Carriers urged to drop ETFs for the newly jobless

Consumer interest groups urged wireless carriers to drop early termination fees for customers who have lost their jobs, a measure of the extent of the global economic recession. The carriers, for their part, responded that they already have measures in place to help subscribers who have been laid off, and dismissed the idea of suspending the fees.

The National Consumers League, Consumer Action, the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, and Media Access Project sent a joint letter asking the wireless industry to halt early termination fees for those who have been laid off.

"They're calling on us to do something where we have mechanisms in place to already do," Dane Snowden, CTIA's vice president of external and state affairs, told Dow Jones Newswires.

A spokesman for Verizon Wireless urged customers to contact the carrier as soon as possible if they lose their jobs, so that the company perhaps could move them to cheaper service plans. Sprint Nextel said struggling customers can switch to different plans without incurring additional fees, and also used the issue to promote the cheaper offerings available on its pre-paid Boost Mobile service.

Virgin mobile USA, an MVNO that uses Sprint's network, recently began offering a plan dubbed Pink Slip the carrier said can help customers who have recently been laid off. If Virgin customers sign up for its new unlimited plan or other monthly plans without contracts, and are on the plan for two months and then become eligible for unemployment benefits, Virgin Mobile will waive up to three months of monthly charges.  

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