Cell Phone Termination Fees: "You Want To Pull Your Hair Out"

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Dallas, TXDouglas M. says that he has finally resolved his complaints with Sprint, but it took a long time, many phone calls and two complaints to the Better Business Bureau before his early termination fees were dropped. He had been with Sprint for many years when his problems started in 2005 and says that he never actually authorized a new plan with his cell phone provider.

"I started with Sprint back when I started college, about 10 years ago," Douglas says. "In that time I've periodically changed phone numbers, cities and areas. Whenever I changed my service, I kept it for a long time.

Fee Frustration"I work a lot in Vegas and while I was there my cell phone fell and busted. I went to Wal-mart to change over the service. That's when the trouble started. When they changed over my phone number in Vegas, they erased my number and couldn't retrieve it. I was without service for days. They also conveniently erased the plan that I'd had for two or three years and didn't offer it again. I had to redo the whole plan.

"I called to complain about this because I had a really good plan with Sprint before they lost the phone number. Sprint said to call every month to adjust the charges on my bill. They did that for a while, but then they were being jerks and really rude. From May 2006, to December 2006, I made 42 phone calls to Sprint over this one issue. They were never short calls; they were always 45 minutes or 20 minutes on hold. Then I'd be transferred to the wrong people or I was disconnected."

The price difference in cell phone plans was no small amount. Although Douglas was told his cell phone bill would be between $130 and $150 a month, he received an initial bill of $275. Each bill after that initial bill was also well above the promised $130 to $150 range.

"I got fed up in October or November 2007 and canceled the service," Douglas says. "I had a couple of months left on this plan—a plan that I don't agree that I okayed because, as far as I was concerned, I was still on my old plan. [In his complaint to the Better Business Bureau, Douglas notes that a Sprint representative previously informed him that he was no longer under a two-year contract.] I told them I wouldn't pay to disconnect the service when I had only a couple of months left on this new plan. The manager said he would take care of it.

"Two weeks ago, I got a letter from a claims company for $200 to Sprint CPS. It said that I owed an early termination fee. So, the whole process of trying to call Sprint happened again. I called and was put on hold for 45 minutes and was transferred five times. Finally, I reached someone who was helpful and then someone from Sprint actually called me back and said they would drop the termination fees. The Better Business Bureau also called to confirm that the dispute was resolved.

"It's hard to believe that Sprint couldn't retrieve my old phone number and couldn't give me my old rates. It's mysterious to me. They had a record of the plan but couldn't reinstate it. Always calling in every single month to dispute my bill, with each conversation being an hour long, it's insanely time consuming."

Many consumers are now investigating possible lawsuits against their cell phone providers, alleging they are being unfairly charged early termination fees

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