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What’s hidden in the fine print of your wireless contract?

Fine PrintHow many of us are guilty of signing contracts or agreeing to terms and conditions without really looking into the fine print? Just last year, Carnegie Mellon researchers published a report showing that it would take the average Internet user 76 work days to weed through all the privacy policies he or she agrees to in a year. In short, all of us have done this at one point or another.

However, as the national debate over the fairness of this fine print heats up, it may be time to look a little closer, especially at your cellphone contract.

Below are a few terms and conditions common in wireless contracts. Ask for these details—and others—before you sign away another two years.

1. Let’s talk about insurance. Many cellphone companies offer insurance policies between $5 and $15 per month that cover damage, theft or loss by the user. These may seem like a good idea, but you should know that most carriers outsource the insurance to another company, which may force you to pay a deductible of between $50 and $300. Plus, even with a successful claim, your replacement phone may not be new. Often you’re left with only a refurbished phone.

2. Trial periods. Carriers often may offer a trial period of up to 30 days in which you can cancel your service without penalty. Find out exactly when this trial period begins and ends, and use it to test your phone and service in the places you’ll use it the most.

3. Sneaky fees. Your carrier may include several monthly “administrative fees.”  These line items will be lumped in with the taxes you pay. These fees have many names: “administrative fee,” “regulatory cost recovery charge” and “federal universal service fee,” just to name a few.