Road Bike, Cycling Forums banner
1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
125 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't know if I need a lawyer or not. Is there a website that can advise me of my rights so I can determine if its worth my time and money to talk to a lawyer? Or is there a place that unemployed people can go for free legal help? I'd hate to dig this hole any deeper, but I feel like Cingular has really screwed me over. They now say I owe them $300 for 40 days of really crappy service and a plan that had charges for services I was initially told (orally) were free. Additionally, I think they trapped/tricked me into not cancelling my account until after the cancellation period had expired. So I have a bill for $300 and I feel stuck. Based on my personal values, I don't believe I should have to pay more than my basic usage-minus the web browsing charges, which were suposed to be free. That comes to about $70. But they say I'm obligated to pay them the full amount. Do people ever get out of cancellation fees with wireless providers? Also, if I refuse to pay the full $300, am I breaking a law, or is it simply a civil matter? Mostly, I'd like to get information how is the best way to go about NOT paying them the full amount. I know I can send a letter describing my position to the credit bureau; but beyond that, I know nothing.

I know you can't legal advice for free to strangers on the internet, but any small bread crumb you can toss my way would be appreciated.

Kristin
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
6,360 Posts
Not worth a lawyer, I don't think.

Please don't read this as a defense of Cingular, with which I've had big problems, too. For the money involved, though, I don't think you could even find a lawyer unless you want to pay him more than the phone bill just to prove your point (good for you if you do, but I'm not tough enough). Then you'd probably lose anyway--most cell phone companies cover themselves pretty well, with tiny print dictating where cases have to be tried and all kinds of stuff like that, and it will just jam you up.
I don't blame you for complaining, though. We had a similar deal a few years ago when I was new to cell phones. They made a big deal out of telling us, verbally and in print, that we had "completely free long distance," which we ignorantly assumed meant that long distance calls were free. We made several calls, including some on a trip to Chicago. Turned out that when you followed the asterisk, "free long distance" meant here was no EXTRA charge on top of the normal long distance charge. Bill for the first two months came to $700.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
251 Posts
Do you have any friends

that are lawyers? Someone in your church? Simply someone with the background who is willing to help you out, talking board type of thing, maybe write a letter, maybe try to mediate a resolution on your behalf...

This is a small claims matter anyhow. Not worth hiring anyone. I believe small claims are under $1500. I really don't know how a company like that would react to a small claims suit. Should you go that route, they'd have to represent themselves I'd imagine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
251 Posts
also

this is a simple contract matter, nothing else. Their contract is not law, it is an explanation of an agreement between the two of you. Did they break their contract terms? Did you the terms? If you feel their service did not live up to their claims, that would be a breach.

Most lawyers will offer a free at least telephone consultation. You really need a referral though, fellow church member, friend of friend, etc.

I would say your best bet is to calmly hold your line if you think they breached, talk to the most senior official you can and try to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Document everything.
 

·
With the Radio On...
Joined
·
965 Posts
State Attorney General Consumer Protection Diviision

Mayor's office (city) of Consumer Affairs
Pro-Bono lawyers referal services (phonebook)
Family
Friends

$300 dollars for a cell phone sounds like too much for a monthly charge. That must include some sort of up front 'intallation' charge. I purposefuly know nothing about cell phones; mostly just a public nuiscance imo.

There is no debtors prison, defaulting on this contract if the facts are as you describe is a civil not criminal matter; they'll want your money not your body.

Do not depend on what a company rep says- oral representations, generally, are not enforceable. The only thing that matters, generally, is the writing, esp. the fine print.
Make notes of who you talk to and when, always.

For now, set up a payplan with the co., only talk to supervisors, salespeople are programmed to sell only. This keeps you from defaulting and out of creditors clutches and your credit history unaffected. In the mean time:

-call the public entities above see if the same problem is occuring for others.
-bring a small claims actrion against the company to give yourself a forum to be heard
-don't incurr anymore contracts or debt as an unemployed, person w/o good advice

It's difficult to adequately address your circumstance as I'm sure there are more facts and circumstances and stuff. So you need to get a public entity (AG's office, Mayor's office of your town or city) or knowledgable friend to sit down sort through the facts, see who said what to whom when, study the writing, and find your best way out.

For example, if the telehone is worth $100 can you return the phone and owe them 300? If so, can the co see it's way to only recouping actual lost costs for installation which may have been less than the charged amount etc...bargain.

Here's something you can alays rely on and argue with problem contracts(the bread-crumb): IN EVERY CONTRACT THERE IS AN IMPLIED DUTY OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING - OW Holmes

So think about their duty to deal with you fairly and in good faith, and that at the very least this is a legal principle from which you can build arguments. "Is this the kind of company you're running over there??"

Then of course there is (the anti-bread crumb), the dreaded: their side of the story.....????



Free2Pedal said:
I don't know if I need a lawyer or not. Is there a website that can advise me of my rights so I can determine if its worth my time and money to talk to a lawyer? Or is there a place that unemployed people can go for free legal help? I'd hate to dig this hole any deeper, but I feel like Cingular has really screwed me over. They now say I owe them $300 for 40 days of really crappy service and a plan that had charges for services I was initially told (orally) were free. Additionally, I think they trapped/tricked me into not cancelling my account until after the cancellation period had expired. So I have a bill for $300 and I feel stuck. Based on my personal values, I don't believe I should have to pay more than my basic usage-minus the web browsing charges, which were suposed to be free. That comes to about $70. But they say I'm obligated to pay them the full amount. Do people ever get out of cancellation fees with wireless providers? Also, if I refuse to pay the full $300, am I breaking a law, or is it simply a civil matter? Mostly, I'd like to get information how is the best way to go about NOT paying them the full amount. I know I can send a letter describing my position to the credit bureau; but beyond that, I know nothing.

I know you can't legal advice for free to strangers on the internet, but any small bread crumb you can toss my way would be appreciated.

Kristin
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,079 Posts
ideas

Free2Pedal said:
I don't know if I need a lawyer or not. Is there a website that can advise me of my rights so I can determine if its worth my time and money to talk to a lawyer? Or is there a place that unemployed people can go for free legal help? I'd hate to dig this hole any deeper, but I feel like Cingular has really screwed me over. They now say I owe them $300 for 40 days of really crappy service and a plan that had charges for services I was initially told (orally) were free. Additionally, I think they trapped/tricked me into not cancelling my account until after the cancellation period had expired. So I have a bill for $300 and I feel stuck. Based on my personal values, I don't believe I should have to pay more than my basic usage-minus the web browsing charges, which were suposed to be free. That comes to about $70. But they say I'm obligated to pay them the full amount. Do people ever get out of cancellation fees with wireless providers? Also, if I refuse to pay the full $300, am I breaking a law, or is it simply a civil matter? Mostly, I'd like to get information how is the best way to go about NOT paying them the full amount. I know I can send a letter describing my position to the credit bureau; but beyond that, I know nothing.

I know you can't legal advice for free to strangers on the internet, but any small bread crumb you can toss my way would be appreciated.

Kristin
When I give a free consultation to a client, it's usually for the purpose of assessing if I want to take the case, and I would not take a case involving only $300. At $225 per hour, I couldn't even talk to you about the case and read the contracts without blowing your whole $300, maybe several times over. Plus, I've found in my career that small cases, particularly as favors, are the greatest nightmares. Everything that can go wrong, will, and you can't justify much work on them. Plus, the "no good deed goes unpunished" karma always kicks in. I'd bet this applies to most lawyers, too.

Now, you may be able to find a friend who will at least look at your contracts and advise you where you stand. But, it probably will need to be a really good friend, as they will effectively be donating $500 or so to you to check it out.

I doubt public lawyer types will be interested in this, unless they have been receiving lots of complaints about the same thing, and there is a potential for a class action or attorney general action. I doubt it, though.

If I were you, I'd just read the contracts thoroughly, then write a very coherent letter explaining your position, and offer some compromise. Tell them that this is a disputed debt, and if they "defame" your credit history with negative comments you will hold them accountable. But, make some concrete offer. That's what I would tell anyone in your position. Worst case, eat it and chalk it up to bad experience. Get on with your life, and don't allow them to take more from you than you have already lost.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,630 Posts
difficult

Free2Pedal said:
I don't know if I need a lawyer or not. Is there a website that can advise me of my rights so I can determine if its worth my time and money to talk to a lawyer? Or is there a place that unemployed people can go for free legal help? I'd hate to dig this hole any deeper, but I feel like Cingular has really screwed me over. They now say I owe them $300 for 40 days of really crappy service and a plan that had charges for services I was initially told (orally) were free. Additionally, I think they trapped/tricked me into not cancelling my account until after the cancellation period had expired. So I have a bill for $300 and I feel stuck. Based on my personal values, I don't believe I should have to pay more than my basic usage-minus the web browsing charges, which were suposed to be free. That comes to about $70. But they say I'm obligated to pay them the full amount. Do people ever get out of cancellation fees with wireless providers? Also, if I refuse to pay the full $300, am I breaking a law, or is it simply a civil matter? Mostly, I'd like to get information how is the best way to go about NOT paying them the full amount. I know I can send a letter describing my position to the credit bureau; but beyond that, I know nothing.

I know you can't legal advice for free to strangers on the internet, but any small bread crumb you can toss my way would be appreciated.

Kristin
there should be a pro bono law programme in Chicago - it may be worthwhile to approach local law schools re their student pro bono programmes - the small print on these kind of contracts is intentionally inpenetrable

I've done debt recovery and as a lawyer it's a nasty expensive business - it's one where normally, if they hold their nerve, the "debtor" can usually get away with it - think about it this way - how much are they willing to spend to get back their $300? more than $300? are they entitled to recover their legal fees following the contract?

do a retrospective note of everything that's happened (before you see anyone)

it looks to be a strictly civil matter

do not ignore correspondence or you could end up in a very bad position with summary judgments etc.

try and speak to someone legally qualified
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
14,685 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
125 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks to everyone for the info and suggestions

At the very least, I will be reporting this to the states attorney and the BBB. This goes for both Cingular and AT&T who have behaved very badly during this whole transaction. The feeling I get is that these companies go about this business to taking the very most they can from the customer while providing the very least amount of customer service possible. Why should I reward that behavior? Doug, I will also take your suggestion and write a letter to the company to try to negotiate a rate that's closer to fair--and also mentioning consequences for demaging my credit, which is excellent. As far as speaking to a manager, they refused to allow me to talk to a manager.

53T, here is the bill breakdown:

$36 activation fee. I don't want to pay this because they told me browsing was free, and then told me it would be $7/month after I took the contract. I would not have taken any contract with them if I had know about the $7 fee upfront.

$70 worth of prorated minutes usage charges which I would agree to pay.

$6 worth of web browsing

$5 late payment fee

$150 cancellation fee - here's the fun part. I called them within the cancellation grace period and complained about the web browsing fee. At that point, they offered me the $7/month browsing fee. I told them it wasn't acceptable and I planned to cancel the phone. The guy offered me some credits for the browsing and then told me to hold off on my cancellation until after I got the next bill, which just happened to be AFTER the grace period expired. I also couldn't have cancelled on that day because I had lost my home phone number during the initial port request in which they also dealt dishonestly with me.

I hate the phone people!!! Thanks again for all the info.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,750 Posts
Free2Pedal said:
At the very least, I will be reporting this to the states attorney and the BBB. This goes for both Cingular and AT&T who have behaved very badly during this whole transaction. The feeling I get is that these companies go about this business to taking the very most they can from the customer while providing the very least amount of customer service possible. Why should I reward that behavior? Doug, I will also take your suggestion and write a letter to the company to try to negotiate a rate that's closer to fair--and also mentioning consequences for demaging my credit, which is excellent. As far as speaking to a manager, they refused to allow me to talk to a manager.

53T, here is the bill breakdown:

$36 activation fee. I don't want to pay this because they told me browsing was free, and then told me it would be $7/month after I took the contract. I would not have taken any contract with them if I had know about the $7 fee upfront.

$70 worth of prorated minutes usage charges which I would agree to pay.

$6 worth of web browsing

$5 late payment fee

$150 cancellation fee - here's the fun part. I called them within the cancellation grace period and complained about the web browsing fee. At that point, they offered me the $7/month browsing fee. I told them it wasn't acceptable and I planned to cancel the phone. The guy offered me some credits for the browsing and then told me to hold off on my cancellation until after I got the next bill, which just happened to be AFTER the grace period expired. I also couldn't have cancelled on that day because I had lost my home phone number during the initial port request in which they also dealt dishonestly with me.

I hate the phone people!!! Thanks again for all the info.
Maybe you've already tried this, but have you just tried to call and "nicely" ask them to credit you because you misunderstood the terms of the contract? The old "catch more flies with honey than vinegar" thing. I've talked my way out of charges before by just agreeing I was wrong and simply being nice and understanding with the person on the other end of the phone. Worth a shot anyway. Threatening legal action over a $300 bill is crazy if you ask me. Unless you have proof in writing that they violated the terms of their contract then you don't have a leg to stand on--and even if you litigate the hell out of this you will be out way more than $300. Personally I'd chalk this one up to a learning experience and just use a regular phone for now if you're that strapped for cash. Cell phones are getting cheaper and sometimes it makes financial sense to own one over a conventional phone, but if I was unemployed I'd think twice about a cell phone. You can get by without one.
 

·
The Right Wing
Joined
·
843 Posts
Free2Pedal said:
53T, here is the bill breakdown:
I didn't say anything.

But I did hear something related to this on the radio news this a.m.

Mitt Romney, the Gov. of Mass, is proposing to limit the number of people who can receive free legal (criminal) council in the state. He is proposing a means test that includes looking to see if the defendant has the ability to have cable TV, internet access, or a cell phone!
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top