Sprint PCS Complaint - False billing; unethical, predatory sales practices
CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS -- Millions of us have cellular phones, and many people opt not to even have house phones as our lives are more and more dependent on cellular service. There are only few main service providers, but little is known about some of the unethical practices they use in conducting their business. Unfortunately, I had a first hand opportunity to experience that with Sprint PCS.
I have been a Sprint customer for five or more years and most of this time coverage in the Greater Boston area has been quite mediocre. Lost calls, busy network, delayed voice mail delivery. You name it. In addition, customer service was not any better: I was being sent from the phone customer service to local branches back and forth, and no one seemed to be able or cared enough to address my problems. Moreover, I was frequently misinformed and was given information that was not correct or true. I probably became lazy over time and did not bother looking for another company immediately. This was my mistake #1 – always actively monitor your service providers, and, if not happy, replace them without mercy.
After a while, I got fed up with Sprint’s coverage and its customer services issues and wrote a letter to the company’s COO, Len Lauer. To my surprise, I received a new phone at no charge in acknowledgement of my letter. I called to activate that phone and this is when my real problems began. The representative I spoke with also offered me a promotion, which I was not at first interested in. However, I am ashamed to admit, word free does have a magic effect on people like me.
The offer entailed my receiving two free phones with no obligation to activate and absolutely no cost to me. This was their way of saying “thank you for being their customer”. If I decided to give those two phones to my friends or family members, those individuals would establish service with Sprint and would be responsible for any charges. I was told in plain English that, if I decided to do nothing about the offer or even if “I threw those phones away”, I would not incur any liability. The representative never said a single word about returning the sets, even if I decided to do nothing about them.
When I received that promotion package from Sprint, I found 4 (!) instead of 2 phones. In addition, 4(!) phone lines were established in my name, which I was not informed about. I called their customer service about it (I was not obligated), and another representative mailed me a return envelope. I placed the 4 phones in the envelope and requested that they be picked up by UPS. I left the package at the door leading to my apartment building. I did not follow up to verify that they were received simply because I was told over the phone that I would not incur any charges and I was never told that I was obligated to return them. Conveniently, Sprint does not have a recording of my conversation. Neither does it have a signed or even verbal agreement. There is simply no legal precedent to demand any money from me. Perhaps, they should check with their legal counsel, which should be able to explain to them what constitutes an agreement or an obligation.
Sprint has sent to me a bill of almost $1,000 for four phones, two of which I did not request and was under no obligation to return any of the four, and for four new line, of which I was not informed and never used. This bill has since been reduced to just over $600, as the line activation fees were waived. I have been in communication with Sprint, including its COO, CEO, three members of the Board of Directors, and an executive / regulatory analyst. However, all of my efforts were unsuccessful. Sprint demands that the phones sets need to be returned, which conveniently neglects to address my claim that its representative provided me with false information, and now Sprint attempts to charge me in connection with that misinformation. The reason for doing this is simple – Sprint has no case and its bill is absolutely unfounded and illegal. This is why Sprint is helplessly sticking to demanding the phone sets. Otherwise, its case will fall apart.
I have learnt a few lessons from this situation, which caused me lots of stress and wasted a lot of my time. Lesson #1 – always manage your phone service provider actively and switch if unhappy at first opportunity. Lesson #2 – keep records each time you call your phone company with problems. It may take just a bit of your time but will save you a lot more should your issue get out of control. Record the purpose of your call, date and time, name of the representative you spoke with, and details and outcome of your conversation. Lesson #3 – if you feel that the issue is getting out of control, seek legal help and notify your state’s attorney general’s office, better business bureau, and other regulators.
In the meantime, my saga with Sprint continues and only God knows when the situation will be resolved. I have contacted Kansas and Massachusetts Attorney General’s offices, both states’ Better Business Bureaus, and now reaching out to you my fellow readers in hopes that something like this does not happen to you. Unfortunately, Sprints of this world continue to stay in business, advertising how much they care about the customers. I suppose that not taking responsibility for its representatives’ actions, trying to collect money for what was supposed to be a free, no obligation offer, wasting its customer’s time, and making the customer’s life more stressful is part of being a customer-centric and ethical organization. Go Sprint!
I am now switching to Verizon, as many of my friends are with this company and are quite happy. I am certainly keeping my fingers cross that someone in Sprint’s senior management will wake up and sees it as an opportunity to fix its problems, before it is too late.