KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For more and more Americans, our cell phones are our only phones. That's how it is for La'Wanna Whitcomb and her family. They have been T-Mobile customers for more than 10 years.
"Never late. Never had a problem with T-Mobile. Never," said Mrs. Whitcomb.
No problem until this year when she tried to break up with T-Mobile and switch to AT&T.
"We got the highest bill we'd ever had for a cell phone in our life," said Mrs. Whitcomb.
The bill was $524.57. T-Mobile told her $300 of the amount was an early termination fee for cancelling her plan. That made no sense to Mrs. Whitcomb because both her son's and her own cell phone were already paid off. The only pay phone still under contract was her husband's.
Or so she thought.
But T-Mobile said she would have to pay early termination fees for all three phones, because when one family member upgrades their phone, the contract starts all over again for everyone.
"That's ridiculous," said Mrs. Whitcomb, who said she was infuriated because T-Mobile charged her for the entire month of January, although she had cancelled her service on January 10.
Grudgingly, Mrs. Whitcomb agreed to pay the $300 in early termination fees after a T-Mobile employee insisted it was part of her contract, but she refused to pay for her service plan past her cancellation date of January 10.
That's when T-Mobile turned La'Wanna Whitcomb, who until then had a perfect payment record, over to a collection agency. If T-Mobile thought they had an irritated customer before, now it really had one.
Mrs. Whitcomb started contacting everyone and anyone who would listen to her story, from FOX 4 Problem Solvers, to the Kansas Attorney General's Office, to an attorney.
And she isn't alone in her frustration, a quick search online shows dozens of postings from other upset customers who were charged huge fees when they tried to cancel their cell phone service.
Although T-Mobile might insist the charges are part of the contract, cell phone contracts are often multiple pages of fine print which few people ever bother to read.
Whitcomb's complaints did get T-Mobile's attention. It has now taken her out of collections and zeroed out her balance.
But that's not enough for Mrs. Whitcomb. She now wants $200 of the $300 back that she was charged to terminate both her and her son's account. T-Mobile is now looking into that.
T-Mobile tells FOX 4 that last year it eliminated its cell phone service contracts so that what happened to La'Wanna Whitcomb won't happen to new customers. That puts T-Mobile more in line with Sprint, Verizon and ATT, all of which tell us that if one person on a plan upgrades to a better phone, that would not lock other anyone else on the same plan into a new contract,.