After scouring the internet for information about terminating telecom contracts, I am left with one primary takeaway: Telecom Contracts are nasty. I wouldn’t wish one on my worst enemy. To start with, telecom contract attorneys have found a way to make a living. And if that’s not enough, these experts have enough business to share their warnings about avoiding bad terms to the world. Plus, their warnings go on and on and on.
Alas, maybe your business didn’t spend the time and read those long lists of warnings. Or maybe you did, and you’ve still found yourself in a contract that is harming your business. Everyday we talk to businesses like yours hurting for some help. Here’s our two cents.
- You’ve gotta read the contract that you hate so much. Every sentence. No, I am not in the business of inflicting pain. The bottom line is that oftentimes there are these little, seemingly insignificant clauses that allow for “termination without penalty”. These clauses, known as “out clauses,” can be invoked in a range of circumstances. Even if these clauses cannot get you out of your horrible contract, they will give you some leverage in your dealings with your provider.
- Hopefully your provider delivers, as a part of their product, a Service Level Agreement (an SLA for short) that is backed-up by your contract. SLAs make it their business to state, in explicit terms, what the customer is purchasing and what the provider will deliver. As an example, FluentStream’s SLA guarantees that we deliver more than 99.99% up-time. If FluentStream were to not deliver that guaranteed up-time to one of our customers in any given month, that customer would have every reason to want to end their relationship with FluentStream. If that customer were in a contract (they wouldn’t be – FluentStream doesn’t believe in contracts), they would have leverage in ending that contract – the terms of the SLA were not met.
- Your contract probably allows you, the customer, some say in how and by whom your account is managed. If your provider is unable to meet your requests for appropriate account management as expressed in your service contract, you have leverage towards ending the contract (or at least towards improving your experience in some other way).
- Your contract may, like many existing telecom contracts, cover multiple channels of service (e.g. both phone and internet service). Oftentimes, if you re-negotiate one channel of service in a way that suits your provider (maybe you increase the speed of your internet or you extend your internet contract), the provider will be more willing to be flexible about the terms of your other service channel. In many cases, this is a way to leave a telecom contract scotch-free.
- Avoid telecom contracts. Your business might look for contractual agreements in order to give you some insurance about what future expenditures will look like. However, the right non-contract option can be a win-win for your business. FluentStream’s service is sold sans contract alongside a clause in our terms of service that we will never raise the price. Essentially, we’re offering all of the perks of being in a contract without the costly pitfalls.
If your business is “stuck in the muck” and cannot get your provider to budge after a careful review of your contract and a conversation aimed at mutual benefit, it may be time to explore the possibility that paying the early termination fees may be your business’s best bet. If you are planning to transition to a more affordable service provider, you may reach a break-even point quickly, even after paying the early termination fees. Often times when FluentStream is working with a prospective customer stuck in a contract, we can provide a couple months of free service to help offset early termination fees. If you are in a situation where the current telecom provider is affecting your business negatively (outages, poor support, etc.) – paying the fees to terminate the relationship may absolutely be worth it.
I said it before and I will say it again. Telecom contracts are nasty. You will serve your business well by avoiding them. At the very least, know as much as you can possibly know about the contract before you enter it and ensure that the contract promises to deliver the service that your business will need through the entire life of the contract.