Executives from AT&T and Verizon Communications defended early termination fees for wireless customers Tuesday, but said they wouldn't oppose Federal Communications Commission rules that required these fees to be "reasonable." Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive and vice president for legislative affairs for AT&T, and Tom Tauke, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for Verizon, said following a panel discussion at the NxtComm tradeshow, that their companies are justified in charging early termination fees for wireless contracts, which often top out at $200. The battle over early termination fees is heating up as wireless operators face multimillion-dollar class action suits from consumers who say these fees are unfair and deter competition. So far, wireless operators seem to have the upper hand in the battle, as a California state jury ruled in favor of Sprint Nextel last week in the first of these class action lawsuits. Cicconi and Tauke said that they are confident they could reasonably justify the cost of their fees, despite criticism from consumer advocates who say these fees are not used to recover costs but are merely used to deter customers from switching services. One industry expert who testified at a recent FCC hearing said that the early termination fees wireless operators charge are roughly 12 times higher than the cost of the actual phone subsidy they claim to be recovering.
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