Cry for Verizon to kill contracts grows louder

A petition from Change.org is close to hitting the 150,000 signature mark.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read
Verizon's flagship Droid DNA.
Would you be willing to buy an unsubsidized version of Verizon's flagship Droid DNA? Sarah Tew/CNET

The calls for Verizon Wireless to drop the contract are getting louder.

The petition posted on Change.org calling for Verizon to kill off its contract model has garnered nearly 120,000 signatures, with 25,000 signatures added over the weekend alone.

The petition was created by Verizon customer Mike Beauchamp on April 7 after Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam told CNET on the sidelines of an event held earlier this month that he would consider moving to a no-contract model if consumers demanded it, and said the process to shift to no-contracts wouldn't be difficult.

The comments came shortly after T-Mobile dropped service contracts and subsidies as part of its "Uncarrier" campaign. Under the new plans, consumers pay the full price for their smartphones, but pay a lower monthly rate for cellular service, ultimately saving consumers money.

A Verizon representative noted that the company already offers a month-to-month plan that requires customers to pay the full cost of a device upfront.

"Verizon Wireless has for years offered many different choices for customers, including contract plans or month-to-month plans that do not require a contract," the representative said.

In addition to eliminating the contract, Beauchamp challenged Verizon to come up with an affordable way for consumers to pay for that smartphone. He added that a no-contract model is a better reflection of the faster moving wireless industry, and noted that he didn't start the petition because of any dissatisfaction with the service.

"I've been a long-time Verizon customer and I don't see myself ever leaving; but I want that choice myself; I don't want them making it for me and imposing stiff penalties if I do decide to leave," he said in the petition.

T-Mobile, for instance, has changed the model by charging a smaller upfront fee and a monthly payment that covers the cost of the device over 24 months. Consumers can pay in advance. They can also leave whenever they want, but have to pay the balance of the cost of the device, which some criticize as just another version of a contract.

Last week, Verizon said that it was changing its upgrade policy so that consumers would have to wait the full 24 months of their contract before they could change their phone at the subsidized rate. Previously, subscribers could upgrade their phone at the discounted rate after 20 months.

The change drew a lot of questions during last week's earnings conference call, but Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said he didn't foresee any backlash from customers.

"We don't anticipate a lot of dissatisfaction," he said during the call last week. "We're not seeing a lot of resistance here."

The movement, however, picked up steam and signatures after Verizon reported its results.