I wouldn’t call this over by any stretch of the imagination but it does herald some potential good news for mobile customers. Yesterday, a judge handed Sprint Nextel a loss in a case over early termination fees. Sprint has two weeks to respond and if they lose here, I would imagine they will most likely appeal. While Sprint and the other Telcos argue that they need these fees to recoup the subsidies that they offer to keep the costs of cell phones low, (they are petitioning the FCC on this issue) this judge wasn’t buying that story. To be fair, Sprint and other Telcos have been moving towards at least a pro-rate system of ending contracts, but to be skeptical that is mostly to avoid regulation that seeks to abolish the practice.
Other similar cases are making their way through the courts and it points up the conflict between subsidized hardware prices and long term contracts that no consumer seems to like. In my view of the world that sort of lock in wouldn’t be required if companies were able to perform better or at least offer up a reasonable set of expectations that they could live up to.