The introduction of local number portability was supposed to force mobile operators to improve their customer service, since now it would be easier for upset customers to simply jump to a competing carrier. Instead, it seems to have only increased the use of early termination fees that the mobile operators charge if you leave a contract early. To be fair, often these ETFs come into play when the customer has purchased a heavily subsidized mobile phone -- which sounds fair. However, the number of irate mobile users who find themselves facing huge bills just because they want to switch mobile operators suggests that the practice isn't doing much good for the reputations of mobile operators. In fact, it's so bad that some folks are willing to play dead
in an effort to fool mobile operators into canceling the contract without charging the ETF -- though, as we've noted in the past, there have been times when even death wouldn't get you out of paying
. It would seem to make sense for mobile operators to be a bit more understanding. Verizon Wireless, to its credit, prorates early termination fees
, so the closer you are to the end of your contract, the less it costs. It's unclear why the other mobile operators haven't come up with anything similar. Perhaps they really think that locked-in but pissed-off customers are better than happy, loyal customers.