"Premium Texting" By Disabled Daughter Results In $10,000 Sprint Bill

Reader Sean writes:

Hi Ben –

I see your name attached to stories regarding Sprint…and I really appreciate your site posting the executive customer service number! It actually got me past the inner circle of hell that is general customer service.

I received a $10k bill from them for one month of service for what I learned to be ‘premium texting’ done by my disabled 18 year-old daughter. This whole ‘service’ is such a huge scam, yet Sprint acts as if they’ve done nothing wrong. In fact, one of their finance people actually asked me last week why I would give my disabled daughter a phone!!

So, thanks to the number you guys posted, I reached someone that I could actually talk to civilly. They have offered a 50% reduction, which still borders on criminal, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to do much about it. If you have thoughts to the contrary, I sure would love to hear from you or anyone else at your site!! J

You all are doing great work!!



Ahh, premium text messaging. According to the Seattle P-I there are some parents in California who are suing Jamster for misleading their children with their advertising.

Meanwhile, parents in California are suing Jamster, alleging that it targets children on Nickelodeon and MTV with misleading advertising, said Robert Thompson, the parents’ attorney. Kids who texted a number in the ad thought they were getting free ringtones, but later discovered they had signed up for subscription plans, he said. Once enrolled, it was very difficult to cancel, Thompson said.

Since it’s not really “Sprint” that’s billing you, you’re probably going to have a difficult time with this dispute. It might be a good idea to talk to an attorney.

Anyone had any success disputing a text messaging bill of this magnitude?


Edit Your Comment

  1. DrGirlfriend says:

    There’s way too many things to have to scrutinize nowadays. Everything you come into contact with has to be examined with a fine-toothed comb. And if you miss something, you get the pleasure of being told it’s your own damn fault. Don’t you know that life itself comes with small print that you have to read and memorize? Blargh.

  2. joemono says:

    I really don’t know how I feel about this.

  3. INconsumer says:

    what is premium texting?

  4. Buran says:

    “Since it’s not really “Sprint” that’s billing you”

    Their name’s on the bill, the “remit to” goes to Sprint …

    Sprint’s billing you.

  5. Fountain says:

    @INconsumer: I found this link from Seattle P-I that you might find helpful:

  6. NoWin says:

    I guess asking for some parental oversight is too much lately as well. (I’m just generalizing here.) It’s too hard to say “No. Let’s look at the plans and what it costs.” first, rather than “OK, here’s your free phone, have at-it.”

    God bless you for providing some perks to your kid, but you’re the parent, and at the same time, she’s now an adult. So it takes 2 to tango. I’m not excusing a 72 page contract disclosure either, but still “caveat emptor” should be your first thought in most things you want to sign up for. If it looks like you can’t figure out the terms with a law firm to interpret the small print, it’s a bad deal; Walk away from the offer.

    New users should be able to call the provider after the first weeks use and see what allotment has been charged, and either cancel the service, change a plan, or lay the law down to the offspring. (there’s that responsibility thing again….)

    I’m a geeky sort of guy, but for the life of me I can’t see the value (except to the companie$) of texting…just my .02

  7. doormat says:

    Texting that has an added billing component – 99c for each message or something like that. Or $$$/mo for them to send you backgrounds, ringtones, games, etc.

  8. nickripley says:

    Pay bill on your credit card, then try a chargeback?

  9. doormat says:

    Also, what I don’t understand is that there isn’t (to my knowledge at least) a way to disable premium texting services on phones. All they offer is to disabled texting period which isn’t an option for teens.

  10. rishi007 says:

    @Buran: Actually, it’s more like taxes. Best Buy technically doesn’t charge tax – they collect on behalf of the government (for free might I add). However, the bill and receipt say “Best Buy” on them. Similarly, Sprint bills say “Sprint, now together with Nextel” on them, but they are still collecting on behalf of the content provider. And some content providers charge up to $9.99/mo and $4.99/premium message.

    I can imagine if the poor girl sent in a text message to some TV show she saw, with T&C in one point font, flashed on the screen for 1/30th of a second.

  11. Charles Duffy says:

    This isn’t an issue with a prepaid carrier like Cricket. Sign up for unlimited minutes and texting and they won’t allow you to do anything that costs more than what the unlimited plan allows unless you prepay the necessary funds. Thus, no surprises.

    Big established US cell carriers ~= Teh Evil

  12. Sean, try contacting the Mobile Marketing Association at [www.mmaglobal.com]. According to readers who have commented on this post, they carry considerable weight in the mobile marketing industry and may be able to help void the fees, especially if the company tried to enter into a business agreement with a disabled youth (depends, I guess, on age when she agreed to the service, + type and level of disability—IANAL).

  13. gorckat says:

    All they offer is to disabled texting period which isn’t an option for teens.

    Correct. It won’t be an option when my daughter gets a cell phone as a teen.

  14. MaliBoo Radley says:

    I’m guessing this disabled kid doesn’t have much guidance from dad/mom??

    I think this fellow is lucky that he got them to cut the bill in half. I think it’s time to disable text messaging on the kiddos phone.

    Also, I’d like to know what kind of disabled we’re talking about here. If the kid is mentally disabled, I might cut the situation a little slack .. however, if this is just a physical disability, I have no pity for this dude.

    At 18 you should know better and pay your bills. But, if the kid “ain’t right”, well … shit .. I dunno.

  15. flaxen_vixen says:

    According to the Mobile Marketing Association (mmaglobal.com), the body that regulates text messaging campaigns, by replying “stop” or “help” to any subscription message, premium or otherwise, will either opt you out of the campaign or at least give you information about how to get yourself out.

    Easiest way to keep your kids from running up the SMS bill is to have SMS disabled on your phone by calling your carrier.

    Also, this is a carrier issue and an issue for Sprint, many of them have a limit to how much total you can charge to your bill per month. I know for a fact that that number is significantly lower than $10k. Get a lawyer and talk to Sprint, go to the CSCA (usshortcodes.com) and find out who owns the short code these premium campaigns are being delivered over and contact them.

  16. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Why shouldn’t that be an option for teens? Kids don’t need to text. The only reason a teen needs a cell phone is for emergencies and to keep mom/dad informed of where they are and what they’re up to.

  17. erratapage says:

    I love the parental supervision stuff. Just because an 18-year old child is disabled doesn’t make it any easier to supervise than any other 18-year old child. They need some privacy and ability to do stuff. You give them the cell phone so you have some reassurance that they will be “okay”. I can’t tell you how difficult it is to realize that your 18 year old disabled child knows more about cell phones than you do… including how to charge $10,000 worth of text. That’s why my stepson has a pre-paid cell phone that isn’t linked to our plan.

  18. remusrm says:

    i can not conceive how can i be billed for something i did not use? Is this legal? I just do not get it…

  19. Buran says:

    @gorckat: Why not? Go for a prepaid monthly text option and have her pay for it out of her allowance. That’s what I’ll do when I have kids. (and if they run over, they lose their allowance until the overage is paid, and texting will be shut off until that time) – OR – I’ll buy them a prepaid phone that they can fill with their own allowance money.

  20. what sort of disability does she have? I mean, if she has Down’s or something, OK, but if she’s 18 and just can’t walk, I’m not sure how this is Sprint’s problem.

    @NoWin: Texting is quite useful in Europe, where calling is very, very expensive, and texting is just cheaper on both ends, if you’re utilitarian about it. However, here, kids mostly use it so they can “talk” to their friends and not have their phones ringing (although I can’t figure out how to turn off the sound on MY phone — there’s not a texting alarm option I can find!).

    Also, re: the Nickelodeon thing; Why are kids young enough to watch Nickelodeon given phones for things other than “emergency ONLY!”? Students as young as 3rd grade at my school have phones, but their parents make sure to impress on the kids how VERY VERY VERY important it is to only use it to call Mom and Dad.

  21. mnmsmith says:


    Actually there is a way to disable ‘Premium’ text messaging, at least through Sprint. I had it disabled on all phones for my family after my daughter was sending a text for a ‘Free’ ring tone, not knowing she was signing up for a monthly service, she paid for it, it was taken care of, but I found out that I could request that Sprint block ‘Premium’ messaging. Now, if my daughter texts to one of thos offers, when the provider tries to send her a reply saying welcome or whatever, it is blocked by the Sprint server, if it doesn’t get through, they can’t begin billing. I have had zero trouble with ridiculous “Premium’ texting since. I wish they would make this known to all customers somehow.

  22. MaliBoo Radley says:

    “what sort of disability does she have? I mean, if she has Down’s or something, OK, but if she’s 18 and just can’t walk, I’m not sure how this is Sprint’s problem”

    That was my question. If it’s only a physical disability .. well, he’s only mentioning it for added sympathy.

  23. shan6 says:

    I think if I got a $10k bill I would have a heart attack far before I could call anybody.

  24. Ass_Cobra says:

    This is the revenge of the Crazy Frog. I think part of the problem lies with the carriers and another portion of the fault lies wtih the “service” providers. I can’t understand why Sprint or Cingular or anyone else for that matter would allow a company that charges you the low low price of $30/month for texting some lame joke to your phone once a day to piggy back off of them. All it is going to do in the end is aggravate their actual customers. These are generally predicated on people being duped into signing up and then making it difficult to cancel.

    Everyone talking about prepaid credit is good in that it keeps the cost from running to high, but what happens when one of these scams hits, takes all the credit off and your kid can’t make an emergency call. I doubt it would be the end of the world, people have survived emergencies without cell phones before but the solution is not to limit one’s options but to pressure the carriers to not bill for this crap.

  25. Draconianspark says:

    @Buran: @remusrm: This has nothing to do with the rate plan, this is the service advertised in commercials such as “Text 321Joke to 89943 to receive a joke per day” whilst flashing two paragraphs of disclaimers in microscopic print at the bottom of the screen every 5 or 10 frames of video.

    The disclaimers of course read something along the lines of “Must be 18 or older, 4.99 for the first joke and 1.99 for each successive one, repeating automatically four times a day” or something not as exaggerated as that, but still quite ridiculous.

    I think this can be disputed on the grounds of the kid being incapable either by age or by disability of signing a contract and the terms of the contract moving by so quickly you couldn’t read them without a DVR.

    Either way it goes, the parent should have been more diligent and the kid should be downgraded to a cell phone with two buttons ‘Call Mom’ and ‘Call 911.’

    When I was a kid I ran up a $3k Compuserve bill; there was no disputing it with the company, but I was in no condition to sit comfortably at a computer for several weeks after that bomb hit the mail and I never racked up a charge like that again.

  26. lightaugust says:

    “I’m guessing this disabled kid doesn’t have much guidance from dad/mom??” You’re guessing that because?

    “I mean, if she has Down’s or something, OK, but if she’s 18 and just can’t walk,” So unable to walk is the preferable alternative? Good Lord.

    You’re right, there is the entire possibility that this person is unethically using his daughter’s disability to give traction to the story. Until there’s reason to believe that, let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt on disabilities, for crying out loud, and assume that the disability complicated the issue.

  27. Aeroracere says:




  28. Draconianspark says:

    @RowdyRoddyPiper: I had completely forgotten the crazy frog ( If forcibly pushed from the waking mind could be forgotten ) thanks for a lovely day of ba-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding ringing through my head instead of the dogs barking all the time.

  29. MaliBoo Radley says:


    “I’m guessing this disabled kid doesn’t have much guidance from dad/mom??” You’re guessing that because?”

    Well, the kid ran up a TEN THOUSAND DOLLAR phone bill. It’s just a guess that no one is keeping an eye on the kid.

  30. lincolnparadox says:

    @Charles Duffy: Amen. The easy answer to half of the problems that people have with cell phone companies is “Pre-paid phones.” The worst case scenario, your child blows through $32.10 for text messages and THEN you can have the discussion about “why they have a cell phone.”

    Sean, I feel for you. I really do. Cell phone companies will nail you, and premium texting is no different than the old 900/976 phone numbers from the late-80s/early-90s. They’re a scam and they’re designed to screw parents out of money through their kids.

    Sprint offering 50% off is probably the best they can do. Essentially, they’re not making any money off of you, but their other customer is. Suing Sprint won’t help you. Before your credit takes a knock, I would take their offer and set up a payment plan. Then, look for a lawyer who has experience with these kind of cases ([www.handelonthelaw.com] look at the attorney directory).

  31. DrGirlfriend says:

    huh. did the article change? this isn’t the same entry i replied to originally…

  32. davebg5 says:

    I’ve have previously discussed the scam that is LEC billing…where services are billed from a third party on your home phone bill. Pretty much, the phone companies didn’t like the complaints. As such, the third party company doesn’t want any complaints getting to the phone company or the Atty General. I don’t know how it works in the cellular industry, but you might have better luck w/the third party and threaten to complain to Sprint (who might block this third party from their network if they get too many complaints) and threaten to complain to the Atty General. When I worked at one such third party LEC billing company those were the magic words to get a full refund credited to your account.

  33. babaki says:

    10k in text charges??? that is absolutely ridiculous. i dont even understand how that could happen.

  34. Greeper says:

    I tire of the “my disabled relative” angle the consumerist loves so much. What is the relevance of someone being disabled? It shouldn’t matter with regard to whether/how much someone is charged for something.

  35. ludwigk says:

    @Draconianspark: You are not even exaggerating. Some of the horoscope/survey based “premium texting” services can cost $14.99 a pop.

    I think at some point this will have to become regulated better in terms of making sure people know that there are costs associated with these services (more so than blurry text at the bottom of the screen), and some control, either legislative or voluntarily by the industry, to limit advertising of this sort that targets children.

    We already have laws that dictate the kinds of ads that can target children, and some industries, like breakfast cereals or fast food (can’t recall which one), is taking steps to self-restrict how they advertise to kids.

  36. mike1731 says:

    My daughter signed up for a Premium Texting service, to send her a weekly customized horiscope. Trick is, the ad didn’t state what the weekly cost was. I found it the second month of billing buried at the back of the Sprint bill, for $9.99/week. The first time I called, I got the runaround that Amy “had to sign up for it, so we’re responsible”. The second time, I escallated it to a supervisor, and proceeded to rip about how unethical this situation was, how it made me question if I wanted to continue my business relationship with Sprint, etc. At the point I started discussing contract termination fees and immediate termination, they figured out how to credit me for the charges.

    I’ve seen several responses that “parental supervision” is to blame. Right. People without kids with cellphones would say this. Signups are very easy, advertising is deliberately misleading, and teenagers these days are both very tech savvy and hopelessly clueless about the marketplace. I would rather see the phone companies adopt elective restrictions which enable the account holders to preemptively block additional fee services, toll calls, or other uses that Parents do not want their child to indulge in. The current situation is roughly akin to dropping your kids off at a bakery / candy store, and telling them to not eat any of the free samples being offered throughout the day.

    Final thought. When I got annoyed, I learned that Sprint can block all paid im/premium services if you are insistant enough. May want to consider this for future reference.

  37. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Come on! What about personal responsibility? Surely you have taught your daughter that products/services are never free, right? Your daughter should know, at the very least, that the phone is paid for by you, and not given by a magic phone fairy.

    There is no reason for this stuff to still be happening. Premium text services have been around for several years now. Parents should be informed, and should then inform there kids. There is no excuse for ignorance at this point.

  38. DojiStar says:

    This parental supervison stuff is a joke. You can’t oversee a child 24 hours a day.

    If you are cooking dinner in the kitchen and the kid is watching TV where one of those commercials comes on saying text “joke” to 123456 and get jokes sent to your phone every day, and they do it not knowing the cost, how can you as a parent stop that.

    You can’t. You can’t tell you kid to turn off a TV because I am cooking dinner, or get off the computer because I have to put in a load of laundry.

    A person can not be watched constantly. And all these people who say it’s possible, don’t have kids.

  39. topgun says:

    My son signed up for some sort of service online for downloading MP3’s. The charges were attached to my Verizon bill “as a service to ESBI or Enhanced Service Billing. It is on behalf of a New Service Provider”. In this case http://www.unitedtel.com. I called a toll free number provided and explained to the CSR that I had no idea what this was. She gave me plenty of information to confirm it was my son. I haven’t talked to him yet but I’m guessing he didn’t know there was a fee attached. Anyway the CSR was really nice, cancelled the service and credited me the amount. Granted $16 is much easier to credit than $10K. I would guess that contacting the Enhanced Service provider directly is the way to go. I’m also guessing that you can make a case that the girl doen’t have authority to do this and therefore is not a legal contract. Being disabled should especially negate the service provider from legally entering into a contract with her.

  40. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Nope, you can’t watch them 24/7/ However, you can teach your kids to be aware of these kinds of advertisements. Teach your kids that they cost money. These ads are prevelant enough to require parents to discuss them.

  41. duncanfj says:

    Have any of you jumping all over yourselves about the disabled relative, parental guidance, etc thought that the reason she might be texting is that she is deaf? Kind of hard to use a cell for something other than texting IF YOU CAN’t HEAR! Now, I have no idea if this is the case, but I know deaf people do buy cell phones so they can communicate away from home. The dad still should have monitored things, but come on. I sometimes dread reading the comments on this site because so many people want to prove how frugal/smart/holier than everyone else they are. Although I’m sure it isn’t nearly as fun, how about not judging until you get the entire story?

  42. MaliBoo Radley says:


    If she’s deaf, how does that change the situation? Being deaf doesn’t make you mentally deficient. At 18 years old, she should be smart enough to know that premium texting isn’t free.

    As for being deaf, many cell phone companies have calling plans designed specifically for the deaf. These are plans that have no calling features, only texting.

  43. UpsetPanda says:

    How does one even come close to $10k in charges? How?!! It’s just unfathomable. I once racked up a $250 bill for going over in minutes and text messages, but $10,000??

  44. ArtDonovansLoveChild. says:

    @duncanfj: Learn to read the post. This wasnt from SENDING TEXT cause she was deaf (Leap anyway). She racked up 20k in PREMIUM texting, as in, incoming text from a 3rd party.

    Is this 10k all in one month, or was this something that was unnoticed at first? I ask because, even at the insane fees they charge, its got to be tough to sign up that many services.

    I remember back in the early 80s being unable to sit for days after my folks got the $100+ phone bill from me calling one of those “Talk to your favorite cartoon” phone lines.

  45. doormat says:


    Thats good to know about being able to disable premium texting (at least with Sprint) if you’re a stick in the mud and wont get off the phone.

  46. joopiter says:

    I’m seriously trying to wrap my brain around how many premium services his daughter must have signed up for to rack up 10 grand in charges in one month. Any way the submitter can send a scan of the phone bill with identifying information blacked out? I really have to see this to believe it. I hope this works out for him somehow (although I have a hard time believing Sprint will wipe out the charges completely). $10,000… Jesus.

  47. remusrm says:

    that sounds as a bogus bill… i do not think there are that many services to make for that… just really odd

  48. SadSam says:

    It doesn’t sound like it applies in this situation (since the ‘kid’ is 18) but what about the whole legal premise that kids can’t sign contracts.

  49. duncanfj says:

    @ radleyas: So you have to be mentally deficient for the above to happen to you? So the majority of people who post stories on this site are mentally deficient? Nice.

    @ artdonovanslovechild: Sorry, didn’t see the description of ‘premium texting’ in the story. Oh, that’s right, there isn’t one.

    Thank both of you for proving my point.

  50. faust1200 says:

    So if the child wasn’t “disabled” none of this would have happened? I find the lack of detail in the victim’s letter suspicious.

  51. ry81984 says:

    This is all on the phone company here.

    They are allowing those premium text services that provide no value to their customers.

    I would not be suprise if the phone company gets 50% of the bill for those services to allow those companies on their network. It would make sense why they would drop down to 50%. Its probably in the conflict resolution plan.

  52. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Well, not a majority, just you.

    As for a descrition of premium texting ….

    From the article

    “I received a $10k bill from them for one month of service for what I learned to be ‘PREMIUM TEXTING’ done by my disabled 18 year-old daughter.”

  53. UpsetPanda says:

    I just feel like if she signed up with a ton of premium texting services, won’t that show up in your general statement, the one that doesn’t detail each and every call and minutes logged? I know when I get my bill I have a basic rundown of my total for this month and under that, a breakdown. It’ll be one big sum for my minutes, my regular charge for texting and then taxes and fees. If there’s something that I don’t recognize (like premium texting) with a lot of money after it, darn right I’m going to investigate. Did this guy just not investigate? Or is this all in one month? We need more information.

  54. Faerie says:

    So how does one determine that it’s a “premium” texting service if you don’t get the fine print from a commercial or whatever? Does the premium texting mean anything you send/receive from one of the shortened 4 or 5 digit phone numbers?

  55. ArtDonovansLoveChild. says:

    @duncanfj: The article DIDNT describe premium texting, it just said it was premium rather then standard texting. I guess Ben just assumed people knew what that was. And if you didnt all you had to do was read the comments to understand. My point still stands, you made a huge leap calling us all out and saying she may have been deaf.

    Also, I knew a couple kids who played ball at Gallaudet and their families. Ive never heard a deaf person being referred to as “Disabled” by a parent.

  56. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    If this man is utilizing his daughter’s disability as traction or sympathy, that’s deplorable. But I’ll play Devil’s Advocate here and say that because of her inability to distinguish between right and wrong, the rack up of charges occurred.

    I was about to say I questioned how disabled one can be if they know how to order these services via text message, but I just recalled my disabled little brother ordering about $500 worth of pay-per-view porn on accident, so I can see how this is in the realm of possibilities.

    That being said, I think the fault lies solely with the parent. What if this girl wasn’t an 18-yr old disabled girl, but rather a 6-yr old “normal” girl. How would the argument change then?

  57. vanilla-fro says:

    @DojiStar: Uh, if you’re there in the house with the kid….why does the kid need the cell phone?

    Take the phone away while you are with said child if the child may not be able to make the right decisions with the phone.

  58. jrdnjstn78 says:

    I don’t know how sprint does there billing but I have Cingular (AT&T now). If you go online you can check out how much data (texting or mms) or calls that you have used so far, everyday.

    I was wondering how disabled this 18 yr old was too. She must not be to disabled if she knows how to watch tv and be able to text a number or if she was just texting someone. If you’re 18 and don’t understand that the cell phone companies nickel and dime you for everything then you don’t need a phone. Those stupid businesses that sell the ringtones and whatever else do the same thing.

    I for one will not buy my kids a cellphone. I didn’t have one when I was growing up, what the heck do my kids need one for? if it comes down to it that they absolutely need one it will be pre-paid.

  59. MaliBoo Radley says:


    That must have been a hell of an educational day for you little brother :)

  60. There isn’t enough information given in the OP for me to take a side.

  61. Crazytree says:

    @ry81984: So I assume they should not allow 900 numbers either? these companies are providing a service.

    it’s not like this girl was billed $10,000 for nothing.

    she received $10,000 with or flirts, horoscopes, jokes, etc.

    I don’t pay for phone sex either, but if you’re going to utilize a product… you’re liable.

    Same as saying “my idiot son spent $10,000 on phone sex and we’re not paying because Sprint is evil!”

  62. sonichghog says:

    @Greeper: I would agree, but in this case it appears to be a mental disability. But if it is not a mental disability, then it is just for sympathy

  63. Skeptic says:

    Citibank won’t even let you charge gas more than once a day or so without calling you. The cell company had an obligation to check for fraud can call the billed party once the bill exceeded a rational amount like $300. They have realtime billing tracking for fraud detection and they need to use it instances like this.

  64. Draconianspark says:

    @Crazytree: That’s basically it; these are the new generation of 1-900 numbers and kids need to be warned appropriately by the parents just like I was warned when I was growing up.

    @many others, parental responsibility doesn’t come from 24/7 supervision, it comes from imparting the ability to ‘be not stupid’ to your children.

    The real joke is that alot of the stuff these joke premiums send are public domain jokes anyway; you’re just paying for the ‘service.’

    Oh and if the kid was deaf it could be argued that the closed captioning occluded the contract terms.

  65. CapitalC says:

    I see the ads on TV for these services all the time… “Text WIN to 80808 to be entered in the contest!” (Small print at the bottom: $0.99 per message, 1 message per day, text STOP to 80808 to cancel).

    My fave has to be the Joke service which advertises with “Let our joke of the day be your joy of the day!” Yeah, I’m sure all the people paying $0.99 for each crappy joke really appreciate it. What a joy.

  66. Draconianspark says:

    @Skeptic: Sprint typically has a balance limit depending on the account. When I first opened my account it was $125 and now it’s 800ish, but I have no idea if it applies to premium messaging because I have never actually used it.

  67. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @radleyas: LOL I think he was trying to order pro-wrestling. Too bad it wasn’t the type of wrestling he was looking for!!! ;)

  68. Zelle999 says:

    When I was six, there was an ad for a 900 number you could call to talk to Santa. I remember calling one time and talking to him about what I wanted for Christmas…. and then over the next few days I called approximately 20 more times and would hang up as soon as “Santa” answered. “Ho ho ho!” -click-

    Ahhh, good times when my parents got THAT bill.

    But I was six.

    Just sayin’.

  69. legotech says:

    If the child is mentally disabled, then it doesn’t matter if she’s 18, she could still be considered a minor unable to enter into the implied contract right?

    I would think that if that were the case, the poster would have mentioned it…..seems there’s something missing from this story.

  70. the_wiggle says:

    @radleyas: not all moms & dads can take calls at work or even have fixed break schedules, so for some, the only to be reached during business hours is via text.

    cell phones are like any other tool – used responsibly, they’re a boon. used otherwise, they’re a p.i.t.a. at best.

  71. brookeln says:

    (1) How does the fact that the daughter is disabled have anything to do with the situation? Why did the guy even include this fact? It’s completely irrelevant. And why did The Consumerist highlight it by including it in the headline?

    (2) Disabled could mean so many things, so it’s questionable that he used this vague term without any clarification. Is she developmentally disabled, as in she has Down’s Syndrome, etc? Or is she deaf? Or is she paralyzed from the waist down? But regardless, it has no bearing on the story anyway.

    (3) Our state and national legislators NEED to do something about this problem. How are these companies allowed to continue to operate? Clearly what they are doing is fraudulent. Also, why do networks like Nickelodeon and MTV show these commercials? It’s completely unethical of them to promote this scam on children.

    I think perhaps a letter-writing campaign to networks that show these commercials is in order. Parents around the country should write in and say that they will boycott the network if they continue to play these commercials.

  72. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    Ok, here’s the deal…

    Thanks to Consumerist, I’ve been able to REALLY get some sh*t done. I’ve had a $1,400 roaming bill turned into $300, had an early termination fee taken off, gotten free internet on my phone, free picture mail, free… I’ve just gotten a ton of things.

    My advice: Call the CEO’s office. Script out your exact talking points before you call. Tell him that when you’ve tried to call customer service, you were told that your daughter shouldn’t have a phone because she’s disabled, and you’re thoroughly offended. Also say that you’ve reported this to the website Consumerist.com already, and they want to do a follow-up story as soon as possible. Make sure you tell the story as succinctly as possible.

    It will probably be in a voice mail, but who knows. Just make sure you have your entire message and conversation scripted out so you don’t sound like a dumb a$$ and ramble on for 20 minutes in a voice mail.

    If an assistant picks up, don’t ask to speak with the CEO, just say you’re having an issue with Sprint/Cingular/Whoever it is, and since customer service won’t help you, you were hoping he/she could help you out instead. I’m sure he/she would be happy to hear your story.

    Hope it’s a voice mail, because then the CEO will listen to it himself.

    I think your hook is that your daughter is disabled, and customer service is insulting you by saying she shouldn’t have the right to a have a cell phone.



  73. ArtDonovansLoveChild. says:

    @Draconianspark: These thing arent billed like a phone call. Sprints per-message charges are, but the bill from the outside vendors usually come in a batch. So it could be 30-45 days later when they get a full accounting. Its like roaming if you wander onto a smaller carrier, those minutes show up months later sometimes.

    @legotech: There is no implied contract on this. The parents have an actually contract. The childs usage is covered under that. Just cause she is “unable” to make a rational decision to enter a contract doesnt keep her from making purchases. This is like saying if your child goes into the store and buys a pack of gum and chews it before you know about it, you can go back and demand they refund your money because she didnt have the ability to make a rational purchase.

  74. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    @brookeln: See, I think that it’s so vague helps! You don’t know what disabled means, but if you’re trying to get this taken off…. It’s a pretty good way to be like “oh, see! Wasn’t my fault! She’s disabled…” Then you can cue the violin and begin a monologue of how difficult it’s been raising her, and you just want to…… you just wanted to give her a normal life and let her have a cell phone. Can’t you see? Is that too much to ask?! Please…. Take the 10k off my bill………… for her little Disabled Daisy?


  75. TechnoDestructo says:

    I was looking on youtube to see if I could find any of the commercials (what few there are the fine print is illegible, BTW) and I came across this:


    Apparently Sprint has a series of instructional videos for their services, including premium text messages.

    “A few weeks ago I subscribed to premium text messages from a third party provider using one of those 5 digit codes. It was absolutely great! But now, I want to UNsubscribe, and I’ll show you how to do it in 2 easy steps!”

    This guy looks like he just stepped on a nail or something.

  76. mike1731 says:


    Indeed, we have had conversations with her about acceptable uses of the cell phone, and the demise of the “phone fairy”. But… the point I was making is that teenagers, by their very nature, are trusting souls who see something fun, impulsively pursue it if there is not cost cited (never mind the 3 point font at the bottom of the screen), then are surprised when bad things happen. Things like this are teaching opportunities, but there’s a lot more than when us old folks grew up. Back in my day, we didn’t have internet, cell phones, only three tv channels, etc. Yes, we could get drunk and drive our car into a rock and kill ourselves, but there’s a lot more temptations and diversions now than before. I just get irritated when traps get set, then everyone gets all fired up and screaming “Oh, it’s YOUR fault your child is so bone crushingly stupid to fall for this”.

  77. cosby says:

    I gotta agree with the personal responsibility someone elce asked about. I don’t see how this is sprints fault. Is it verizons fault if your kid sits at home and calls a bunch of 1900 numbers? Or is it mastercards fault if you give your kid a copy of your credit card and they buy a bunch of porn off the internet with it?

    While I don’t like these premium texting scams it is the guys fault. He gave his daughter the phone. It is not like the phone was stolen and these charges were ranked up.

  78. StevieD says:

    I gotta say that somewhere in this whole complaint is a rotting fish. $100 or even $1000 in premium charges is possible. But $10,000? Did the child signup for “Dress up like Mary had a little lamb and squish worms” premium p_rn?

    And IF, and that is a key assumption, IF the child is disabled, then what in hades is the child doing signing up for premium kinky p_rn?

    At the same time, most companies perform a self adudit on their billing cycles. Hells Bells, my dinky little city checks water bills…. any bill that exceeds the prior months bill by a large percentage are automatically checked for errors.

    As much cellphone bashing that takes place, I suspect the cellphone providers also perform some basic checks, and I bet those checks are done every day or even every hour. Much of those checks are for system safety, but at the same time I would expect the cellphone provider to watch for skyrocketing charges being racked up on an account …. I know my creditcard issuing bank watches out for unusual charges, so why can’t a cell company as well?

    Even if the cell company let the bill pass without verification and cross checking, how about the Consumerist editorial staff doing some due diligence and perform some basic fact checking? This post just screams for a closer evaluation and verification of the facts.

  79. MaliBoo Radley says:


    I was a teenager not so long ago. I was a cynical as they come. I find it hard to believe that other teens aren’t the same as I was.

    Gee, what did people do before text message?? If your that spoiled .. I just don’t know .. meh

  80. AD8BC says:

    My teenager will have a cellphone.

    It will have five buttons.

    “Mom”, “Dad”, “Home”, “911”, “Hangup”

  81. MaliBoo Radley says:


    You, Sir/Madam have a damn good head on your shoulders! It’s nice to hear a little sense around here.

  82. BensAngel says:

    Hmm, $10k – that’s like $20 an hour, every waking hour (~16), of every day in the entire month. How about we get to see a scan of the bill?

    If the girl has a diminished mental capacity then she may not be able to enter into a legally binding contract, this may be a means to have the fees waived.

    However it turns out, get a credit limit put on the account, most carries offer this service which should provide at least some protection.

  83. Scazza says:

    @BensAngel: Agreed

    10k Bill? Thats pretty unbelivable at that.

    Sprint “Eating” 5k of the bill out of the goodness of their hearts? Sounds like a BS story to me almost. As much as I come off as a jackass, I would like to see a scan of this bill. I work for a cell company and see customers bills all the time. Once had a customer with a 1700$ bill for 1000+ long distance minutes, quite a bit of unsubscribed data and a few hundred texts (with no text plan)… Don’t know how you can hit 10k…

    Plus maybe its just sprint, but most companies will cut off your service when it reaches a certain cap, even if you dont request it, how did this hit 10k?

    Thats an average of 333 dollars a day (including rate plan etc.), which, saying most subscription services run at 1$ a day, that would mean around 330 services would have to have been sending her texts. Are there even 300 of those services around?!

  84. Bodgy says:

    I used to work for a major cell phone company that had an AIM feature. I am not lying when I saw $40K bills. Anytime you send/receive you are charged. Many people were leaving their phone signed in to AOL all day. You could join chat rooms too. And it was the same thing, you are charged for anything sent/received from EVERYONE in the room. Now, the usual story was “I had no idea it charged me.” Guess what? IT’S IN YOUR TERMS AND CONDITIONS. It disturbs me the number of people who sign contracts without reading them. And for the record, these were rarely credited because it is spelled out clearly in the contract.

  85. eblack says:


    Seriously. I’m just trying to remeber, and I don’t believe I’ve ever actually fallen for a scam. Other than a back-of-Popular-Mechanics lockpick kit, which turned out to be crap. Oh well, ten bucks down the drain and a lesson learned.

  86. justcuase says:

    Seems like if they checked their options, they could have gotten a sprint ip relay plan for 29.99 a month and say something along a bb since that would included unlimited messaging. This is an optional plan for the disabled.

  87. Parting says:

    Excuse-me, but isn’t a contract (aka free ringtones in exchange of paying text messages) illegal, if entered by someone who’s NOT legally an adult?

    Can’t she file a complaint with BBB?

  88. Parting says:

    @justcuase: It doesn’t include premium texts ( premium texts are independent of Sprint and are provided by a different company).

  89. Premium text messaging is a service that the cell phone company carries but doesn’t provide. It’s sort of like signing up for a monthly service charge for a website or something on your credit card–yeah, your credit card is sending you a bill each month, but they’re passing your money along to the company who’s initiating the charges.

    I’m wondering why Sprint didn’t catch potential fraud or something. Your credit card company would call you up if you purchased something huge and way out of the ordinary or ran up lots of small charges in a couple days–why can’t your cell phone company call you and say, “hey, we noticed $250 of charges in the last few days and this is a little unusual, are you aware of these charges or has your phone been stolen or something?” Since the money is NOT going to Sprint, there’s no reason they couldn’t watch for something like this.

    I don’t know whether the issue is that parents need to watch their teenage/young adult children more closely (disabled or not) but that everyone needs to read contracts carefully, learn what their responsibilities and rights are, realize that no one wants to give you something for free or cheap (even ringtones!) and understand how to deal with technology in today’s world. If you can’t do that, get out of the race, keep your landline, or get a prepaid phone.

  90. MaliBoo Radley says:


    Well, I suppose it all depends on when you were a teen. I turned 18 in 1996. My generation is sorta known for it’s cynacism and apathy … meh …

  91. rjhiggins says:

    @radleyas: You, sir, are a pompous jerk.

    (I realize this isn’t the most erudite post ever, but some people deserve such scorn.)

  92. Trai_Dep says:

    If I had a kid that rang up $10k in one month on their cell phone, if they weren’t physically disabled before I got the bill, they certainly would be after.

  93. MaliBoo Radley says:


    I Sir/Madam, am not a “Sir”. I believe the correct term for someone like me is “uppity bitch” or “snobby cunt”. I’ll have check with my people on this one. However, I’m pretty sure “Sir” is not what you’re looking for.

    All in all, I disagree with your assessment. However, you might as well have the gender correct, shouldn’t you??

  94. anniegel says:

    I have Sprint service and put my younger 15 year old brother on my plan. He subscribed to one of those “free ringtone” ads and I ended up with an extra $9.99 charge on my account. After explaining to him that he’s responsible for that charge because I’m not paying it, he got on the phone with Sprint customer service and explained the situation. The charge was removed immediately with no questions asked. I think Sprint handled it very well and my brother learned his lesson.

  95. Tonguetied says:

    I am rather confused by the relevance of the daughter’s disability as well.

  96. jesirose says:

    @Tonguetied: If she’s mentally disabled, she might have a hard time understanding the difference between calling her father on the phone as acceptable use, and accidentally signing up for “Free ringtone” subscriptions as not acceptable.

    Not saying it makes it free, but that could be what he means.

    I personally have disabled all incoming and outgoing messaging on my phones because people I don’t know or barely know will send me messages thinking everyone and their mother has a texting plan. I have no idea how much those texts I didn’t ask for cost, so I simply blocked any from coming in. He should have Sprint disable texting on the phone if he doesn’t want to play for it in the future.

  97. youwantedahero says:

    I can’t find the original post now, but I just wanted to point out that cell phones are legally REQUIRED to be able to make emergency calls, even deactivated ones without a SIM card and so on. So the person that said, “here’s the problem with prepaid phones, what if they text so much they run out of money and can’t make an emergency call?” was clearly wrong. So that was a dumb argument.

  98. tk427 says:


    You’re right about the ability to call 911 on a phone w/no minutes, etc. The problem is, with kids involved, the average parents definition of “emergency” can differ from the 911 operator/local police definition.

    “Mom, I lost my key and the only neighbor that’s home is Brenda” (the neighborhood drunken psycho-bitch) when it’s below freezing qualifies as an emergency in my book. 911/cops won’t want to hear about it, but I need to know that ASAP.