When You’re Done, You’re Done—Resist Early Termination Fees!

TURN’s consumer advisor helps a TURN member avoid early cancellation fees from her wireless provider

Dear Consumer Advisor,

I purchased a two-year “Family” Plan for cell phone service for my two daughters and I from Verizon. It turned out to be a mistake. The phones would drop calls a few seconds after making a connection. Customer service was not helpful. After two and a half months of getting the runaround, and complete dissatisfaction with the products I purchased, I want to cancel the service.

When I called Verizon they informed me that if I wanted to cancel my contract I would have to pay an early termination fee of $175 for each phone, $525! This doesn’t seem fair, especially since the service doesn’t even work.

Verizon also told me that they could terminate my phone service, but would keep the other two family members, who are minors, connected. They claimed each phone is an individual contract, and in essence, we were signing three separate contracts. If you set up a “family” plan with group benefits and costs, can each member of the group be held individually liable for penalty costs?

Are we really going to be stuck in this cell hell for two years? I want to end my relationship with this wireless carrier!

Sincerely, Done


Dear Done,
Your contract with Verizon should not mean a sentence to cell hell.

First of all, as far as your daughters go, if the other two family members on your plan are minors, and you ordered service under your line of credit, Verizon cannot hold them individually liable. Their account expires at the same time that yours does. If they are not minors and they want to continue with the service, you should have them put in their own names and remove yours from the account.

With regard to the early termination fee, TURN and many other consumer advocates have been fighting these excessive and unfair fees for years. Some lawsuits challenging them have been successful. The cell companies have fought tooth and nail against any attempt to outlaw these fees, but have bowed to all the pressure with policies to “voluntarily” prorate the fees.

Your experience shows how inadequate “voluntary” measures are, since they tried to get you to pay a fee even though your service didn’t work properly. If you are persistent in refusing to pay a fee, Verizon is likely to back down.

AT&T and Verizon usually don’t charge a cancellation fee for the trial period at the beginning of a new contract. Thereafter, the $175 fee on one- and two-year contracts is often reduced by $5 for each month you stay with the service.

However, you are obligated to pay for phone usage and the activation fee should you cancel. And remember that terminations during a monthly billing cycle become effective on the last day of that cycle. This does not apply if you terminate your plan at the end of your minimum contract, usually two years.

TURN encourages customers to shop around for a wireless carrier who will commit to pro-rating fees, and include it in the contract. Right now the market is saturated and wireless companies are dying for more customers, so consumers have more power then ever before.

An update from Done 

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