Beware of the Fine Print

You have been told always read the fine print, however you have just gone through the whole process of looking at your telecommunication options and you think you have found the best provider for your company. You notice 1-9 pages of legalize attached to the signature page and you take a quick glance and sign it without seeing what they actually promised you. I see it happen every day. Your telecommunications rep is paid to sell you his carrier and is not going to point out all the pitfalls created by their carrier’s legal department.
Here is some of the legalize from one of the agreements of an IP Telephony provider

The Dreaded Evergreen Clause
“Term. Unless otherwise terminated pursuant to this Agreement, the Service is offered for the initial term of service (the “Initial Term) specified in the MSO, which term shall be a minimum of one (1) year. The Initial Term shall begin on the date the carrier activates Service (“Service Activation Date”) and shall continue until the expiration of the Initial Term. Following the Initial Term this Agreement shall renew on a “like term” basis, unless and until the Customer cancels the Service on sixty (60) days prior written notice. If the Customer cancels the Service prior to the end of the Initial Term, Customer agrees to pay the carrier as liquidated damages and not as a penalty, all non-recurring and monthly recurring charges which would otherwise be due through the end of the Initial Term, including all applicable fee and taxes.”
First notice, If you cancel the agreement you will be charged the installation. Many carriers show a “waived installation charge” on their agreement and as long as you complete your agreement you will not need to worry about that waived installation If you break the agreement and the carrier waived a $5000.00 installation fee that gets added to the termination penalty.
Please note the term begins on installation of the new service, not when you signed your agreement. If you fail to notify the carrier in writing 60 days prior to that auto renew date you are locked into that carrier and plan for the same term as your original contract. Do not expect your carrier to be flexible. 60 days means 60 days; if you contact the carrier 59 days from the renewal then you are stuck with that carrier for another term. If you signed a 5 year agreement; congratulations you have another 5 years to go. If you have multiple services on your agreement find out from the carrier what they consider the renewal date. One of my customer’s access T-1’s were turned up 60 days before the IP service was ready. The carrier considered the T-1 dates as the service delivery date even though there was no traffic and the carrier credited the customer for those two months for the access.

The Rate Increase
“Charges…..The carrier may change its prices and charges for Service from time to time without advance notice, provided that any increase to prices and charges shall be posted on the carriers website at least one (1) day prior to the effective date of the increase.”
Please note in this agreement the one day notice does not allow you to break the contract. You are still locked into this carrier at the new rates for your term. Some carriers will notify you of rate increases with a paragraph on the bill or a bill stuffer or even a separate letter. If your bill goes directly to your accounts payable department you may not realize what you are being charged for your service right now. Some carrier contracts allow you to break contracts if they have raised your rates and others do not. It’s important to read the fine print and know where you stand going in. Last year one ILEC/CLEC increased some of their customer rates 800%. On the bright side that carrier will allow the customer to change providers due to the rate increase. Many of their customers to this day do not know their rate increased.

So what was I promised from the carrier?
Warranty. OTHER THAN THIRD PARTY MANUFACTURERS’ WARRANTIES THAT MAY BE APPLICABLE TO THE EQUIPMENT, THE CARRER MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY NATURE WHATSOEVER, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WITH RESPECT TO THE SERVICE OR EQUIPMENT THAT ARE THE SUBJECT OF THIS AGREEMENT. The carrier makes no representation of the merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose or function, whether express or implied. The carrier makes no warranty that the Service or the equipment will operate uninterrupted or error free.
So what did the carrier actually promise to provide in the above agreement? They promised an invoice and the customer promised to pay no matter what. Make yourself notes on the important dates. Please read and know what you are buying even if it slows down the process. Be aware of the fine print, it will save you heartache and maybe your job down the road.