New York Agency Wants Sprint To Pay ETF To Dropped Customers

The New York State Consumer Protection Board suggest that Sprint pay $200, the amount it would have charged customers to end their contracts, to the 1000 customers it dumped for calling customer service too much. Mindy Brockstein, the board’s chairperson, told the AP:

“These former Sprint customers will have to purchase new phones and incur other expenses and inconveniences if they want to continue receiving wireless service,” Bockstein said. “Sprint Nextel should do more to improve the quality of its customer service and this is a good place to start.”

Brockstein says she’s send a letter to Sprint requesting the payout, and if they refuse, she will be approaching New York lawmakers who she claims are already interested in creating a “Wireless Customer Bill of Rights.”

A Sprint insider told Consumerist that Sprint was only dropping customers who were scamming them for undeserved credits. Sprint declined to comment on Brockstein’s letter, as they had not yet received it.

NY Agency Wants Sprint to Pay Customers [Forbes]
(Photo:Maulleigh)

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  1. dbeahn says:

    I think Sprint should refuse to pay. If the customers take them to small claims, or file a class action, then Sprint can play lots of fun calls from these customers, demanding credit because they didn’t like the ink on the billing statement, or the choice of font, or whatever.

    I have a feeling that the customers that were dumped aren’t going to want a judge or jury hearing those calls, let alone the public…

  2. Thrust says:

    Now wasn’t there a big stink about these “dropped Customers” having been dropped because they were after credits and freebies? So giving them more freebies is a solution?

    HEY Alcoholics Anonymous! Here’s some beer and jello shooters to help you with your problems!

  3. enm4r says:

    The assumption is that these people had way more than $200 credit applied to their accounts over the years. They don’t deserve anything.

    But that’s Sprint’s fault for being stupid about the credit situation, and it should have never come to this point. Sprint blew it, so if they are forced to pay, I wouldn’t feel bad for them.

  4. Coder4Life says:

    I hate sprint with a PASSION.. So I say they pay out.

    We cancel our contracts b/ they have screwed us out of 100’s of dollars adn we still have to pay the $175 to get out..

  5. remusrm says:

    i think you guys should of had sprint and try to get them to do something… i had sprint since 2000 to 2004 and used to call about 5-10 times/week to settle charges and things. they are really screwed up… just sing up for an account, and try to add a corporate discount and long distance to other countries… takes them about 2 months to figure out what you actually wanted. they are clueless… another thing, yes is absurd to call so much, but unless you really are in that situation you will call everyday for just being mad that they do not know how to do their job…

  6. beyond says:

    Forgive me for not believing some random person on the Internet sending a letter to Consumerist claiming to be a “Sprint insider”. We know that Sprint noticed a high volume of calls from a number of people and decided to drop them, we don’t know why, because Sprint nor anyone we can verify as from Sprint has commented on it. Until we do, we don’t know whether these people deserve to have termination fees or not.

  7. MrFlashport says:

    I have to agree, if a carrier like Sprint (the K-Mart of Wireless, and we all know K-Mart sucks so said Dustin Hoffman in Rainman) chooses to can a PAYING customer, they should pay the customer the ETF only because the customer now has proprietary locked down hardware which CANNOT be used on any other carrier. GSM carriers should release the lock code or pay the ETF, allowing the consumer to take his service to another carrier. Too bad CDMA carriers are pigs with crippled hardware, proprietary software, and they refuse to activate other CDMA carrier’s handsets even though they are technically compatible. Sprint sucks balls anyway, this should be a sign that they are the most customer unfriendly company out there. I hope they go down in flames.

  8. dbeahn says:

    @Coder4Life: “I hate sprint with a PASSION.. So I say they pay out”

    Wow. Nice to know that as far as you are concerned little things like “law” and “right and wrong” don’t enter into the equation…

  9. DojiStar says:

    I don’t think it should be an issue whether or not these customers abused the system.

    It is more an issue of the companies being allowed to force customers to pay ETF’s but if they opt to terminate the contract early, then there is no penalty placed on them.

    They want things both ways. They want to be able to change contracts in the middle of terms or terminte contracts before they end, but will not afford the same luxury to the customer.

    Just because you hold the contract, doesn’t mean you can do what ever you feel like with it.

  10. dbeahn says:

    @MrFlashport: Oh BS. They have proprietary hardware they got at a highly subsidized rate, or for free. They’ll just go to another carrier and take the free phone offer like they did with Sprint.

  11. valthun says:

    It wasn’t just customers who called in a lot, but the perpetual roamers. This included a lot of military personnel who probably were okay with their service but were always roaming due to where they were on the field.

  12. akyiba says:

    If Sprint can cancel your service at anytime, I believe that is part of the contract that subscribers agree to, then how are they liable to pay the EFT?

  13. banned says:

    I’m not so sure these were credit abusers and thus I agree carriers should pay an etf for dropping you. I worked for T-Mobile and the first thing I ever did before giving a credit was check the credit history for abuse, as would my supervisor so saying these people took $1000’s, highly doubtful, unless of course, sprint is just that stupid, the jury is still out in my mind.

  14. Sprint should have to prove, for each individual case, that the customers they dropped were committing fraud.

  15. dbeahn says:

    @valthun: No, the roamer customers was a separate issue. That’s something the automated system for every cell carrier totals every month, and canceled customers accordingly.

  16. Even if the customers in question were trying to cheat the system, how is that any different than the cell companies providing consistently poor service and refusing to fix it?

    I spent 7 months trying to get Cingular to resolve a problem and then another 2 months trying to get the ETF waived since they could not provide me with the service I was paying for. I ended up GLADLY paying $300.00 in ETF fees just to get Cingular off the bottom of my shoe. That was three years ago I’ve been with the same provider since 1 day after I told Cingular to pack sand.

  17. Jerim says:

    This just proves why they were dropped in the first place. Sprint stated that the ones who were dropped for calling customer service too often, were also customers who demanded, and in some cases recieved, credits. One account had $5,000 in credit from complaints. This just goes to prove Sprint’s point, that these customers were sucking them dry. Again, why aren’t these “unhappy’ customers who called Sprint so often to complain, moving on to another company where they will happier? Because it doesn’t pay to be happy, it only pays to be unhappy and force a company to jump through hoops to keep you as a customer. They are just unhappy that the scam was recognized.

  18. Thrust says:

    @Naughty Consumer: Oh my gods, two wrongs do make a right then! Yes officer, I did rape her, but I bought her drinks and she wasn’t putting out.

    I am no fan of sprint, or contracts, but they don’t owe you anything for canceling the service. When you signed that paper, it said they can do whatever they want to the account, no compensation.

  19. Skeptic says:

    Oh my gods, two wrongs do make a right then! Yes officer, I did rape her, but I bought her drinks and she wasn’t putting out

    There an analogy which isn’t just offensive it’s wrong.

    First off, why would you assume anything Sprint claims to be true? Second, Sprint dumps customers for other reasons besides spamming. Third, when I buy a locked phone that’s subsidized Sprint doesn’t pay for the whole phone. Sometimes the “subsidy” is just a discount on the retail price. Finally, Sprint doesn’t pro-rate their ETF so it is false to claim the ETF is to recover the subsidy. The ETF is a one-sided customer lock in fee, nothing more. Otherwise, ETFs would vary by phone. They don’t.

    If the contracts are going to have ETFs, they should be paid by whatever party cancels the contract. However, the phone company may not degrade service in an effort to make the customer cry, “Uncle!” first for purposes of making them cancel and pay the ETF.

  20. enm4r says:

    @Skeptic: However, the phone company may not degrade service in an effort to make the customer cry, “Uncle!” first for purposes of making them cancel and pay the ETF.

    You’re right, they can’t do that, because that’s against the terms and conditions. If they break the terms, you don’t pay the ETF. That’s why the whole textmessaging cancelation works.

    It is in the contract that you can be dropped from service. They dropped them from service, which as stated is in line with the contract that these individuals signed. If you don’t like the terms, don’t sign the contract. It’s really not that hard…

  21. Scott says:

    Damn, is there a mobile phone company that is any good at all? AT&T is happy to help others spy on you, Sprint drops you if you ask for help too often, T-Mobile is staffed by half wits, Verizon is a labyrinth of corporate bewilderment…

  22. LTS! says:

    Since no one reads in detail the comments, I think Consumerist should post the relevant contract details that Sprint has… but.. because I just checked myself.. here we go:

    In regards to roaming:
    “Sprint may terminate service if (1) more than 800 minutes, (2) a majority of minutes or (3) a majority of data kilobytes in a given month are used while roaming.”

    In regards to being annoying:
    “Our Right To Suspend Or Terminate Services

    We can, without notice, suspend or terminate any Service at any time for any reason, including, but not limited to: (a) late payment; (b) exceeding an Account Spending Limit (“ASL”); (c) harassing/threatening our employees or agents; (d) providing false information; (e) interfering with our operations; (f) using/suspicion of using Services in any manner restricted by or inconsistent with the Agreement; (g) breaching the Agreement, including our Policies; (h) providing false, inaccurate, dated or unverifiable identification or credit information, or becoming insolvent or bankrupt; (i) modifying a Device from its manufacturer specifications; or (j) if we believe the action protects our interests, any customer’s interests or our network.”

    I would bet that they will argue that excessive calls fall either under (c),(d),(e). Either they were harassing, they made false claims, or that many calls interferes with their business, potentially (j)in which they could argue that repeatedly tying up CSR’s adversly affects other customer’s abilities to resolve their issues.

    The bottom line… don’t sign the contract. Every provider will have something similar, if you feel so opposed to this, then stand for change. Unfortunately the average consumer cannot will themselves to go without a service they believe they need.

  23. emax4 says:

    I think we all need information from both sides.

    For one, why were the customers receiving multiple credits in the first place? Was it one problem that kept reoccuring over and over and the customer wanted credits every time this happened? Or was it that various problems that kept popping up and the customer received credits every time a problem occured? Were the customers who complained still within their contracts or were they out of their contracts or even pay-as-you-go customers? Were the customers given the option to opt-out of their contracts at all after the problems kept occcuring, or were the Sprint reps trained to keep their customers in order to keep them in their contracts?

    I think the NYC Consumer Protection Board isn’t asking these types of questions but merely basing their decision on the sudden cancellation. If they’re protecting consumers, why aren’t they being more selective in who they’re protecting? I mean, ok you might have some customers who have troublesome phones and are legitimately calling in to report the problem. Maybe they’re asking for too many credits for their problems (who are bad customers to begin with, in my opinion only), or maybe they’re just being too nice and not asking for credits. In any case, those people are calling way too often to the point where Sprint is saying, “We’re sorry that we can’t fix your problems, so we’re dropping you. It’s our way of satisfying you and pushing you out (since you don’t want to go on your own) to find another carrier.” Sprint may be omitting that they’re killing two birds with one stone; dropping the customers with repeating problems and dropping the leeches who ask for too much. If the board is protecting the consumers, why wouldn’t they try to help the customers while they were having the problems instead of watiing until Sprint took action? Think of it this way: Part of the losing customers are those who are leeching from Sprint. Now the NYC board is trying to protect those leeches? AND reward the leeches on top of that? It aint right. If I were at Sprint I’d make the names of those leeches public, and let the other competitors know of them. Some competitors might try and snatch up those leeching customers, but the smart ones would prohibit them from getting service, knowing very well that they too would be bilked hunderds or thousands of dollars.

    Who’s protecting Sprint too? I don’t think any company would have the stones to say, “ok, we’ll help you out, but if you keep bugging us, we’re going to have to let you go.” They’re giving credits in order to satisfy those customers who have their service and to retain them. But if you’ve ever worked in retail or as a Customer Service rep, you’ve encountered those who try to beat the system always asking for more and never being satisfied. These are the one of the problems that plague businesses. For the leechers, they have no right to complain to having been dropped. For the rest, I just hope that those dropped have already fulfilled their contracts. If they haven’t perhaps they felt that they would ultimately face the ETF, so why wouldn’t they want to stay? Why would Sprint say, “I know you’ve had problems with our service, so if you want to leave, it’s ok. We won’t charge you a termination fee”? As a business you want to keep your customers, so it makes sense that the big businesses wouldn’t let them opt out of their contracts.

    In leui (sp?) of this, I think the consumer protection board is way off. It’s only fair that Sprint has someone protecting them. Perhaps the government? Unless the Consumer Protection Board is going to assist Sprint, they have no right to interfere at all.

    This isn’t the only time this has happened. I’ve read stories on Retail Sucks (www.retail-sucks.com) and Computer Stupidities (www.rinkworks.com/stupid) about ISPs and independent business dropping thier customers because they were abusive.

  24. banned says:

    There are other ways to deal with this. If T-Mobile suspects you’re abusing credits, they leave account instructions not to give any more, period. If people call too much, complain, or threaten excessively, they will be banned from calling and have to email or fax their questions/concerns. This is just bad business and a lack of vision on Sprint’s behalf, regardless of where the truth lies.

  25. KSE says:

    When did cell phone service become a right? Quite a shocker that the Consumer protection board thinks the consumers deserve some compensation. Hey, the milk advisory council thinks you should drink more milk…stunner!

  26. blueskiesnxt12 says:

    Honestly, guys, I think it’s very noble and all that you are defending poor sprint. They’re just trying to do their job as a wireless provider, and hooligans are taking money away from them in credits. The horror!

    Seriously, I’d like to see more customers take companies for all they’re worth. Just cause its the law doesn’t make it right.

    Why are you even on this site if all you’re going to do is defend big business

  27. blueskiesnxt12 says:

    I can’t stand to hear you defend them anymore. I don’t care if its in the contract, its wrong. If they can charge you for terminating, they should pay your for terminating. Don’t justify it. These corporations are evil, nuff said.

  28. Ha… ha ha… ha ha ha… ha ha HA HA HA HA… ha… ha? ha? huh? uh….

    @KSE: Well, DMV always did say off the bat Driving is not a right…

  29. MerryOtter says:

    If New York’s Ms. Bockstein wants to make a stand for the downtrodden
    consumer, where is she when Verizon is disconnecting people (and charging
    them ETF!) for using their so-called “unlimited” data plan to stream YouTube
    videos? Gosh, could it be that Verizon’s corporate headquarters is at 140
    West St. in Manhatten? Nah. That would just be too transparent, wouldn’t it?

  30. cusack99 says:

    I am having a problem where Sprint warrantied out my sanyo 8300 and gave me the upstage which sucked as a replacement. I have insurance and this was a warranty swap but they added 2 years onto my contract when I never agreed to resign. What can I do???