If you are considering buying a new BlackBerry, Android phone, or Netbook from Verizon Wireless, you better make sure you won't want to break your contract early, as the penalty for ditching your service before the end of the contract has just gotten a lot steeper.
But what does Verizon's move to increase early-termination fees mean for the rest of the wireless industry? That's a good question.
Early-termination fees are not new to the wireless industry. For as long as wireless operators have been selling and subsidizing cell phones, they've required customers to sign contracts. And … Read more
Try as I might, I can't get that worked up about carrier exclusivity. If a cell phone carrier and a manufacturer want to pair up and offer a handset for a certain period, I'm not going to oppose it purely on principle. Granted, such deals may not be fair to absolutely everyone, but I'd argue that there are much bigger problems with how the U.S. wireless industry operates.
Yet, a few U.S. Senators don't appear to agree. On July 7, a few weeks after a Senate committee grilled national carrier reps on device exclusivity, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) wrote letters to both the federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department's antitrust division asking the agencies to investigate the issue and suggest possible regulatory proposals.
"The practice of large cell phone companies gaining exclusive deals to the most in-demand cell phones is a serious barrier to competition," Kohl wrote. "Consumers are unlikely to obtain cell phone service from companies if they cannot obtain desired handsets."
I'm no carrier lackey, but I find it fascinating that Congress is just now noticing that carrier exclusivity exists. The practice, which is hardly unique to the United States, has been around for a long time. So from where is the sudden interest coming?
It's been almost a year since a judge in Alameda County, Calif., ruled that Sprint Nextel's early-termination fees are illegal, and yet Sprint and every other major U.S. wireless operator still charges customers a fee for canceling their services before a contract expires.
So what gives? Why are these pesky early-termination fees still around if they are against the law?
That's a good question and one that many readers have asked me over the past year. Because I get so many questions about these fees, I decided to put together this FAQ to help people understand … Read more