Sprint Loses Early Termination Fee Case In California

A California judge has issued a tentative ruling against Sprint regarding early termination fees. Although Sprint has two weeks to respond before the judge issues a final ruling, if the ruling stands then Sprint will have to pay $73 million in refunds to former customers. That Verizon settlement for $21 million earlier this month must be looking pretty sweet to Sprint’s investors right about now.

“Sprint Loses Early Termination Fee Case, May Pay $73 Million” [CNN Money]
(Photo: Maulleigh)


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  1. Ken says:

    Does this mean they won’t have termination fee anymore?

  2. blue_duck says:

    Words can not describe my hatred for Sprint. My only response is a childish, Nelson-sounding “HA HA!!”

  3. blue_duck says:

    @Ken: I was wondering about that too.

  4. VA_White says:

    We are chained to Sprint until November. I am counting the days. If they prorated their ETF we’d have been gone months ago.

  5. cotr says:

    how will the refund it? their records are usually crap.

  6. superchou says:

    *crosses fingers that ETF will go bye bye*

  7. blue_duck says:

    @phnxamg: Class action style~ send out thousands of checks to former customers~ I’m sure the prosecution did their homework on who gets what.

  8. lodleader says:

    I guess I’m one of the few people that has never had any problems with Sprint… *knocks on wood, avoids black cats for the next year*

  9. B says:

    @Ken: In California, yes. In other states, only if those states pass similar laws.

  10. blue_duck says:

    @lodleader: No going under ladders, no opening umbrellas inside, *insert generic superstitious quote*, etc… :P

  11. kc2idf says:

    @lodleader: I have only had minor problems with them (involving attempts to return a phone that didn’t do what we were told it would). Their handling of it had me ready to jump ship (leveraging text message fee changes to break the contract) until I got ahold of the executive help line and they got ahold of the store manager and told him to refund me the $@&! phone and reset the contract.

    Otherwise, I am a genuinely happy Sprint customer.

    That said, contracts with ETFs are a pandemic evil as presently implemented. Here is what would be fair:

    1. If you get a discount on a phone for signing a contract, you get an ETF that is a pro-ration of the discount you got. Saved $120 on a phone by signing a 2-year contract? Your ETF is $120 initially and goes down $5/month over the life of the contract. Saved $600? ETF is $600 for month one and goes down $25/month.

    2. If you get a discount on service for signing up for a contract, your ETF equals the amount of money you saved. Yes, this one goes up as the contract goes on, but the idea is to make everyone whole.

    3. If you want to buy service without a contract, you should be able to do so, without going to the highway-rape rates charged for pre-paid service, provided you pass a credit check.

    I think that would be fair to everyone, because it addresses every issue that the cellcos have claimed as being the reason for ETFs.

  12. kc2idf says:

    @blue_duck: Don’t you know it’s bad luck to be superstitious?

  13. LikwidFlux says:

    @VA_White: When I spoke to Sprint Friday of last week they told me the ETF was prorated….

    I called the Consumerist Sprint number, they were ZERO help so I sent an EECB and got someone else in the executive services…. she was useless too, so now I’m screwed.

  14. Jubilance22 says:

    @lodleader: You aren’t the only one. I’ve had Sprint for 6 years in 3 different states, and I’ve never had a problem. I guess we’re just lucky.

  15. pgh9fan says:

    People sometimes hammer pre-pay, but for me it’s the way to go. I got a free phone from Virgin Mobile. I don’t use cell time too much so every two or three months I buy a card to refill the time. No monthly fees. No contract. No ETFs. I like that. I’m now considering dumping my home phone and getting a monthly plan from Virgin Mobile. It’d be less expensive. My wife keeps her regular Virgin Mobile phone. I get a phone for $35 per month and we get to tell Verizon to shove it.

  16. nicemarmot617 says:

    Oh, so is my mom going to get back the $200 Sprint ripped her off of in 1999 when they told her Sprint had service at our house, when in reality the nearest Sprint tower was 50 miles away? And then refused to let her cancel despite the fact that she had no service?

    Yeah, needless to say nobody in our family has used Sprint since then.

  17. dragonfire1481 says:

    Sprint officially announced 7 or 8 months ago they WOULD be prorating ETFs but thus far have not put in any framework to do so…

  18. razremytuxbuddy says:

    @pgh9fan: I agree, prepay is a great option. I’ve used Liberty Wireless, which also uses Sprint’s network. LW would automatically charge my credit card each month, so there wasn’t any need to remember to buy more minutes. My bill was the same amount each month with no surprises, so there was practically no reason to ever contact their customer service. I only changed carriers because I had to–to get a different coverage area, but I miss my Liberty Wireless days! I switched to Alltel which has been a ghastly experience from day one. Sort of a Sprint, Jr.

    @nicemarmot617: I agree Sprint has been that bad for that long. It’s amazing it has taken so long for their bad practices to come to center stage. I assume those of us who got “taken” by them early on are just S.O.L.

  19. BIG WHEEL says:

    I worked for Nextel (now a division of Sprint) years ago. Whenever you changed your plan, you automatically extended your contract. This was usually not properly disclosed to customers, so they didn’t even realize the implications of changing their plan. The ETF would surely be the bargaining chip they would hold over the customer’s head so they didn’t jump ship, even though they didn’t even agree to it. I’m wondering if this ruling will apply to all those Nextel customers as well.

  20. blue_duck says:

    @kc2idf: That’s just a superstition *rimshot*

  21. LostAngeles says:

    So shit, I should have jumped ship then?

  22. mike says:

    I’m kinda iffy on ETFs. On the one hand, they allow you to buy cell phones on the cheap in exchange for a contract. But if you don’t want the contract, you pay for the phone but still pay the same amount per month.

    Should the per month price be lower?

  23. BurntToast says:

    Hrmn! I got charged $300 when they extended my second line (now since disconnected) an ETF when I didn’t opt to extend it… I never got any paperwork about this lawsuit, how do I opt in or is it too late?

  24. mike says:

    @BurntToast: You can still file an individual claim, I think. At least those are the rights listed on most class action suits.

  25. BurntToast says:

    I wonder if it’s from this class-action… [www.cellphoneterminationfees.com] I do remember getting something about this last year… didn’t opt out so yay. :P

  26. BurntToast says:
  27. rsherard3 says:

    We changed from Sprint a little more than two years ago. Their service sucked and I was fed up with them after being duped early on and seeing fellow co-workers getting duped. I found a post online that said the FCC requires them to wave ETFs if you move to an area where they don’t provide service. Ironically, my in-laws live about five miles outside of the service area. I called Sprint, told the CSR I was moving to that address, he put me on hold, came back, and told me the ETF would be waived. I didn’t even have to mention anything.

  28. splendic says:

    Been a Sprint mobile user for almost ten years, and never had a problem with reception, customer service, billing, etc… And with their all inclusive plans, I’ll probably remain a customer until they go under… (later this year).

  29. randombob says:

    I cancelled w/ sprint shortly after signing up about two and half years ago. They initially waived the ETF because I couldn’t get service @ my house (even though their map said I should), but then when the bill arrived it was for a HUGE AMOUNT including an ETF. We’ve been going back and forth through different collection agencies over the matter. They send a Collection agency after me, I send a note explaining the situation, that Collection Agency I guess sides with me because I never hear anything back AND THEN Sprint hires A DIFFERENT collection agency to try to collect, send the letter again, same thing…

    So in about two weeks, I’m going to send ANOTHER LETTER to the current collection Agency Sprint’s trying to lie to, and pretty much say that the funds they’re after have been deemed illegal to collect, and thus if they try to collect from me again, I will sue THEM instead.

    This is an awesome victory for us all, esp. us Californians (as we get to play with it first!)

  30. Pro-Pain says:

    Sprint – Where we are planning to prorate our cancellation fees, next century. Stop asking already. The answer is – give us your money. Just give it to us already, cmon…please?

  31. bbb111 says:

    @randombob: “…AND THEN Sprint hires A DIFFERENT collection agency.”

    It probably isn’t Sprint hiring the collection agencies. Sprint probably SOLD the debt – the collection agency decided that you are not going to pay and then SOLD the debt to another agency to recoup some of what they paid for the debt.

    [Find the standard “I dispute the validity of the debt…proof of…in writing…(etc.)” statement to make them give up on the first call. Expect to repeat this a few more times.]

  32. randombob says:

    Heh, well we’re on our 4th. I imagine that soon enough they’ll just give up.

    Any negative marks on my credit though, and we’ll have problems. And I’ll go ahead and bookmark this case just in case…

  33. BurntToast says:

    I guess other then the ETF thing, I’ve really had no complaints about Sprint as well. The service is good where I live (and wherever I have gone) and everytime I’ve talked to customer service, it’s been wonderful. I don’t know.

  34. 10felines says:

    i had the same experience with sprint and their early cancellation fees. Service wasn’t provided and I cancelled. Problem is they have ruined my credit because of it. Any one hear of a lawsuit in Texas? I want to be in on that one….