Unhappy customers swap cell phone plans online

Thursday, July 17th 2008, 11:39 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

Unhappy cell phone customers sometimes tolerate their service to avoid the costly termination fees. Allison Moody said her cell phone wasn't the problem, her service was.

"We've never broken a contract," Moody said. "My dad will never break it so I just have to deal with it."

Breaking a contract with a cell phone provider can end up being costly.

After signing a one or two year contract, some people find the service just doesn't fit their needs. The customer is generally left with two choices. They can stick to their contract or pay hundreds of dollars to get out of it.

Web sites like Craigslist, cellswapper.com and celltradeusa.com help customers who aren't pleased with their purchase.

"We saw that underserved market," said celltrader.com co-founder Eric Wurtenburg.

Celltrader.com created a match-making service that connects unhappy customers trying to get out of their contract with other people nationwide in a similar situation. The goal is get both customers a plan they're satisfied with, while not technically breaking their contracts.

The person wanting out creates a profile including the service provider, contract length, and the type of phone. Generally the more attractive the offer, the better chance the customer has of enticing someone to take over the service agreement.

"If you're offering a blackberry or some kind of smart phone, you will have contacts in your inbox within hours," Wurtenburg said.

Contract transfers are legal and nothing new to cell phone companies.

"It's something we see quite often depending on the circumstances," said AT&T spokesman Andy Morgan.

Customers usually come into the store or handle it over the phone, but finding a friend or family member willing to bail them out can be difficult.

"The main thing is someone may not qualify meaning they don't pass a credit check or they've been a customer before and they still owe us money," Morgan said.

By using a web-based service customers have potential takers from all over the country.

The co-founder of celltradeusa.com said they've connected thousands of people with very few complaints.

"I really don't see termination fees going away, so as long as they are there, we are an option to help customers that are stuck," Wurtenburg said.