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Politics

Demand cell phone competition

Who really loves their cell phone provider?  I moved from Sprint to T-mobile 3 years ago because you can use unlocked phones and they use a standard that’s recognized abroad.  In practical terms, this means when we had to replace Staci’s phone, we simply moved the SIM card from her old phone to the new one and it worked, it also moved all her contacts.  When we were in Germany for the World Cup, I was able to make calls without a hassle.  But I’m still locked into T-mobile – I can’t get say, oh, an iPhone and use it with T-mobile.  Nor can I take my current phone and switch to AT&T. 

The cell-phone providers love this lock in, because it lets them keep rates high and customer service low.  You can’t vote with your wallet, especially with early termination fees hanging onto your contract.  Congress is stepping in with an eye to reform the system.  Helpfully, Consumers Union has set up a simple form you can use to tell your representative that you want real cell phone competition.  Please take a minute to fill it out and send a message.

In this market, companies rarely compete based on price and service;  instead they lure new consumers with complicated and sometimes misleading offers, then use early termination fees and handset locks to stop you from voting with your feet.