Action 9 investigates cellphone termination fees



MAITLAND,Fla. - A Maitland man claims his cellphone company made big changes to its contracts but won't allow him to cancel service without paying a fee.

And customers from all over the country said the company refuses to follow the rules.

Mark Sears claims his cell company refused to play by the rules, which will cost him hundreds.

 "It always seems the consumer gets the short end of the stick," Sears said.

Sprint recently changed its customer agreements, and Sears felt that allowed him to cancel his contract without paying a $600 early termination fee.

But despite calling Sprint several times, the company refused.

"Each time they're telling me it is not a material change," said Sears.

According to Sears, Sprint said the contract changes were minor, but he claims it's a big deal since Sprint could now disconnect a call that exceeds a maximum duration.

And you cannot have an attorney during arbitration, and the company can call you around the clock.

"They can call you anytime, anywhere using robodialers if you are late on your bill or owe money," said Sears.

Online, Action 9 found many Sprint customers claiming the changes were substantial and that they were denied a right to cancel without a penalty.

Action 9's Todd Ulrich reached out through Skype to a top consumer expert on cell contracts.

"It's harder than it should be when a consumer calls disputing the contract," said John Breyault, of the National Consumers League.

Breyault said many cell companies refuse to cancel the contract at first, but many consumers succeed if they talk to the right person.

"Ask to be transferred to the retentions department or executive resolutions, which gives you the person who can cancel without a fee," said Breyault.

Sprint told Action 9 all the language changes clarified policies in the original contract, and the company blamed the misunderstandings on Internet campaigns by customers who wanted out.

"Big guys make the changes, and they just want you to swallow it," said Sears.

Sears is contacting Sprint's retention department to dispute his termination denial.

When a contract changes, users have 30 days to cancel without penalty, but they should expect to be challenged, said Ulrich.