The bill, known as SB 1241, will now go before the full senate.
In passing the bill, one senator noted that sometimes cell phone equipment stops working altogether, leaving customers with the option of either buying a new phone at full price or paying an early termination fee. Some termination fees run as high as $200.
Under the new bill, customers could cancel their cell phone service if the cell phone carrier is in violation of its contract. This includes equipment failures and falsely representing areas of coverage. Although cell phone companies claim customers can legally end their contracts if cell phone carriers violate their contracts, in reality it is very difficult to get cell phone companies to listen to angry consumers.
Arizona is not the first state to propose legislation that is intended to help consumers in dealing with cell phone carriers. Earlier this year legislation was proposed in Massachusetts that was designed to make cell phone carriers more accountable to consumers.
If passed the legislation would force companies to issue regular reports that detail dead zones, gaps in coverage areas, and the number of dropped calls. Additionally, the legislation would give consumers a way out of their contracts if they were suffering from poor service. Customers would be eligible for a prorated termination fee if they made five or more complaints in a month about their cell phone service.
Unfortunately, cell phone companies are able to get away with many reprehensible practices and the states have so far done little to stop them. Despite giving poor service to customers, the companies still charge outrageous fees for customers who want to cancel their contracts, leaving consumers little alternative but to suffer through the poor service until the contract is complete.
For example, one customer is being charged for unauthorized text messages even though he did not subscribe to that service and has not given the company permission to send him messages. So far he is being charged $9.99 per month plus fees for receiving each individual message, even though he never requested the service and cannot send a text message back to the company asking them to stop. His cell phone carrier says that they cannot block the text messages.
Another customer says she has dealt with dropped calls, dead zones, and having no service inside buildings for three years. When she spoke to her cell phone carrier about the problem, she was told that she had agreed to be inconvenienced when she extended her contract with the recent phone upgrades.
Many people do not realize that by upgrading their services or their phones they may actually be extending their contracts, even if the upgrade is done because the service they are receiving is poor in the first place. Once the contract is extended, they will have to pay an early termination fee in order to cancel their contract, even if the upgrades do not make the situation any better.