2005-08-12 / Community

Weiner: Stop Early Cell Phone Termination Fees

Representative Anthony Weiner, who represents portions of Rockaway, has called upon the FCC to reject a request by the cell phone industry that would prohibit state courts or legislatures from stepping in to regulate early termination fees charged by cell phone companies.

The nation’s six major cell phone carriers charge early termination fees - penalties of $175 or more charged to consumers who switch their cell phone carrier - to prevent consumers from switching carriers and shopping for the most competitive services and rates.

According to a study released on Thursday by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), early termination fees cost cell phone consumers $4.5 billion between 2002 and 2004. Additionally, a poll taken by PIRG and IPSOS North America (a polling company) found that 47% of cell phone customers would either switch or consider switching their cell phone company were it not for early termination fees.

The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association has petitioned the FCC for an expedited declaratory ruling that would prohibit state courts or legislatures from regulating the practice of charging early terminating penalties. A ruling is expected by the end of August.

“We strongly urge you to deny this request,” wrote Rep. Weiner and other Members in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. “We know from experience that the public is very concerned about their rights as cell phone users. We urge you not to take any action that would preclude states from enforcing their own laws to protect consumers from unfair and anti-competitive business practices.”

“Consumers win when they have choices,” said Weiner. “Early termination fees take away consumer choice, which is so essential to ensuring that cell phone companies provide the best services at the best prices.

“The FCC should reject this industry request. We cannot allow the federal government to essentially tie the hands of state courts and legislatures who wish to protect consumers by safeguarding their freedom of choice.”

Weiner is one of the leading voices in Congress for cell phone consumers’ rights. His Cell Phone Service Disclosure Act would require the FCC to collect and report on cell phone service complaints about problems such as dropped calls, fast busy signals, dead spots and improper billing.

The other Members who signed the letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin include: Rep John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Julia Carson (D-IN), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands).

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