It’s nearly impossible these days to sign up for a cell phone or cable TV subscription without signing a contract–and often, they stay in effect for years. But what if you’re switching services? Or you just want to cut down on your bills? Although it’s not easy to get out of a legally binding cell phone contract and the termination fee that goes with it, here are some tips to try:
Read Between the Lines
First things first: read the contract. Some service providers allow you to cancel your contract within 30 days with no penalty. Additionally, sometimes you can change certain aspects of your plan at any time with no penalties–but you have to know what to ask for. That’s why it’s important to read and review your contracts periodically. If you take the time to read the fine print, you’ll be in a better position to make service-related decisions.
Avoiding a Fee for Breaking Your Contract
When you cancel your subscription and you’re locked into a contract, often there will be a cancellation penalty. It can range from $99-$200 depending on the type of service. There are a few ways to side-step these fees:
If you’re enlisted in military service and deployed, very few, if any, service providers will try and charge you a fee when you request to terminate your agreement. Also, if the primary account holder dies, it’s easy enough to have the contract cancelled penalty-free, although that’s not going to help those of us still living.
Sometimes complaining can work, if it’s done the right way. According to statistics provided by the BBB, cell phone service providers and cable television companies receive more complaints with the BBB than other types of businesses. The great news is that more than 90% of those complaints are amicably resolved in favor of consumers, especially if the complaint involves a legitimate reason. So what’s a legitimate reason? When the provider makes changes to the service–including changes in billing cycles and late payments charges–they open themselves up to a complaint. Television service providers who make changes to channel lineups are also not immune. Even small changes could provide enough reason for you to terminate your agreements. If you’re angry about a change, notify the company and request to terminate the contract without penalty. If that doesn’t work, think about contacting the BBB.
When Complaints Don’t Work
On rare occasions when complaining doesn’t work and consumers are forced to remain in contracts until they expire, consumers might find it helpful to downgrade services. Sometimes it can be affordable to choose bare bones service in order to fulfill contract terms instead of trying to continue to cope at unreasonable rates. In most cases, there are few penalties and fees involved in downgrading services. This can be a viable option for cash strapped consumers who feel they have no other options. However, consumers must be cautious and downgrade their service use while downgrading their services; otherwise, the benefits of downgrading are nil. Although getting out of a cell phone contract (and the termination fee) isn’t easy, there are options. If you get stuck with a cancellation fee anyway, make sure you understand the terms of the next contract that you sign–so you don’t get hit with another big penalty fee that you can’t afford.
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