ETF, WTF: Why Mobile Fees Matter

Last month, the FCC sent letters to all the major wireless carriers, asking them to justify their increasingly outrageous early termination fees (ETFs). But the carriers' responses have been less than helpful, so we need to tell the FCC to step up the pressure and put an end to these fees.

Mobile phone bills are already too high; hidden fees are everywhere and service quality is mediocre at best. And yet, carriers still force us to pay crazy penalties — up to $350 — if we cancel our phone service or switch carriers.

We at Free Press, along with thousands of consumers, having been asking: WTF?

The FCC is demanding answers, too. But despite their inadequate responses, the carriers argue that they can play fair without the FCC's and Congress' oversight. That's just not true -- and we need Washington to bring the heat.

Pressure works. After Congress threatened to investigate its activity, Verizon began pro-rating its ETF (so you would owe less for every month of your contract). Google and T-Mobile also lowered the combined ETF on the Google phone from a whopping $550 to $350 — still obscene — after a FCC letter of inquiry about their behavior.

These moves are helpful, but they're insufficient. The reality is, these ETFs aren't just the annoying but unavoidable cost of being mobile; they're a symptom of a wireless industry that lacks competition and often colludes against consumer interests. Too often, the carriers act as gatekeepers — rather than as suppliers of networks that should be open for use as we see fit. Providers in Europe and Asia are moving toward more open models. We should, too.

Given the importance of mobile devices in our lives — and their role in delivering the Web to billions around the world — we need to change these and other practices.

We have a petition telling the FCC and Congress to end these ridiculous fees. Please sign it now.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good