7 On Your Side helps customer struggling to return cellphone

DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- What are your rights when trying to return a mobile device to your carrier? That's what 7 On Your Side looked into.

Sometimes you buy a phone from a carrier and it just isn't a good fit. So what do you do and what can you legally expect?

Danville resident Bob Mahoney is now connected through Sprint. He had switched over to Verizon, but the phone didn't work too well on a trip to New York. He said, "Had a real problem with dropped calls, I think it was eight dropped calls in one communication with a customer and I said, 'I can't have this.'"

He returned his phones -- he had two -- 13 days after the purchase. Verizon has a 14-day return policy, so he thought he would get his money back, but instead he got a big bill.

"So they ended up charging me for the full value of the phones, plus sales tax, plus two months of service for about $1,570," Mahoney said.

He tried for quite a while to get his money back, but eventually turned to 7 On Your Side and we contacted Verizon. Immediately, he heard from the company, the accepted the returns and he received a big apology.

Verizon told 7 On Your Side, "We strive to provide the best possible experience for each of our customers. In this case, we failed to deliver on that promise. We sincerely regret this error and have corrected Mr. Mahoney's account."

Mahoney and Verizon are not the only ones wrestling with this. 7 On Your Side spoke with Mindy Spatt with The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group based in San Francisco.

"We do sometimes hear from consumers who are having problems with early termination fees. I can tell you that over the years this is by far one of the most popular articles on our website, which tells us consumers are going online to figure out 'What are my rights?' and it is not easy to find out," Spatt said.

For a short time we had regulations about this in California, but that was back in 2005. The California Public Utilities Commission did away with them.

So now you must read your contract and all of that small print very carefully. Most companies have a 14-day return policy; T-Mobile allows 30 days. Some of the companies charge small return fees, or usage and restocking fees. So, check those as well before you get your phone. A lot of times a phone can work great at the store, but not so well at your home.
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