PARDEEVILLE, Wis. - A woman in Pardeeville is calling for action over a $4,300 cancellation fee that's threatening to put her out of business.
Candace Lestina took over her mom's weekly newspaper, the Pardeeville Shopper, about a year ago and inherited an internet service she says was hardly usable. Lestina says her wifi, provided by frontier Communications, constantly dropped out and caused her to miss important printing deadlines. At the time, the service was the only one available -- but six months in, when Charter came to town and offered a cheaper option, Candace gave it a try.
"They are providing internet for half the price of what frontier was," she said. "I've had no problems with dropping, even once, the entire time I've added them."
Charter also offered to pay $500 toward her cancellation bill, so when Candace received a bill in the mail from frontier for $4,300, she thought it was just spam at first. She checked her contract for clarification.
"Nothing is ever described as to what those cancellation fees are, which is that you will pay your entire bill for the rest of the contract," she said.
Having to pay that fee would put Candace out of business, but frontier threatened to call collections on her.
Is it even legal for a company to charge that much, or not be up front about the contract? News 3 Now asked the Bureau of Consumer Protection to find out.
"For consumers, there's an administrative rule that has specific disclosure that must be made, and one of them is what are their rights to cancel," said director Michelle Reinen.
The key word there is consumers -- that means the average person buying Wi-Fi for their home. Here Candace's problem: she's considered a business, and businesses fall under a statute that's less specific.
"It doesn't say that service provider must disclose what that cancellation policy is," Reinen said. "They can still have one... but that needs to be read by the purchaser."
So what do you do if you're stuck in this situation? We asked that question, too.
1. Write down the answers when you're talking to providers. Take specific notes when you're being pitched a package.
2. Make sure your contract aligns with what you were verbally told when you made your selection.
If you find your company isn't keeping up its end of the bargain, you can file a report with DATCP to complain.
"We want to see what's happening here," Reinen said. "Is this a one-off situation [regarding] a specific contract, or is this a practice that we should be monitoring? Because we want to make sure the law is being followed appropriately."
Candace hasn't gotten a call from collections yet -- in fact, she's having a hard time getting in touch with frontier. So is News 3 Now - the company had not responded to our requests for comment as of 9 a.m. Thursday.
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