Sprint Will Not Stop Billing Me For A Bogus Early Termination Fee

In August, my husband and I wanted to change phone carriers from Sprint to Helio. We first looked at the Sprint website to see if our contracts were up. It appeared that my contract was up in January 07 and my husbands was expired by July 07. We called Sprint to make sure. The person we talked to said there was some 1-year renewal that was given to us with a $50 rebate in 2006. We didn’t remember doing this. The man we spoke to said he would get rid of the rebate and add it on to our last bill and not charge us the $150. Great! We thought.

We should have known better. We were leaving Sprint because of their shenanigans.

We kept getting bills for a $150 cancellation fee. Each time I called, the person told me that this was a bogus fee. and that it would be removed.

We got bill after bill with added charges. I kept calling and kept being told that it would be removed.

Then we got a notice that our bill was being sent to a collections agency. I called again. In two hours, the woman on the other line said, it would be removed and I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

Today I got a bill from a collection agency. I called Sprint again. Today he tells me that there was a $50 rebate for a phone upgrade that we don’t remember from 2006. And that all those people who told me I wouldn’t have to pay $150 were wrong and if I COME BACK TO SPRINT I wouldn’t have to pay!

Who should I talk to, how do I get away from the madness?


Oh, Sprint. The most forgetful of the cellphone carriers.

The first thing we suggest is the Consumerist hotline that Sprint set up just for our readers,(703-433-4401). We’ve heard that it works pretty well.

If that doesn’t work, it’s time to launch the EECB. Our “Ultimate Guide To Fighting Back” has links to lots of Sprint contact information posts. You’re just asking them to leave you alone, so the issue should be easy to escalate.

If you’re feeling saucy, you can also begin complaining to your state’s Attorney General, Public Utilities Commission, and the BBB.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, you live in Minnesota where the Attorney General is seriously pissed at Sprint. We also recommend keeping an eye on your credit report so you can dispute anything Sprint sticks you with. Good luck!

UPDATE: Dunia writes,

Called the sprint consumerist hotline.

A very calm human answered, looked at the account and fixed it. You guys totally rule.

Sprint’s Consumerist hotline keeps on rockin’.

(Photo:Sam Wilkinson)


Edit Your Comment

  1. sleze69 says:

    The same thing happened to me with Verizon. I bought their first push-to-talk phone, it sucked and I returned it about a week later. According to the sales people when I bought it AND when I returned it, I had 30 days to cancel without the ETP. After about a year of receiving bills from them, calling customer service and having them assure me that they would remove it, it finally went to collections.

    At this point, screw them, I am just going to wait until 7 years go by and it expires.

  2. SlappyPeterson says:

    I had the same issue with Verizon, and my account was eventually handed off to a credit agency. I battled it for over a year, on principle alone, until a friend told me to file a complaint with the BBB. So I did. I also filed a complaint with the FCC. The BBB handled the situation appropriately, and I sent all necessary documentation to have my credit report (which Verizon screwed with) corrected. What a huge pain in the ass, but I felt vindicated.

  3. Buran says:

    @sleze69: Contact the reporting agencies and dispute it since it’s bogus, and consider having a lawyer write nastygrams.

  4. Crumbles says:

    @sleze69: Wow, that will show them! Show them you are a typical lazy American! You’d rather hurt your credit history because you are too lazy to fight? Can I have your SSN number please?

  5. gniterobot says:

    Same thing happened to me.

    I cancelled, they stated there would be no termination fee, then I get a bill with a termination fee. I called, they said “oh sorry, we’ll get rid of that”. Then next month, a termination fee and a late fee…Same thing again.

    they ultimately got it right, but something tells me that they do this to see if you’ll pay it.

  6. shan6 says:

    Way to go consumerist hotline!

  7. ARPRINCE says:

    Yup, SPRINT has some sleazy customer service tactics. I remember when my contract was up and wanted to know if I get something out of them by extending my contract since I am a loyal customer.

    I called up customer service and was given an amount between $100-150 (as far as I could remember) that I can use to purchase a new phone and told me that the activation fee of $29.99 would also be waved.

    Well I took the bait and the new billing shows I’m being charged with an activation fee. I called back CS but told me it cannot be waved and that the first CS was wrong! Makes me upset just thinking about it.

  8. bravo369 says:

    This sorta thing happened to someone I know who wanted to cancel AOL. They would stop getting bills for 3 months and then it started again. AOL rep said they signed up for 3 free months to stay. We all know what AOL used to do and this was before they were sued. My friend made AOL fax them proof of the cancellation because he was tired of everyone telling him it was cancelled when it really wasn’t. Asking for confirmation of them waiving the fee could have helped here.

  9. sleze69 says:

    @Buran: @Crumbles: It’s not worth my time any more. I have filed with both agencies and they both replied saying that Verizon claimed it was a legitimate charge. My credit score is fine and it will be off my rating in 2 years. /shrug

  10. Munsoned says:

    Forget the state PSCs (most don’t regulate wireless phone companies, or only *lightly* regulate them due to the inherent interstate nature of this type of service). Sure, it’s worth a call, but don’t expect anything from them when it comes to wireless issues. Instead, call the FCC. I think I saw something recently about some of the FCC commissioners issuing press releases or statements about wireless early termination charges. I bet you’d get more traction there than at the state PSCs. Carriers tend to *jump* when they get even informal consumer complaints forwarded from the FCC…

  11. michaelduff says:

    I spent a year working for Cingular and I’m tweaked by the whole idea of a Consumerist hotline. Not that you don’t deserve it.

    The point is, everybody deserves it, and establishing a special line like this emphasizes just how awful the main pool of customer service lines have become.

    Part of the problem is unavoidable. Customer service is a horrible job. Anyone who actually gives a damn about customers will leave in short order, frustrated by the network of policies designed precisely to prevent you from solving customer problems.

    Front line reps have strict limits about how much credit they’re allowed to give without manager approval. Managers and execs can’t trust the troops to handle complaints rationally, so they hand down arbitrary decrees like “No credit for roaming charges” or “No refund on cancellation fees, ever.”

    Saying “No” to a customer is a guarenteed escalation, so reps learn to lie, evade, and weasel their way out of calls without actually solving the problem.

    Call center metrics reward this behavior by rewarding low handle time and number of calls taken per day.

    Successful reps BS their way through 60 calls a day and those customers keep calling, over and over until a rep like me gets them — someone who was willing to take the hit on his credit outlay and his handle time in order to get the problem solved.

    Most calls are bungled due to simple ignorance. The rep is new or lazy and doesn’t know how to solve your problem. The others are gaming the system, putting off or pretending to fix complicated issues so they don’t ruin their AHT.

    There is an obvious heirarchy at work here. Better reps are promoted to better shifts or special queues while the newbies are left on the front line.

    The Consumerist hotline leapfrogs this process, putting your complaints direclty in the hands of competent people who have the authority to get things done.

    Great deal for Consumerist readers, but I wish someone would solve the core problem.

    Here’s a tip, by the way, so this comment isn’t completely useless. Plum schedules in call centers are assigned by seniority, and the most valuable shift is 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    That means if you want to get the best quality rep on the phone to help with your problem, you need to call at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning.

    If you wait ’til you get home from work, you’re going to get a scrub on the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift. And god help you if you call on a weekend.

  12. tomok97 says:

    I too used the Consumerist Sprint hotline and it worked great. I was having a problem withe SERO offer that I saw here. They got it fixed quickly, correctly and (most importantly) permanently.

  13. photomikey says:


    I couldn’t agree more. The REALLY frustrating thing? The day after you get off the phone with the executive-whatever-team, they call and survey you about your satisfaction with your service with the executive team, and NEVER about what led up to it. So you end up giving 5/5 to the executive team, and they NEVER FIX THE PROBLEM with their abhorrent customer service that forces you to call the executive team to begin with.

    I don’t expect you to have these $30/hr customer recovery specialists on every call where some numbnuts needs to pay their bill, or ask for a late credit for the thousandth time… but if I explain a $10 problem, and the customer service person can see that it’s a problem… empower them to fix it!

  14. neithernor says:

    Wish I had been a Consumerist reader back when I was under contract to Sprint. They’re probably still sending my old address notices about the $4 I owe them in “We Can’t Add” charges.

  15. parad0x360 says:

    Im having almost the same exact problem with Sprint. My 2 year was up and I hated the service. I went in the month after my contract was up paid my bill in full, asked if i cancel now ill i be charged an ETF and they said no. I paid in cash (damnit!) and went about my life. I kept the receipt for about 3 months and then i must have tossed it, after X number of days i clear out my receipt box.

    Well a couple months after that I get a letter from collections. Not a single bill or call from Sprint, just a collection notice for something to the tune of $300. I sent the agency a letter back disputing the debt and didnt hear from them again…until 12 months later when they sent me another letter…which I again disputed and thats where I stand now. No further communication in 3 months so who the hell knows whats going on.

  16. hypebreaker says:

    @NotJaffo: Leapfrog being the operative word here. The term customer service is an oxymoron – it is merely a strategy, highly favored by companies like Sprint, to hang onto as much profit as possible. The more time that is wasted by the consumer trying to reason with the inept, the outsourced and/or underpaid, the less likely the consumer is to pursue the matter further. If only the craftiest, most persistent and pissed off know how to get through to competent people like yourself, then Sprint is ahead of the game. To me, it’s just as disgraceful as airlines making us pay for our peanuts – if a company has to resort to these kinds of cost-cutting tactics to stretch their profits, then they don’t have a good product. While I agree that the whole system stinks, a Consumerist hotline forces Sprint to be accountable to significantly more disgruntled customers than they would be without it.

    Having been a Sprint customer for eons, I found out early on that dealing with their customer service was hazardous to my health and that circumnavigating them entirely added 10 years to my life. I also learned that, more often than not, when you accept a service or phone upgrade from them, they quietly re-start your contract date. It’s a dirty trick that’ll show up on your next statement if you don’t call them out on it from the get-go.

    Too bad they can’t figure out that if they sold a good product and stood behind it, they wouldn’t need to hold us ransom.

  17. guymandude says:

    1 day you guys are going to actually listen to what I post here. For about the billionth time…. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SEND AN IMPROPER DEMAND FOR MONEY THROUGH THE MAIL. It’s federal postal fraud. It’s a felony. It isn’t sexy but it has *sharp* teeth. Don’t whine… prosecute them.