Clearwire Letter

Marc J. Zeitlin
P.O. Box 1103
Mojave, CA 93502
April 23rd, 2008

 Mr. Benjamin G. Wolff
CEO and Director
Clearwire Communications
4400 Carillon Point
Kirkland, WA 98033

Re:    Return #170728 and ETF Waiver #17027: Recurrent Early Termination Fee Credit Card Charge

Dear Mr. Wolff:

I write to you in reference to a now long running dispute regarding a $195 Early Termination Fee that I have been charged.

My son Zachary, a student at Syracuse University, signed up for Clearwire’s Broadband Internet service at the beginning of the fall 2007 school term in Syracuse, NY. The salesperson that he and his two friends talked to made NO mention of an early termination fee charge three months down the road when the term ended and they would move out of their apartment – he explicitly told them that there would be no charge for cancelling the contract at the end of the term.  Rightly or wrongly, this is what they were told.

When they moved out and contacted Clearwire, my son was told that there would be a early termination fee (ETF) and that he needed to return the modem to one of their stores. He talked to a customer service manager on the phone about the salesperson and was told that he would be issued an “Early Termination Fee Waiver” when he returned the modem and would not be charged the $195 fee. On January 7th, 2008, he and one of his roommates returned the modem to one of Clearwire’s stores in Syracuse, NY and were issued a Return # 170728 and an Early Termination Fee Waiver # 170727. The manager of the store was friendly and apologetic, and admitted that my son was mislead and given incorrect information at signup by the salesperson.

When I received my next credit card bill, I noticed that the $195 fee was there, with no equivalent credit. Since my son is currently in Spain for the spring term of college (and has been since January 9th, 2008 – two days after returning the modem and getting the ETF Waiver), he cannot deal with this issue, and since it’s on my credit card, I must do so. I contacted Clearwire’s service department, explained the issue to them, and asked them to credit the $195 to my account. They acknowledged that they had received the modem. They refused the credit, however, saying that they had no record of the ETF Waiver, and that I would have to contact the store to which the modem was returned and talk to them. They also refused to continue dealing with me, since (although the bill has been charged to my credit card account), my name is not on the Clearwire account.

Since my son is in Spain, and I did not handle the transaction, I don’t know which of the many stores in the Syracuse area the modem was returned to, and although Clearwire has acknowledged return of the modem, the customer service representative on the phone claimed that they did not know which store it had come from (and could not determine that information). I do not believe that it is my job to chase down information that Clearwire either has and is hiding from me or is not competent to maintain. In any case, with my son in Spain and I in California, it makes no difference which store the modem was returned to, since I have provided the sequential Return # and ETF # that he was issued by the store, and you have acknowledged the return of the modem.

After numerous phone discussions with various Clearwire customer service people, after contacting Chase Visa and disputing the bill, after having Chase’s disputes department set up a 3-way phone call with your customer service department and after still making no progress whatsoever with the acknowledgement of the ETF Waiver, I find that each month, I am being charged the $195 ETF, and each month, I call up Chase Visa and dispute the charge, which they then credit back to me. The next month, the $195 charge is right back on my credit card even though I have not only not authorized it, but have disputed it both with you and Chase Visa, and I must call Chase again to ask them to remove the charge.

At this point, Chase has informed me that due to the repeated charges against my authorization, Clearwire is being fined some amount by Chase each time one of these charges appears on my account and is disputed. While I get some pleasure out of knowing that your company is spending far more than $195 while attempting to steal $195 from me or just wear me down and is being fined in the process as well, it is, in fact, a pain in the neck to have to spend ½ hour on the phone each month disputing the current month’s $195 charge from your company. Since it has cost your company far more in attempting to get the $195 from me than $195 due to time, effort and fines, this sequence of events is a negative ROI for you. I can’t say that that fact bothers me, except for the ½ hour investment on my part each month, which, you should be aware, I am prepared to continue ad-infinitum if necessary – you will NOT get the money, even if I have to cancel my credit card to ensure it.

I will not pay $195 to a company that hires salespeople that they have acknowledged lie to prospective customers and then cannot keep track of their own commitments and tracking information. I will not pay $195 to a company that has customer service people that, when presented with factual, consistent information, assume that their customer is lying, rather than assuming the possibility that their company has made a mistake (it does happen). For both of our sakes (yours, financially, and mine, time-wise), please ensure that your billing department ceases billing me $195 each month, and credit my account with the current month’s billing.

Given that I bill out my time at $175/hr. for consulting services, and that over the course of the previous four months I have now spent approximately four hours total speaking to your customer service department as well as Chase Visa’s disputes department, you can also consider this an invoice for $700.00 – please send a check in this amount to the address listed above.

You may have someone contact me, if absolutely necessary, at the phone # or address above.


Marc J. Zeitlin

Return to: Zeitlin's Page

Copyright © 2008, All Rights Reserved, Marc J. Zeitlin

Last Updated: May 12, 2008