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Virgin offers free service to laid-off customers

Virgin Mobile is helping laid-off subscribers keep their cell phones by paying up to three months of service as part of its "Pink Slip Protection" program.

Virgin Mobile USA is offering laidoff consumers a little relief in this tough economy.

The cell phone operator is offering a "Pink Slip Protection" program that essentially picks up the tab for three months of service for customers who have lost their jobs. To qualify for the three free months of service, users must subscribe to one of the company's monthly service plans, which cost $29.99, $39.99, and $49.99. New subscribers will be automatically enrolled in the program and existing customers can also enroll for the program.

Virgin said it will pay bills up to $90 a month, including taxes and surcharges. Subscribers must have the Virgin monthly service for two months before they are eligible for the benefit. To qualify and verify that subscribers are indeed laid off, Virgin is requiring that users show proof of state unemployment benefits.

Virgin is a low-cost cell phone provider that actually uses Sprint Nextel's network to resell wireless minutes.

The recent economic downturn is proving to be a boon for low-cost service providers, like Virgin Mobile. Many consumers looking to cut their monthly cell phone bills have been turning to prepaid wireless providers. And companies like Cricket, MetroPCS, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint's Boost Mobile have seen an increase in the number of new subscribers.

These low-cost providers have been offering cheaper plans to try to attract cost-conscious customers. Boost Mobile recently introduced a $50 all-you-can-eat monthly plan that offers unlimited voice, data, text messaging, and wireless Web access.