Sprint: Please Keep Paying Your Dead Father's Cellphone Bill

Sprint wants Tracey Stewart to keep paying her dead father’s cellphone bill. Sprint is not completely heartless: they offered to cut his monthly rate to $10 until the contract expires in September.

Tracey’s husband expected Sprint to show a scintilla of compassion.

“They said his contract wasn’t up and to pay the fee or keep it activated,” he said.

“He came in and said my father had upgraded his phone, so we can’t cancel unless we pay the early termination fee or give the phone to somebody else,” Stewart said.

They didn’t have someone else, and they said that the suggestion offended them.

Sprint’s policy is to cancel an account without fees within five days of receiving a death certificate. The nation’s third largest telecom has promised to “resolve the situation within the next few days.”

Family Stuck Paying For Deceased Father’s Cell [WCVB]
RELATED: Sprint Refuses To Cancel Dead Brother’s Cellphone


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  1. snoop-blog says:

    wow sprint has sank to a new low, and took absurdity to a new level, all in one swoop.

    • swilki09 says:

      @snoop-blog: That is crazy. I work for Account Services for Sprint and I know for a fact that she does not have to keep the contract. Call Sprint back ask for account services tell them that you want to cancel and were “pushed” to keep the service, if the through the early termination fee at you, ask for a supervisor. They can get in alot of trouble for lying to you about having to pay the $200 when you dont. I wish I had the fax to just give you, to send the info in but i donthave it here, im at home..(And for the record I am appauled on the lack of empathy. My heart goes out to you, and I am sorry about your loss)

  2. SkyeBlue says:

    I’d be more than “considering” switching to a new provider!

  3. mgyqmb says:

    I don’t understand this whatsoever. I work in customer service, doing tech support, and formerly computer/tech sales, for a major state university. Maybe the pressures on CSRs are much higher at Sprint, but I know that each and every person I talk to on the phone, I treat like a decent human being, and do, unless ridiculous, what they want to do. If they claim we didn’t ship them their microsoft office, we will check to see if they’ve done it before, and if they haven’t, we take their word for it. Even if I didn’t have a death certificate, there is a threshold where I just have to believe what they’re telling me.

    Then again, I find cell phone contracts to be a scam in themselves.

  4. savdavid says:

    Sprint is so slimy. They still owe me $250.25 to me since I over payed them. I have been fighting them since June. They are scum.

  5. calvinneal says:

    Cingular (ATT) tried the same thing on me 2 years ago. They were insistent that I owed them money. I forwarded a death certificate to all 3 credit reporting agencies and they Cingular nothing, not even the last months bill which they reused to accept without the termination fee. Contracts on dead persons are not enforceable.

  6. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    I like my pre-paid phone. No contracts. Sure, I pay a little more per minute, but I don’t have to deal with such sleezeballs.

    I remember when my father passed away, I had to send Citi the death certificate 3 times because they mysteriously did not get it the first 2 times. Also, they sent my father’s account to the Fraud Department to investigate the situation. About two months later I received a later that stated that they are aware of the death and have closed his account. No appologies were given.

  7. rbb says:

    And that’s why if you ever have to close out the estate of a loved one, you can never have enough death certificates…

  8. misfit says:

    When my father-in-law passed away, we simply went to the AT&T store with the phone and requested that the account be canceled. No one asked to see the death certificate, and the CSR was incredibly compassionate and understanding.

  9. Mariajl says:

    Cingular tried to press the same thing on my family. My father passed in June. When I went to cancel his cell phone they started quoting early termination fees and suggested I give the phone to somone else. There was no way I wanted my dead-father’s phone number popping up on my caller ID. I offered to send the death certificate, and the Rep, while sympathetic, didn’t want to bend. I finally suggested she go to supervisors who — after a wait — finally agreed to cancel it wihout fees THE NEXT month. I agreed to this Lessor Evil.

  10. balthisar says:

    Logically and compassionately, this should be a non-issue. Cancel the account, and express sorrow for the loss. But…

    @rbb: this statement raises a good question legally. Most contracts are enforceable after death. Your estate assumes the responsibility for your assets, debts, and other responsibilities. Want to keep your dad’s house? The estate has to pay off the mortgage. Of course, that’s secured debt. What about unsecured debt and contracts such as cell phones? What’s the law say about that? Legally is the estate responsible for unsecured debt and cell phone contracts and leases?

  11. jaya9581 says:

    Heirs are generally not responsible for the debts of a deceased parent. There may be some exceptions, such as if the heir was a co-signer on a contract, and frequently a spouse may be held responsible. It’s the ESTATE of the deceased person that is responsible for making any remaining payments. They can continue to charge, but it’s unlikely they’ll be awarded any charges accrued after the date of death.

    If there’s no money in the estate to pay the bills, the bst advice I could offer would be for the administer/administratrix to ignore them. There either is money or there isn’t – if there’s not, creditors are just SOL (unless, again, there’s exceptiopns).

    That’s what I did when my father passed away. He was unmarried and I’m his only child – there wasn’t the money. They did try getting some money out of me briefly, but I knew my rights. Now, nearly 8 years later, every debt has been written off and and I haven’t been bothered in about 3 years.

  12. Jean Naimard says:

    One thing I can’t fathom is ‘mercans bitching about “Goverment is bad, it screws-up everything it touches”, yet they blitherly go along being abused by private companies who obviously don’t work any better than that much-decried guv’mint.

  13. fafi says:

    Unless Sprint’s policy has changed in the last year regarding the death of a customer… whoever told her that was just lying and trying to keep that line so they could get a commission. When I worked there the only thing that was required to cancel a line of service w/o an ETF was a death certificate, obituary or prayer card. I would be so beyond angry. That is way beyond rude.

  14. fafi says:

    Another thing Sprint used to do was credit you back from the date of death if there was NO USAGE on the phone after said customer passed away. An ETF is something that is easily waived & it’s hard for me to understand why they do it on rare occasions. Death is one of their only valid reasons for waiving an ETF…I just don’t get it.

  15. pylon83 says:

    While it is certainly a nice thing for them to do, Sprint is under no obligation to cancel the contract just because the other party is deceased. Death doesn’t end contractual obligations. The estate is simply liable for the charges, ETF, etc. Whether Sprint will actually get paid is an entirely different matter. Once the estate is disbursed, Sprint doesn’t really have any recourse. I imagine they cancel the service without an ETF just so they don’t have to deal with the hassle of fighting with the executors or the probate court.

  16. D-Bo says:

    This one is easy. Unless the dad was on the kids account they have no responsibility for his debts and should report Sprint for contacting them regarding this debt and attempting to collect on it.

  17. Major-General says:

    @rbb: True. I’ve been lucky that most places I’ve had to deal with haven’t asked for one.

  18. Benny Gesserit says:

    @Jean Naimard: I believe you meant “gum’mint” when you wrote “gov’mint”.

    @pylon83: You’re right – as unsecured debtors, they’d have to fight for financial scraps with other bottom feeders.

  19. swalve says:

    Stop blaming the victim! The big nasty ol’ corporations should do whatever we ask of them. Hurt feelings should be illegal!

  20. Parting says:

    This is a story of a CSR that does not know its company policy. CSR screwed up. End of story. (Ask for a supervisor next time).

  21. yg17 says:

    @pylon83: I don’t have a copy of a Sprint contract to verify, and had no luck finding one online, but if canceling upon death without an ETF is company policy, chances are, it is also outlined in the contract. And if it is, then they do have an obligation to cancel it sans ETF. Sprint has to hold up their end of the contract just as much as the customer does.

  22. humphrmi says:

    There is another side to this whole debate. Most people wouldn’t think of leaving their deceased family member’s estate in bad shape, but *technically*, the contract – with the ETF – is in a deceased person’s name, not the next of kin.

    Granted, they could file a claim against the estate, but if the person set up their will correctly, by the time the cell phone bill goes to collections, the estate will be closed.

    I would give a phone company two choices … waive all fees and terminate the deceased person’s contract with no strings, or eat the charges later and send the collection agency to his or her grave site to try to collect.

  23. chibichibi says:

    According to the article the father was a secondary on the family plan. So as long as the contract is not in the dead persons name sprint has no reason to cancel the contract. They will only do this if the acct is under the dead persons name.

  24. jwissick says:

    @Jean Naimard: Private companies are bad… but government is worse. Nothing is simple with government… obviously you have never had to deal with government on an extended basis on a complicated thing.

  25. Edjamacator says:

    Make sure Sprint knows to stop by the gravesite between the hours of 8 and 4 on a weekday in order to receive payment. That is, if they can get him to come out and pay up.

    That or suggest they perform an impossible anatomical act upon themselves. Whichever.

  26. badgeman46 says:

    Personally I would make that Comcast hammer lady look like the toothfairy to those bastards. I would have brought the corpse right to the nearest office/store/mall kiosk and introduced them to their departed customer until they caved.

  27. deepsprint says:

    That is not Sprint’s policy.

    Ask a Sprint rep to type “deceased” into their little Knowledge Management System and look up the correct procedure which is to show empathy to the customer, and give the customer a fax number or email address where the customer can send in the death certificate or obituary and then the account will be canceled with no penalty and they can even backdate the cancellation to the date of the death of the customer up to three months.

    The real problem here is the poor training and supervision of Sprint customer service reps.

  28. kbarrett says:

    Gee … there is this little clause in the US constitution forbidding “taint of the blood” ( inherited debt ).

    If you fail to get a written demand to the executor of the deceased’s estate on a timely basis, you are just screwed … kiss that debt bye-bye …

  29. Seph says:

    Wow, they are horrible. But it’s to be expected.
    It’s like gamblers who are in huge dept and then kill themselves, the next of kin have to pay off their addiction. Makes no sense to me.
    “Sprint’s policy is to cancel an account without fees within five days of receiving a death certificate.”
    They actually talked about it and planned it while making the policy?
    Even though I hate my phone company they took half my bill off when I first got it. Apparently incoming calls aren’t free for you.

  30. clickable says:

    I don’t think it’s so heartless to ask for a copy of the death certificate. I don’t wish the experience on anyone, but we’ve been through this recently. When a family member dies, you do need to “wind up” certain accounts, or change them to someone else’s name, and in some cases you are asked to send either an official copy or a photocopy of the death certificate. It sounds as if there was a breakdown in communication at first, but I don’t think Sprint has a heartless policy in this area.

  31. TampaShooters says:

    SPRINT is EVIL. They nearly did same thing to us after my father passed away in 2003, and he was out of contract!! They had my mother crying on the phone just trying to tell them he was gone and to cancel the line, I was soooo pissed. I called the next day, told them I was him, and to cancel, no problem, cancelled. They were just being jerks.

  32. sykl0ps says:

    Thats sounds so strange to me. When my father died in OCt2005, he had over a year of contract time on my account. Called up Cingular, explained what happened, and before I could even finish the CSR told me not to worry, it has been taken care of and there would be no fees.

    It’s the main reason I’ve stuck with them as a customer, it was nice not to have to mail in proof or have to deal with any more hassles during that time.

  33. enderx says:

    oh BS. It’s sprint policy. The customer probably called in and said ‘what are my options?’ And the customer service rep gave them some.
    You’ll note in the article even Sprint says what their policy is.

    Y’all side with the customer too much. The customer is hardly ever right.

  34. RvLeshrac says:


    I notice that you seem to be the only one to point that out…

    It is like cosigning a loan and complaining that the bank won’t just let you have the money for free.

  35. RobertW.TX says:

    In this case sounds like they were on a family plan so I would imagine there are extra complications since they want to keep the contract but drop a phone. In most cases I would just have sent a stock letter back with the last bill saying that that the account holder had passed away and all future correspondence would be ignored. Then trow away all future letters unopened. Children are not responsible for the unsecured debts of their parents and companies are not going to go to the expense of filing a lawsuit against a deceased persons estate.

  36. AlphaTeam says:

    Just cancel. I don’t see them sending a collection guy to a dead guy. And debts don’t get inherited either.