By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | January 1, 2007
The pesky termination fees that kick in when unhappy cellphone
customers decide to cancel service early have spurred an Internet
cottage industry of companies that help liberate people from their
The websites, http://Celltradeusa.com , http:// Resellular.com , and
http://CellSwapper.com , provide online marketplaces where customers
trying to get out of their contracts can connect with people willing
to take over the remainder of their contracts, for a fraction of the
typical $175 termination penalty.
"You really tap into this emotional thing. When they find out they
can't get service at their job, or maybe they had service in their
apartment and one day all of a sudden it stopped working," customers
get mad, said Eric Wurtenberg , cofounder of http://Celltradeusa.com,
which has more than 2,000 listings on its website. "We deal with a lot
of irate people."
Hefty termination fees are a frequent gripe among cellphone
customers. State Senator Michael W. Morrissey , a Democrat from
Quincy, drafted legislation late last year that would allow customers
who experienced five or more dropped calls in a month to cancel their
service without paying a fee.
A 2005 survey by the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group
found that 36 percent of cellphone customers surveyed said that the
early termination fee stopped them from switching providers, and 47
percent of respondents said they would switch or consider switching
providers to get a lower rate or better service if they didn't have
to pay the fee.
Each service works in a slightly different way, but the idea is the
same: Customers post an online advertisement with the details of their
contract, and any benefits they're willing to throw in -- such as a
free Blackberry, a Bluetooth headset, or money toward the
contract. The services charge $19.99 at http://Celltradeusa.com and
$14.99 at http://Resellular.com to people trying seeking to get out of
their contracts. CellSwapper.com is still a beta version.
Once a person who wants to get out of a contract is matched with a
person who wants to get in, the transfer must be made through the
That type of transfer is already available to customers who call their
providers and have a relative or friend willing to go through a credit
check and legally take over the rest of the contract. But these
Internet services allow people to look beyond their immediate friends
and connect with a nationwide network of people.