If I followed a cell phone contract exactly, can a collection agency still try to collect an early termination fee?

UPDATED: Jul 18, 2011

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If I followed a cell phone contract exactly, can a collection agency still try to collect an early termination fee?

Recently I was faced with having to pay an early termination fee of $200 after not being able to pay my bill; however, in my contract it states that if I exchange or return my phone within 30 days of my original activation day I do not have to agree to have the service on for 121 consecutive days. I exchanged the phone-or upgraded (not sure of T-Mobile’s terminology) 14 days after I activated my account.

Asked on July 18, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

A contract is enforceable against both parties, so IF your  contract allows you to terminate early without a fee or penalty under some conditions or circumstances, and those are the conditions or circumstances which apply, then should not have to pay the early termination fee. The things to consider are:

1) Are you reading and understanding the clause correctly? It may not mean precisely what you think it does. You might ask the phone company directly about this--ask their CS rep, for example, why you can't terminate early given the language that you are referring to, or asking them for their understanding of it.

2) Is there some other clause or language in the contract limiting your early termination rights or putting additional restrictions on it? You should reread the whole contract, including all the "fine print," carefully.

3) If the phone company is going to insist on this money, is it worthwhile fighting it--potentially incurring court or legal costs, possibly having a default reported on your credit, etc.?

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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