I’m not sure if they’re mad as hell, but 75,000 Verizon customers and wannabe customers have said they won’t take it anymore. “It,” in this case, being the practice of the number-one wireless carrier to lock customers into inflexible, two-year contracts.
Mike Beauchamp, a Verizon customer and blogger from Wichita, Kansas, said he started a petition on Change.org ago after he heard Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam say he'd consider killing cell phone contracts if consumers asked for it.
Unless you’re one of the very few people in the country who has never owned a cell phone, you know that until very recently all of the major wireless carriers forced customers to sign a two-year contract and made them pay a stiff penalty if they bailed out early. In return, the carriers sell the phones at a subsidized price, often hundreds of dollars cheaper than the real cost of the device.
What’s more, those phones are locked, and generally won’t work on a network other than that of the carrier that sold it.
T-Mobile, the smallest of the big four wireless providers, shook things up last month when it announced that it was dropping the lock-in requirement for new customers and selling unlocked phones at the higher, unsubsidized price. The plan has a bunch of gotchas, but it was a start, and over the course of a few years the ultimate price of a phone and service on T-Mobile is now quite competitive.
The real issue, though, is the principle. Wireless carriers, cable companies and satellite TV providers all lock in customers in one way or another. If you subscribe to Dish or Comcast, you’ll wind up paying for scores of channels you’ll never use. Although there are tiers of service that offer different numbers of channels, the consumer can’t simply go to an a la carte menu and pick what he or she really wants to pay for.
For now, the TV providers aren’t making any unbundling moves, but I suspect that the pressure from various Internet streaming services and companies like Aereo that grab and rebroadcast over-the-air programs, may force them to change their business model.
That may be true as well for the wireless carriers. If you feel strongly about this, why not sign the petition to Verizon. It’s a good start.
Finally, when I asked Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney about the petition, she didn’t commented directly, but said this: “Verizon Wireless has for years offered many different choices for customers, including contract plans or month-to-month plans that do not require a contract.”
Verizon’s no-contract service can be used only with a limited number of phones; you can see the plans here.
Image: Getty Images