Wireless carriers scaling back fees

March 10, 2009 7:01:42 PM PDT
Many companies are getting more lenient about their dreaded early termination fees. Many companies are now pro-rating the fees, so the longer you are in a contract, the less you pay to cancel.

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But, one man told 7 On Your Side his cell phone started dropping calls and even though he had been a longtime customer, he could not get around the fee.

Ted Marshall of Pleasanton is still being treated for injuries suffered in the Vietnam War and has to call his doctors regularly. He said about one year ago his cell phone started giving him problems.

"Losing all the calls, not getting any calls. I just reached the end of my rope," said Marshall.

Ted does not have a landline and was relying on his AT&T cell phone to keep him connected to his doctors at the VA hospital. But, oftentimes he could not get through the hospital phone maze before his line would disconnect.

"The call would drop. And, trying to get back through, it caused a lot of hassle," said Marshall. "If I sit on my bed in a corner of the bedroom I could get the call. But, I don't like making all my calls sitting on the bed."

Ted said that when he went downstairs to his computer, the phone service did not go down with him. He called AT&T to complain and as he was talking with customer service, that call dropped too.

"She goes, 'You're right. It does drop.' And, I told her all the places it drops and the call dropped again, and she never called me back," said Marshall.

AT&T credited his account for 1,000 lost minutes and refunded him $207.

But, Ted did not want to keep losing calls so he asked AT&T to cancel his contract. The company complied, but with only a month left on his contract they said he would have to pay a $150 early termination fee.

Ted described his conversation with AT&T: "I said 'But I'm not getting my calls.' They said, 'We understand, but you signed a contract.' They said, 'We'll give you free minutes. I said, 'What good is that?"

7 on Your Side contacted AT&T, and the company said it had been upgrading the network in Ted's area so service should be even better, not worse. But, because he was unhappy, AT&T cancelled Ted's contract and waived the early termination fee.

AT&T said, "We're sorry the customer experienced a problem, but glad we were able to help with his request."

"That was good. That was good. I was happy," said Marshall.

Instead of a flat fee for early termination, AT&T started pro-rating the fee last May, reducing it by $5 for every month you stay in the contract.

But, that is only for customers who signed up after May 2008.

The following companies are pro-rating their fees, click for more information: AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon and T-Mobile.

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