Oh man oh man oh man...I love California Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw! She managed to strike at the group I don't love, the mobile phone cartel!
Yes that's right, I'm calling them a cartel! Don't tell me you don't hate the mobile phone companies! Yes, they provide a service. Yes, they offer some whiz bang things like video on demand and email. But c'mon, you gotta admit that the prices are just insanely high! And don't get me started on the various fees like incoming text messages (I've been told by my Canadian friends that this is a new phenomenon up there)!
Though lately I've been on those pay-as-you go deals, what always got me about the plans were those cancellation fees. Yeah, I understand, they got a business to run and they don't want to risk losing customers. But do they have to charge fees as high as $250?? Outside of maybe one company, I don't know of any that says you get a grace period.
Frankly, as a consumer, we have rights. If we don't like the way a product or service is, we should have the right to opt out at a minimal cost. Give consumers a chance to really try out your mobile phone service. It doesn't seem unreasonable to be sure of our purchase without paying some exorbitant penalty. If your product is as good as you say, then you have nothing to worry about. Apparently, Judge Sebraw thinks so to!
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The fees that cell phone carriers charge customers who break service contracts took a big hit in a California courtroom when a judge said such charges by Sprint Nextel Corp. likely violate state law.
The judge, in a tentative ruling issued late Monday, said Sprint will have to pay $18.3 million to customers who sued over the fees and credit $54.8 million to those who were charged but did not pay the fees.
The same judge is considering other lawsuits against telecommunications companies over their so-called early termination fees, which can range from $150 to $225. This month Verizon Wireless agreed to pay $21 million to settle an identical lawsuit just as trial was starting.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw rejected Sprint's argument that a state court had no business deciding an issue the company said should be left for federal authorities. And while her ruling isn't legally binding outside the state, it cut to the heart of an ongoing debate in other state courthouses and in Washington, D.C., over the fairness of the fees.
- excerpt from "Judge ruling on Sprint fees is blow to industry", Associated Press, 2008
The fees aren't fair or at the very least just in comparison to the commitment being asked by the provider. At the very least, give a consumer 30 days to try out the service. I'd even be willing to go as far as saying that the "free" phones should be returned if the customer terminates within that time otherwise they get charged the cost of the phone. Like mentioned earlier, I understand it's a business, but lets at least be a little fair here!
A window of opportunity exists here for a smart entrepreneur. Open up a new mobile phone company, perhaps lease airtime like say Virgin or what have you, but be fair with the fees. Also, on top of that, don't charge for incoming SMS texts! Why text messaging was never part of a basic plan, I never could understand. No wait, I could, it's called squeezing as much out of the consumer as possible. No wonder some folks opt for things like Fring to bypass the voice package rates.
The 1990s was an era of deregulation, which the telecommunication industry experiences as well. It made making money easier for the corporations, and yes it did expand services in many instances. But it also opened a gateway of greed and shortsightedness and granted permission to fleece customers. We have a pseudo cartel now, there is an appearance of competition, but such a thing would force a deflation in prices. Ok, I grant you, compared to maybe 5 or 10 years ago we are getting more minutes for a buck. But prices overall are still high even for the smallest amount of minutes. I've been told that in countries, the prices for packages are cheaper than here in the US.
We don't need those little mobiles, it isn't a necessity in many cases. If the economy continues downward, people will begin to see this more and more; something the mobile phone cartel should realize. Kudos to Judge Sebraw, though her decision many not affect the rest of the nation, perhaps this will be the start of new regulation in this industry!