Update: A Google spokesperson responded late in the day to the recent hubub over its Early Recovery Fee. Here’s what they had to say:
“Google provides a subsidy for devices purchased with T-Mobile USA service. If a consumer cancels service after 14 days, Google recoups this subsidy in the form of an equipment recovery fee. After 120 days, the equipment recovery fee will no longer apply. This is standard practice for third party resellers of T-Mobile and other operators, and you will find similar policies for other mobile service resellers.”
It looks as though Google is taking seriously its role as online retailer of cell phones and plans. According to the fine print in the Nexus One terms of sale, those who terminate their carrier plan early will be slapped with what Google is calling an “Early Recovery Fee” as well as an Early Termination Fee (ETF) from their chosen carrier.
According to the Nexus One’s terms of sale, users “agree to pay Google an equipment subsidy recovery fee (the “Equipment Recovery Fee”) equal to the difference between the full price of the Nexus handheld device without service plan and the price paid for the Nexus handheld device if you cancel your wireless plan prior to 120 days of continuous wireless service.”
For example, if the full price of the Nexus handheld device without service plan was $529 and the price the user paid for the Nexus handheld device was $179 with a service plan, the Equipment Recovery Fee the customer pays will be $350 in the event the customer cancels within the first 120 days of carrier service. That’s on top of whatever the user has to pay in ETFs to the carrier.
Traditionally, carriers have charged ETFs in an effort to recoup handset subsidies when customers cancel long-term contracts before their end date. The combination of the ETF and ERF, however, could draw some scrutiny from the FCC if the combined total exceeds the cost of the unsubsidized device.
There was no comment from Google on the matter before press time.