Cellular breakups

Breaking up should not be so hard to do. Yet as many dissatisfied
cellular phone customers can attest, trying to escape a one- or
two-year service contract can be frustrating and expensive. Consumers
need more reasonable means of canceling unfair or unsatisfactory
long-term cell phone contracts.

AB 1010 by Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City, would restore
Californians’ right to cancel long-term cellular phone service within
30 days of signing a contract. The state Senate passed the bill in June
and the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce is scheduled to
vote on the legislation today.

The mobile-phone industry standard for letting a customer cancel a
contract without penalty is 14 days. After that, cell-phone companies
may charge early-termination fees of $200 or more.
But many consumers need more than two weeks to realize that the service
is not as excellent as advertised.

Dead spots, dropped calls and hidden
fees are just a few reasons to give customers a reasonable window for
opting out of a one- or two-year contract.
Under the 2004 "Telecommunications Consumer Bill of Rights,"
Californians had a 30-day window to cancel long-term cell-phone service
contracts. But the Public Utilities Commission in March repealed those

AB 1010 would simply restore the old, 30-day rule.
Regulation is seldom preferable to competition. But AB 1010 would boost
competition by giving customers greater leeway to compare and choose a
cellular phone company that provides the best service. With the state’s
Aug. 31 legislative deadline looming, the Assembly should pass and Gov. Schwarzenegger should sign this sensible consumer protection bill.