No matter how unhappy, dissatisfied, frustrated, flummoxed, nonplussed, and generally grumpy you feel about your cellphone service, you may feel even worse when you attempt to terminate your contract.
One consumer advocate quips, In most states, it’s easier to get a divorce than to get out of a cellphone contract. Not surprisingly, experts suggest you start by trying to negotiate openly and honestly with your provider; most qualify their advice, though, shaking their heads sadly and saying, Good luck with that. The editors at Wired magazine have developed the Internet’s most comprehensive set of strategies for breaking cellphone contracts, and they openly advocate, if courtesy, charm, and skilled negotiation fail, then resort to guerrilla measures. They do point out, however, you should consider the two easiest, least stressful options before you get creative or subversive. First, you may simply pay the early termination fee and walk away except you probably could put those $200 to far better use. Second, most reasonably, you may scale back to bare minimum service until your contract runs-out; then, switch to a pay-as-you-go plan. Deciding between these options, simply determine which strategy will cost less. Deciding among other options, you will have to consider how much you value your time and tolerance.
Proven escapes from cellphone contracts
If your service is completely unreliable, document its failures, and begin filing online complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau, notifying your carrier of each filing. Your carrier eventually will grow weary of your complaints and let you go. If your phone offends more than your service, complain three times and then invoke your local lemon law. Consumer advocates note, however, your carrier will show far more willingness to upgrade your phone than to release you from your contract.
Experts also recommend keeping your eyes open for opportunities to bail out of your contract when your provider changes its terms. Jen Bellknap, an intrepid consumer watchdog says, Read the fine print in your bill every month, because companies sneak their modifications into the one-point fonts. When you see a change, you also will see you have thirty days to terminate your contract without a fee, because the company has initiated the change.
If none of those options applies in your situation, then raise the stakes.
¢ Change of Financial Responsibility Find someone willing to take-over your plan, and then fill-out a relatively simple form that transfers all responsibility to the new user. Neither or you pays a fee, because the change does not involve termination. If you cannot find a willing trader, work with an online cell match service that connects unhappy users with willing shoppers. Look at CellPlanDepot.com, CellmatchUSA.com, and ContractExchange.com.au.
¢ Contract cancellation service Dissatisfaction with cell service has become sufficiently widespread that people can earn a decent living from helping people cancel their contracts. Look online for services called cell breakers. While you’re looking online, check the resources at Wired magazine for the most extreme guerrilla contract breakersjoining the Army, for example.
¢ Tethering, the techie option In the contract termination game, a little technical sophistication sometimes goes a long way. Most contracts have bandwidth limits, but your provider probably has not disclosed them. Therefore, when you connect your phone to the internet via your PC and download a whole bunch of .torrent files, your provider will suspend your service but cannot charge a fee because the company tool the initiative to cut you off.
When you break the chains that bind you to your cellphone service provider, think long and hard about signing-up for new service. Although handheld devices get cooler and more powerful by the minute, they also grow more expensive with each new app and feature. Take a long, hard look at where, when, and how you use your wireless device, because researchers are finding the average user pays an extortionate price for his cell’s convenience. According to Jen Bellknap, At least 50% of all cellphone users would be wise to give up their cells and go back to their old landlines.
Author Stephanie Sanders is a communications consultant and writes for a UK mobile phones site, offering all the latest phones and plans.