I’ve been a loyal Credo Mobile customer for the last five years, and was also a Working Assets Long Distance customer for two years before Credo. I always liked the idea that a company could focus on the Triple Bottom Line (People-Planet-Profit) and continue to thrive in America. Estimating that I’ve averaged $60-100 / month on phone charges in 7 years, I’ve provided some $5040 - $8400 in revenue to this company.
Yet since October 2012 I’ve been engaged in an unpleasant divorce and child-custody struggle with my ex-wife. I lost my job in early February. Despite the distractions and other financial obligations I continued to call and make at least small good-faith payments to Credo, showing my intentions to continue as customer.
Imagine, then, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I called to follow up on a solid job interview, and heard “Your account could not be validated. Please contact customer services.” The moment I discovered Credo cut off my service, I was due to call my IT recruiter and accept a job offer that would help me get my life back on track.
I had to hustle to the grocery store, buy a $10 phone card, and call the recruiter from a pay phone in the parking lot, and tune out the Brad Paisley blaring out somebody’s car radio. I took the job, and am glad to be making money again. But my service is still disconnected, and I’m still catching up on a fat mortgage payment along with utility bills like Credo.
Despite the company getting $102 from me three days before disconnect (cleared the bank 5/14), Credo Mobile cut my phone service for a 50-day past-due amount of $75.31. When I called Customer Service, they said despite the bulk of my total debt being younger than 60 days, I must now pay $292.50 before they’ll reconnect me.
And to kick me while I’m down, reps tell me Credo will continue to charge me ~$90 for monthly services that are disconnected, until I pay the past due amount and reconnection or termination fees. So if I go with Cricket Wireless’s decent $35 / month unlimited voice + text plan to have some kinda phone service, I still have a +$125 monthly cell bill, and cannot save enough to dig out of Credo’s debt.
Let’s check out the “Termination” section of the Credo Mobile Customer Agreement (http://www.credomobile.com/misc/Customeragreement.aspx). It reads:
“If we terminate Services for cause before the end of the [fixed-length Customer Agreement], you may be required to pay a termination fee. After September 30, 2010, the early termination fee for smartphones is $325 per line, reduced by $10 for each full month of your contract term that you complete.”
I understand Credo wants me to pay for services rendered before they cut my phone off. I acknowledge they are following the letter of the contract by asking that I pay an early-termination fee. But I just spent the last few hours reading through their agreement and the Federal Communication Commission’s goals for the Universal Service Fund. Nowhere does the contract or the FCC say Credo has a right to charge me $90 / month for voice and data services, while the service is suspended.
On my bill I see Credo collects a $5 “Federal USF Surcharge - Wireless” fee to recoup monies paid to the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. I read up on USF (http://transition.fcc.gov/wcb/tapd/universal_service ), and learned one of the main goals is to “Promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable and affordable rates for all consumers.” Another is to “ensure that consumers in rural, insular, and high-cost areas have access to telecommunications services at rates that are affordable.”
I live in a rural city in the North Carolina tobacco belt with about 15,000 inhabitants. I’m blessed enough to work IT and own a house, but a lot of my neighbors live in trailers, work hard in warehouses, building and retail services, and farm jobs. A lot of spots around town drop calls and get poor reception on the Sprint and Alltel roaming networks.
This is one of the rural places the Feds had in mind when they set up the USF. Ain’t it kind of funny that Credo puts extra fees on my bill to support a Federal initiative to make rural phone service more accessible, while they withhold actual phone service from a rural resident?
I think I’ve called Credo at least once a month since February to update them on my financial situation and make changes to my plan. They knew I was unemployed. They also knew that a communication snarl-up between their website, automated phone and payment processing system kept them from seeing $100, $51.60 and $101 checks I mailed from December to January. I had a heck of a time getting them to update my account balance in March, and not cut me off then.
Well, last night I spoke with Credo reps Megan, Richard and Theresa to get payment and contract details. Though they were all friendly and professional, Megan really put effort into helping me plan repayment of the 70, 39 and 9-day past due amounts, offering to save me money with plan downgrades, and running back-and-forth to her supervisor’s desk to ask about terminations.
Megan expressed a desire to help me stay on with Credo as a customer after this termination. But she sounded embarrassed after her last round-trip; she initially told me I would only be responsible for past-due amounts and a $135 termination fee – the contract is prorated, expires in November. After being laid-out by her desk-lead, she told me they insist I continue to accrue new monthly service charges while I work to pay down past-due amounts. Without the phone service actually being connected.
So, here’s how I see it: I fell down on the finances. Rather than helping me out the pit, Credo took the opportunity to kick some dirt in my face. And here I come across some Credo-sponsored Facebook chatter about how bad other cell phone companies are, for helping misuse Federal government resources.
Well Credo, you may have kicked some dirt in my eye, but who put that big splinter in yours?