Call for service? You may find yourself locked into a long-term contract
(KUTV) When you have a problem with your cell phone or internet service, you're encouraged to call up the company for help. It's something Frank Thompson did after he got notices he was over his data usage.
“They encouraged me to upgrade and so I did,” said.
Soon after Thompson realized he needed an unlimited plan, but his internet provider, Rise Broadband, didn't have one.
Since Thompson was no longer under contract, he decided to switch providers.
The call to cancel didn't go as planned.
“When I terminated with them, they wanted a high fee to cancel,” he said.
Rise Broadband told Thompson he is under contract. In fact, Rise said each time he upgraded his data he agreed to a new contract.
“At the time I upgraded I had no idea it was a new contract. They never told me that,” he said. “I wouldn't have done it.”
Thompson asked Rise Broadband for proof of the contract but the company refused to provide it.
“I asked for a written contract and they said, ‘We don't do that. We do it orally.’ And I said, ‘Well, could you give me a transcript of the oral conversation?’ They promised to do that but they've never done it.”
In a statement to Get Gephardt, Rise Broadband stated Thompson
"was advised" he was being locked into a new contract.
As for refusing to provide proof of the contract to Thompson, the company blamed the FCC stating that, "disclosure of such information is restricted and strictly enforced under FCC privacy regulations."
Rise is apparently protecting Thompson's privacy from Thompson, until Thompson sues to get it.
Telecommunications attorney David Shaw says that cell phone, internet and TV companies are more regularly going to oral contracts.
“It's basically a way to tie the consumers arms behind their back,” he said. “That's about the only reason that they would do it is basically to penalize the customer and lock them in long term. That works for them from a cash flow perspective.”
When it comes to proving oral contracts, Shaw says it puts consumers in a tough place.
“It's not your property,” he said. “The recording, if they have one, is their property.”
Shaw says when you're on the phone with your provider you basically have two choices.
“One is to accept the new contract and two is to basically pay with your feet. Walk away. Go to a different provider who doesn't do that to you.”
That’s what Thompson has done but, after Get Gephardt’s calls Rise Broadband, the company tells us they will be giving him some of his cancellation fee back.