Clearwire Contract Extensions Not So Clear

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Sparks, NVIt is one thing to be charged Clearwire early termination fees when you cancel a contract early—before the contract has expired. It is another thing entirely to be charged Clearwire cancellation fees when you have already been told that your contract has ended. Dave H. says he was told his Clearwire contract had ended months ago, only to be told a month later that it had not. In fact, he was told he extended his contract. Now, Dave is stuck trying to decide what action, if any, to take.

"I signed up with Clearwire in early 2006 because they had offered mobile Internet services," Dave says. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to have mobile Internet services?' About two-and-a-half years later, I wasn't really using the mobile services. I had an antenna to plug into my computer—I had a computer at work and a laptop at home—and I would unplug the antenna, pack it up and take it home with me. It got to be cumbersome, so I decided to leave the antenna at work and use a router, instead.

"I called Clearwire [in December 2008] and they said, "You can have a PC card modem, which you put in your computer so you don't have to unplug the antenna. It was an extra $20 a month, so I said that was great and went with it.

"They brought the card modem but 4 months later, my computer crashed. I decided I didn't need Clearwire anymore. The thing is, Clearwire advertised 1.5 Megs of Internet service, which is about the slowest in my community. I was able to get 5 Megs from a different provider, so I wanted that.

"I called Clearwire and asked about my contract. They said it expired a few months ago and asked what I wanted to do. I said, 'Nothing. I'm just calling to see if I'm obligated to you.' But, they said I wasn't; I was month to month.

"A month later, I called back to discontinue the service and they said, 'Oh, no. You're hooked up for 2 years.' They said that the PC card modem automatically extended my contract for 2 years. I said that I want to discontinue the service and they told me to talk to Penny [a Clearwire representative].

"Penny suggested that I resell my contract on craigslist or E-Bay by advertising that people can take over the monthly payments without any transfer fees, hook up fees or fees of any kind. If I didn't want to do that, I would have to pay the cancellation fee, which we didn't go into.

"The Clearwire service isn't the best and the antenna isn't the best. I'm probably less than a mile from a repeater site and I'm having trouble getting a decent speed out of my connection.

"They said I could get a PC card modem for my laptop and it sounded great. Then, they said I was month to month and had no obligation to them."

Of course, now David has found out that Clearwire says he does have a contract, even though he did not knowingly authorize the extension of that already expired contract. So David is stuck between trying to sell the contract, paying the early termination fee or paying out the rest of the contract—a lot to go through for someone who was told his contract was finished.

"I thought that was a bit funny," David says. "Currently, I haven't really shut my Clearwire off. If I tell my credit card provider not to pay, I'll get sent to collections. It's been about a week [since the phone call] and I'm deciding what to do. I guess they can charge me the $184 or whatever it is to discontinue the service."

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