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‘Can You Hear Us Now?’

Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Susan Herold 202-464-6262

‘Can You Hear Us Now?’

Consumers Send Thousands of Letters to Cell Phone Carriers Demanding Better Service

(Washington, D.C.) – Nearly 8,000 letters from consumers fed up with poor cell phone service were delivered this week to wireless companies by Consumers Union’s EscapeCellHell.org campaign demanding better contract terms, details about where phones work and an end to the practice of “locking down” useable phones so they won’t operate on other compatible networks.
“In just one month we had an overwhelming response to our Web-based campaign, an indication of just how frustrated consumers are with their cell phone companies,” said Janee Briesemeister, director of EscapeCellHell.org, who organized the letter-writing effort.
The most letters sent through the Web site came from customers of Verizon Wireless, which also has the highest market share of cell phone customers. However, the number of letters to AT&T Wireless and Sprint came in second and third, and at rates slightly greater than their respective market shares (see how they all ranked below).
“Now that the companies have these customer letters, we will see if the cell phone companies ‘can hear us now,’ and respond to concerns about poor service, draconian contract terms and artificial locks that keep customers’ cell phones from working when they switch carriers,” Briesemeister added.
The letters asked for:
● A policy against artificially “locking down” cell phone handsets with software to prevent phones from being used on otherwise compatible carriers’ networks.
● Better information about where cell phones will work before customers sign up for a plan. Cell providers perform frequent network testing and have more detailed maps than they currently give to prospective customers.
● Pro-rated early contract termination charges. Consumers shouldn’t have to pay the full fee, which can be as much as $200, if they cancel near the end of a contract.
Briesemeister said the companies responses to customers’ concerns will be posted on the EscapeCellHell website and e-mailed to each consumer who sent a letter. “We are hopeful the companies will take these very valid customer concerns to heart and do the right thing by putting an end to the consumers’ cell hell of poor service, hefty charges and wasteful practices,” Briesemeister said.

See complaint letters chart