Signing a Long-Term Contract: Beware Early Termination Fees

cellphone32 150x150 Signing a Long Term Contract: Beware Early Termination FeesI am the only person in my circle of friends who doesn’t have any of the following: A cell phone, a gym membership, or cable/satellite TV. There’s a reason for this. Working at the BBB, I have seen hundreds of complaints from people who got locked into long-term contracts.

 Some were suckered in by the promise of a good deal, not realizing the “deal” was for a limited time; not the life of the contract. Some didn’t realize there were hefty fees for early termination. (What if you lose your job, or move away?) Yet many of these situations could have been avoided by asking more questions before purchasing long term services.

Always do your homework before signing anything. What’s the company’s reputation? How good is their service? Do they prorate fees over the term of the contract? At what rate do they decrease?

Here are some tips from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on early termination fees:

• When signing up for a new service, make sure you are fully aware of any ETFs.

• Ask how much the early termination fee will be and how it is prorated.

• In the case of phones, ask if it would be possible to buy a handset at full price and avoid an 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.

Feel you’ve been had? File a formal complaint at You can also let the FCC know about your experience at or contact the Federal Trade Commission at  

Previously published in the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

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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.