A California judge has passed a preliminary ruling on Sprint Nextel's early termination fees: I don't speak Legalese, but I believe an onomatopoeic kablammo is accepted in most languages. The judge presupposed that the ETFs were unfairly enforcing contracts. Of course, the FCC has complained about the ruling, suggesting instead that it should be a federal issue:
"A consistent, uniform, national framework of standards is the best-case scenario for consumers and for the industry to serve consumers," he said. "If you allow 50 states to regulate and legislate in 50 different ways, you can create a very confusing and obviously inefficient service."
At a public hearing last month, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin sketched out a plan in which cancellation fees would be reduced over the life of the cell phone contract. Three companies - T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless - already do that, and Sprint said it would begin prorating its fees next year.
The commission also is trying to resolve whether states have any role in regulating early termination fees, which are among the biggest source of complaints among wireless consumers, said spokesman Robert Kenny.
Early termination fees are often explained away as the penalty for getting a subsidized handset from your wireless carrier. Most carriers had planned on implementing prorated ETFs that would get smaller as you approached the end of your contract.
Sprint early termination fees are illegal, judge rules [Mercury News]
Previously • T-Mobile introduces declining early termination fees