Understanding Your Cell Phone Contract

Your cell phone contract is most commonly called a “Terms of Service Agreement” or “Terms and Conditions of Service.” It is a legally binding agreement between you and your cell phone company covering charges, billing, and other aspects of service. The phone company will operate under the assumption that you have read, understood, and agreed to the terms of the contract, so, as with all contracts, read the contract before you sign it. Ask for a copy for your records.

It is typical for a cell phone service provider to require an extended-term contract, typically for 12 to 24 months, in return for a discount on the purchase of your phone. If you decide to switch to a different provider during that period, you may be required to pay an early termination fee. If you purchased your phone and service through a third-party retailer, you may have an additional Terms and Conditions Agreement, carrying an additional cancellation penalty should you terminate the contract before the term is up. Again, read all of the materials presented to you before you sign anything, including any brochures or other marketing materials, as they may be included in the contract terms.

Written contracts are binding. Therefore, it overrides any kind of verbal representation or promise made to you by the sales person trying to sell you a new phone or new plan. It is important that you read the contract to insure you know what you are paying for and what obligations you have.


  • Compare service plans from different companies before signing a contract.
  • Do your research comparing the length of contracts, the price of an Early Termination Fee, coverage, and plans.
  • Clarify any terms in the contract you do not understand before signing.
  • If there is any sort of promotional or introductory price on your phone or any service included in your cell phone service contract, make sure you know when this time frame expires, and that you know how much your bill will increase afterward.
  • Know how and when you will be billed. Many consumers opt to have their bill paid from an automatic bank withdrawal. Be sure you know when to expect it.
  • Keep a copy of the Terms and Conditions with you for the duration of your contract.
  • Know when your contract expires. Beware of any offer you receive from your cell phone provider during the term of the contract. While the offer may be attractive, it might include an additional contract extension. Accept the offer only if you agree that any contract extension is one that will benefit you.

When it comes to your cell phone, we’ve got your back, Arkansas.