Can They Do That?

gym 150x150 Can They Do That?The elderly lady was upset. She was being charged over $300 to get out of a contract with a company she said had a poor product and terrible service. When I asked her what she had agreed to in the contract, she couldn’t remember. Didn’t have a copy anymore. Uh, oh…

Can they do that?

The BBB can’t answer legal questions. We don’t know the law and can’t give legal advice. Your State Attorney General’s office and/or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are usually good resources for these queries.

Here’s what I do know: You have the most power before you buy long-term services which may include an ETF (early termination fee):

  • Cell phones
  • Satellite TV
  • Health club memberships
  • Cable TV

Therefore, it is best to do your homework thoroughly before signing anything. What’s the company’s reputation? How good is their service? Do they pro-rate fees over the term of the contract? At what rate do they decrease? (This will vary.)

The FCC’s Consumer Task Force offers these tips

  • When signing up for a new cell-phone service, make sure you are fully aware of any ETFs.
  • Ask how much the early termination fee will be and how it is prorated.
  • Ask if it would be possible to buy a handset at full price and avoid an ETF.
  • Think before you make any changes in your contract, such as buying a new phone or more minutes that your carrier might offer.
  • This could trigger a new two-year contract with another ETF.
  • Ask about the trial period during which you can cancel the service without an ETF penalty. This is typically 14 to 30 days.
  • If you use your phone sparingly, consider avoiding the whole ETF issue by buying a pre-paid phone. These phones do not involve a contract.

Feel you’ve been had? File a complaint at While the BBB can’t help either party to break a contract in which no misrepresentation nor deception is alleged, we’ll take a look at it. You can also let the FCC know about your experience here.

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.