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Getting Out Of Cell Phone Contracts

Breaking cell phone contracts can be extremely difficult to do and sometimes it comes at a price as high as $200.

It's a potential issue for the 230 million cell phone users in the United States. Nearly half of them say they would consider switching carriers if there was no fee.

The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen has some strategies to avoid paying a high price for switching cell phone plans.

Koeppen said cell phone companies make contracts difficult to break in order to offset the inexpensive or even free phones they provide to entice a customer to sign up for a plan.

"They're afraid that you're going to walk in, get the free phone and then you can go to anybody you want," she said. "So they have those termination agreements in place so that they can offer you the free phones and the good plans. Without the fee, you're not going to be getting those freebies."

Here is the advice she offered:

  • Swap your plan Online:

    There are Web sites where people can put up their contracts for others to assume. The sites charge a fee of around $15 or $20. Koeppen said that cell phone companies usually don't mind as long as the person who is taking over the contract has good credit.

  • Negotiate with your provider:

    If you have a serious problem with your phone – for example, you are dropping an inordinate number of calls — Koeppen said call your service provider and explain what is going on. Write a letter and document when the calls are dropped.

  • Cite problems and changes:

    If your rates suddenly go up or your service changes, that is also a legitimate complaint, Koeppen said. Pay attention to other deals the provider might offer. They are usually willing to give you a better contract.

    "There are plenty of companies," Koeppen said. "So go out there, do your research, talk to your friends ... talk to your neighbors, ask around."

    Koeppen also said that people can buy a phone without a contract and look for prepaid plans that might allow you to supply your own phone.