300 cancellation fee ($150 for each phone). And that’s when we decided not to pay this ridiculous extortion fee. What are those fuckheads gonna do about it?
And we still haven’t paid it. We've gotten lots of threatening letters — first from the cell phone carrier and then from various collection agencies. This would go in our credit report, etc. (So far it hasn’t.)
I recently did a web search on “cell phone contract termination.” Lots of websites; lots of forums on this exact subject. There were lots of suggestions on how to try wiggling out of your contract and how to persuade the cell phone carrier to terminate the contract. But I never saw anyone just say "don't pay it." Have I started something? I’m baaad!
Has anything like this happened to you?