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Frontier’s Goodbye Kiss: A $680 Final Bill for a Departing Customer

Phillip Dampier January 19, 2011 Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Frontier, HissyFitWatch, Internet Overcharging, Video 12 Comments

Frontier used Time Warner Cable's usage cap experiment against them in this ad to attract new customers in the spring of 2009. Now they're no better.

Stop the Cap! reader Mike in Elk Grove, California reports his departure from Frontier Communications carried a goodbye kiss he’ll not soon forget: a $680 final bill made up primarily of early termination fees:

“I just got my Frontier bill after canceling (they canceled me because I ported my number to another provider),” Mike writes.  “The bill cycle was through 2/14/2011 (my contract ends on March 6, 2011).”

The bill was for $679.72.

More than 22 months into his 24 month contract, Frontier charged him early termination fees at the same rate he would pay if he departed 14 days into his term:

  • High Speed Internet Loyalty Fee: $200
  • Netbook Term Fee: $300
  • California Unlimited Term: $200

The only reason his final bill was not higher is that he received some service credits for the partial month he was not their customer.

Needless to say, Mike is livid.  He is one of several Sacramento-area customers who received letters from Frontier threatening to terminate his Internet service if he did not reduce his usage.  When Mike ultimately decided to reduce his usage to zero and switch providers, Frontier dumped every termination fee it could find on Mike’s final bill.

But before Mike opens his checkbook, he (and any other customer gouged with early termination fees) should remember this:

Frontier cannot bill you early termination fees and expect to be paid when they unilaterally changed the terms of the contract.

From Frontier’s Terms and Conditions for High Speed Internet:

Our Right To Make Changes

UNLESS OTHERWISE PROHIBITED BY LAW, WE MAY CHANGE PRICES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS AT ANY TIME BY GIVING YOU 30 DAYS NOTICE BY BILL MESSAGE, E-MAIL OR OTHER NOTICE, INCLUDING POSTING NOTICE OF SUCH CHANGES ON THIS WEB SITE, UNLESS THE PRICES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS ARE GUARANTEED BY CONTRACT. YOU ACCEPT THE CHANGES IF YOU USE THE SERVICES AFTER NOTICE IS PROVIDED.

When Mike (among others) signed up for Frontier service, their broadband service did not carry any usage limits.  Frontier’s “price protection agreement” claims it will “lock in” your current price.  But Frontier violated their own contract when they sent letters to customers threatening to terminate their broadband service for using Internet service that had no specified usage limit and demanding they pay a higher price of up to $250 a month to continue service.  So much for “price protection.”

You are not obligated to accept Frontier’s unilateral action and can notify the company they have made a “materially adverse” change to your contract by specifying that you exceeded a never-defined usage limit (100GB), and that the company sought a price increase ranging from $99-250 to continue service with them.  If you exceeded 100GB a year ago, you would not have received this letter.  Today you will — and that is a change you need not accept.

Frontier defaulted on their obligations to you as a customer, and your recourse is to cancel the contract, penalty-free.

Frontier Communications’ outrageous term contract fees were precisely what got the company in hot water with the New York State Attorney General in 2009, and the company settled charges with refunds and waivers for those unjustly billed cancellation fees Frontier was not entitled to receive.  Apparently they have not learned their lesson.

Your response:

  1. Send a registered, return receipt requested letter to Frontier notifying them under the terms of their own contract, you do not accept the changes outlined in their letter limiting your broadband service.  Your original contract with Frontier did not include a specified usage limit and now using more than 100GB results in a request to pay more or reduce usage.  That represents a “materially adverse change” in your agreement.
  2. Under these conditions, you are exercising your right to depart, penalty-free, from your term contract with Frontier Communications.
  3. Warn Frontier that any attempt to collect early termination fees or other cancellation fees will result in civil action appropriate to protect your credit rating and will trigger a complaint with the California Attorney General’s office.
  4. Keep copies of all correspondence and record dates, times, and names of any representatives you speak with, as they will be helpful in any official investigations that follow.
  5. Also be sure to proceed with the terms found on the back your Frontier bill to protest erroneous charges, preferably in writing.  You want a paper trail and you want to protect your credit rating from any adverse collection activity.

Mike has already contacted local media about his case, which is a smart idea.  Warning other consumers about the potential costs of doing business with Frontier is likely to only further deteriorate their reputation in the Elk Grove area.  Alienating and overcharging your customers is a great way to get them to share their story with as many people they can find, and that only makes a bad company look worse.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WROC Rochester Frontier Flagged for Not Telling Customers About Fees 10-5-09.flv

WROC-TV Rochester reported back in October, 2009 that Frontier was on the hook for hundreds of dollars in refunds to some customers. (2 minutes)

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Currently there are 12 comments on this Article:

  1. Mike Markov says:

    Nicely done, I’ve been forwarding the link

  2. Otis says:

    A lot of legal advice being dispensed here. I would certainly consult real legal counsel before assuming that this opinion holds legal water.

    • I hear you Otis. The only reason I offer it is that we’ve been down this road before in New York and California state law is comparable when it comes to contracts of this type.

      Anyone who is unsure of anything written here should certainly consider getting legal advice, although I suspect the cost of retaining an attorney will probably exceed the ETF’s charged here.

      My advice with Frontier is to be the squeaky wheel that complains. Frontier will want you to go away, so they’ll eventually cough up the credits that make that happen.

  3. Mike Markov says:

    A follow up to this. I came home and had a message from Frontier on the machine. I guess the Calif. public utilities commission called them yesterday (I filed a complaint 2 weeks ago) and Frontier waved all early termination fees and issued a $20 credit. I called to verify and sure enough.

    It was Phillips initial advice about CPUC that got me here. That $20 credit was just donated. Thanks to StopTheCap.Com !!

    • The web hosting company that holds the gigabytes of videos and more than 1,300 articles here appreciates your contribution. :-)

      More importantly, I am very glad we could help. I know the stress a bill that size could cause, and I hear from elderly people and those who are considering liquidating their entire savings to pay for wireless bill shock data charges or unjustified ETFs at least once a week. Some of these people write they cannot sleep at night and are sometimes terrified about what they are going to do. One lady wrote us saying she had to go without her medication that month to pay for Verizon data charges she denied initiating.

      Not on my watch.

      If we can help people empower themselves to escape this kind of gouging, and get companies to do the right thing by their customers, that’s “mission accomplished.”

      This is not a profit quest on my part. I have been approached by some advertisers (including a few cable companies — do they read this website?), and I have been very queasy about accepting, and I have zero interest in ads that annoy the hell out of readers (those colored links that open up video ads when you mouse over them are a particular sore spot with me). I don’t want pop-ups or pop-unders, and auto-playing video ads are a big no-no with me, too.

      I accept donations basically to help us defray the costs of running the site, which are around $100 a month, more if I have to license something or upgrade software.

      We don’t come close to covering those costs with donations at the moment, and probably won’t unless I launch some pledge drive (tote bag for $1,000 “CEO level” heh).

      Thanks again.

  4. fred says:

    This is one more reason we do not want Frontier in South Carolina either.

  5. Paul Dobbins says:

    How could Frontier charge Mike more than the two months service charge on his contract. All he had to do was “buy out” and then proceed to change carriers. I am concerned, because I just changed over to Frontier in WV, and I am already being “throttled”. I am thinking of changing to a cable provider, but I am not sure where I stand. I had connection problems with Verizon, and they continued with Frontier. Frontier convinced me to lower my speed. I was told I would not see much of a difference in my speed or quality. But as usual I was duped. Big old sucker here. Any way I wonder if changing my service reset the contract clock?

    • There are two different kinds of contract penalties in the telecom industry.

      Type “A”: The pro-rated early termination fee: For each month you finish within a term contract, the effective termination fee is reduced by 1/24th. As time passes, the amount of the penalty drops.

      This type is now common for cell phone contracts.

      Type “B”: The early termination fee, in full, is owed if a customer elects to cancel their contract within the term period. No pro-rated discount of the applicable fee will be provided.

      This is Frontier’s policy.

      Mike could not buy his way out of the contract by just agreeing to pay up the two months remaining — Frontier charged him the full amount of the ETF. It is a major revenue source for the company and a strong deterrent to keep customers locked in place.

      Mike got Frontier to waive his fees with some complaints to state regulators. Others probably can as well.

      Now West Virginians are in some luck here. Frontier DOES pro-rate their ETF’s in that state only, by $10 for each completed month. Also, if you signed up within the last 30 days, you can cancel penalty-free.

  6. Mike Markov says:

    yeah, that bill was a shock but thanks to Phillip suggesting to go to the California Public Utilities Commision the whole things got squared away without me owing anything. I’m at the point where I would move before having Frontier as my only option. I’ll go back to dialup before that.

  7. Jeremy Bradley says:

    Well Frontier is a joke. I am unfortunately stuck with them here where I live in West Virginia.
    I had an issue where they sent me a nasty letter saying I went over my
    UNLIMITED phone minutes and threatened to d/cmy service etc and charge
    me all kinds of fees. Wrong move Charlie Brown. I called the company and raised
    some undoubted you know what with them. I now have a BUSINESS Line
    Truly unlimited everything and pay LESS than what I had been paying before.
    I hope more people get smart and make them pony up the best service
    like I did.
    I hate the company but I love knowing I got one over on them..
    HAHA..
    Good Luck

  8. Jeremy Bradley says:

    Also Frontier has a Facebook page you can go on and post your rants and complaints, that makes them squirm seeing it all for the public eye to see. In regards to my previous post, about my upgraded service, those idiots wanted me to pay 20$ more for extra minutes, and nothing really unlimited. I demanded commercial accounts and if I hadnt got this deal would have been like 10$ more to upgrade to Business Class. Believe me, it isn’t that great of a service but it is a better deal than listening to their petty whining. I have been searching around on the net and see so many class action and other suits against the company. I would like to see them sued completely out of existence. Brings back fond memories of the Bell Atlantic break up. I am going to be moving out of their service territory into Pennsylvania not too far off in the future and I welcome them to try and sock me for a huge charge. I will contact the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission. They really cannot legally charge you if you move residence outside their service territory.
    I hope in a few yrs they will be bankrupt..

  9. sniperboy says:

    I have Frontier in Elk Grove. To add insult to injury, Frontier routinely adds extra charges to my monthly bill. When I complain about it, they remove the charges without an apology or admission. What a bunch of crooks. Thanks to their cat and mouse game of billing practices, I have to go through each month’s billing with a fine tooth comb. I am thinking more and more of moving to Clear Wireless.

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