As part of a recently created pro-consumer task force at the Federal Communications Commission, the agency is sending out letters to the top four wireless carriers and Google (s goog) asking about their early termination fees (ETFs). The FCC already quizzed Verizon (s vz) after Big Red raised the fees a consumer pays for canceling their contract early to $350 for smartphones — and the answers provided by Verizon were pretty much an exercise in obfuscation.
So now the agency has sent out letters to Verizon, Sprint (s S), AT&T (s T), T-Mobile and Google asking about ETF policies, including what each company’s ETF supports and even things like how much a consumer has to pay in restocking fees if they return a phone early (a personal pet peeve of mine since it’s hard to get a feel for a phone that’s attached to the wall via a security tether). Google and T-Mobile get special attention for their fees associated with the Nexus One, but I find it odd that questions weren’t sent to other retailers of mobile phones. Overall I hope to see a bit more clarity around consumer billing for mobile service.
Maybe the next inquiry could ask why carriers are forcing folks to pay for data plans they may not want with certain phones. An even more forward-looking inquiry might ask whether certain phones need voice plans at all.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Neubie