Is a 15-year-old's contract with a cell phone service valid?

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Question:

My 15-year-old son signed a contract for cell phone service without my knowing. Now he's supposed to pay $29.95 a month for a year. He isn't paying (or using the phone) and the cell phone company keeps calling me to demand payment. What should I do?

Answer:

That cell phone salesperson should have known one basic point of the law -- a child can't be held to his signed contracts! What did the salesperson do, set up a booth in the school cafeteria? It's tough luck for the cell phone company on this one.

The law says that minors are, for the most part, legally incapable of entering into contracts. In the majority of states, minors are people under the age of 18 -- in a few states, the age may be slightly lower. If a person or business does enter into a contract with a minor, the minor isn't responsible for keeping up his end of the bargain. In your state (California), there is one exception to this rule: If the minor contracts for necessaries (like food or shelter) and is not under the care of a parent or guardian, then he has to pay up. But, this exception wouldn't apply in your situation. Although they may seem like it to some people, cell phones are not "necessaries" of life.

Your son doesn't have to pay -- and neither do you. But make sure that your son returns the cell phone to the company. Also, be sure to send a letter to the company stating your understanding that they'll close the account. Keep a copy for your files.

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