Following on the heels of a similar increase by Sprint Nextel, Cingular has announced that they will be raising the rate on their pay-per-use text messaging service from 10¢ to 15¢ per text message sent or received. The change will go into effect January 21, 2007. While the rate increase is not good news for Cingular subscribers who make use of text-messaging without buying a text-messaging plan, it may be a blessing in disguise for subscribers who want to get out of their contracts without paying a $175 early termination fee.
We say ?may? in this case because there appears to be conflicting information as to whether the rate increase triggers a clause in the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association's (CTIA) Consumer Code for Wireless Service, (which Cingular has adopted) that would allow subscribers to cancel the contract without paying the fee. The clause in the CTIA Code states that: ?Carriers will not modify the material terms of their subscribers? contracts in a manner that is materially adverse to subscribers without providing a reasonable advance notice of a proposed modification and allowing subscribers a time period of not less than 14 days to cancel their contracts with no early termination fee.? The uncertainty comes from apparent confusion over whether or not the text-messaging rate increase qualifies as a ?materially adverse? change. A Cingular spokeswoman, Rochelle Cohen, was quoted in RCR Wireless News on December 15, 2006 saying that the change will not trigger such a clause. ?That doesn't apply here, this is simply a pricing change for pay-per-use text messaging, which is an optional service,? said Cohen.
When Sprint Nextel enacted their rate increase on pay-as-you-go text messaging, they allowed subscribers to use that clause to get out of their contracts, even though their Terms and Conditions state that they can refuse to allow cancellation without a fee for rate increases on services that are ?not a core part of the rate package for which you are contracted ? for example incidental, occasional, or casual use charges that do not require a Term Commitment.? From a consumer point of view, if you are dissatisfied with Cingular and want to get out of your current contract, it may be worth giving Cingular customer service a call to see if you can indeed use the text messaging increase as an excuse to get out of your contract without paying an early termination fee. For more information on the CTIA Wireless Code, click here. Consumers should also be aware that starting next week, Cingular will begin the process of phasing out its name in favor of the AT&T name.
Source: Telecommunications Research and Action Center. http://www.trac.org