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

Learn what to do if your minor child signs a cellphone contract.

Question

I live in California and my 15-year-old son signed a contract for cellphone 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 cellphone company keeps calling me to demand payment. What should I do?

Answer

That cellphone salesperson should have known one basic point of the law—a child can't be held to his or her signed contracts. What did the salesperson do, set up a booth in the school cafeteria? It's tough luck for the cellphone 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, though in a few states, the age might 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 or her 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 isn't under the care of a parent or guardian able to provide for the minor or the minor’s family, then he or she has to pay up. (Cal. Fam. Code § 6712). But, this exception wouldn't apply in your situation. Although they may seem like it to some people, cellphones are not "necessaries" of life.

Your son doesn't have to pay—and neither do you. But make sure that your son returns the cellphone 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. If the company still continues to demand payment from you, consider talking to an attorney who can advise you about what to do next.

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