Sprint Lies To FCC About Ripping Off Consumer Reporter

Dan Hesse should be ashamed. Ripping off a consumer reporter and then lying to the FCC about it? Bad idea. Here’s what Sprint did to The Red Tape Chronicles reporter Bob Sullivan

Bob canceled his account. They billed him for 11 days after he canceled because their “policy” is to bill for the entire billing period. He protested to no avail He filed an FCC complaint. Nothing happened for a month. Then he called up identifying himself as a reporter. The FCC then forwarded his complaint over to Sprint who just reiterarted the policy. Oh, and they told him his account hadn’t been canceled and he owed them more money. Bob and the Sprint rep kept missing each other’s calls, and then she responded to the FCC complaint saying Bob was unreachable, and, here’s the kicker: they said Bob called back after he canceled and asked for the cancellation to be postponed – a blatant lie. The FCC then closed the investigation.

Dan Hesse, you should be ashamed.

FCC: Sprint Can Be Judge And Jury [Red Tape Chronicles]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    And this is why I’ll never have an account with Sprint. All cell phone companies use tricks, but one with reps that lie to my face – I can never endorse that company.

  2. Yankees368 says:

    Then there is AT&T, who constantly, ever month, billed my girlfriend Canadian roaming charges while still in New York State. This past month, they REFUSED to take off the charged. However, being billed roaming charges, espically INTERNATIONAL roaming charges while still in the US is a violation of AT&T’s own contract (no roaming charges in the US), as well as a violation of FCC rules. After a long fight, we got 3 lines canceled with no ETF charge.

    • dangermike says:

      @Yankees368: That seems odd. What about the case where someone might be near enough to a border that their handset connects through a cell tower on the other side? (And I’m honestly curious here. I’m not trying to comment on your GF case, as for all I know, “in NY state” could mean she’s quite far from the border.) It seems like it would be a difficult engineering problem and a customer service nightmare.

    • damitaimee says:

      @Yankees368: have you tried the consumerist hotline? it seems like the CSRs on that hotline are 1000X more capable of doing things than the regular CSRs.

    • Corporate_guy says:

      @Yankees368: Did they even instruct you to disable roaming or set some kind of roaming preference(assuming there is one) to stop the roaming? They send handsets to you set up so they will always connect to the strongest tower. It’s kinda a scam where during the first month(the time you can still cancel) you won’t notice if you have a lack of signal. Then after the first bill you call and complain and they remove the roaming charges and tell you to disable roaming in the phone. That is when you find out your service will be forever crappy.

    • UX4themasses says:

      @Yankees368: I disagree. You paid an ETF in time spent versus an actual fee.

      Pay 150 now or we’ll make you battle us for weeks thus costing you 150 in labor time.

      it’s a lose-lose with these companies due to the timespan.

      • Yankees368 says:

        Let me clear all of this up. My girlfriend lives in Niagara Falls, NY. Her phone, unlike sprints phones, have no control over roaming. AT&T offered to block fringe roaming, but for some reason, it does not apply to texting(!) Every month AT&T was crediting back $60-$70 in roaming charges, and it just made sense for them to let her go. Was not easy though.

  3. Charles Stovall says:

    Looks like a case of he said she said to me. I see these types of customers all the time.

    • madamdalriada says:

      @Charles Stovall: Have you ever read this guy’s column?! He makes a living off this kind of thing and I’m pretty sure the last thing he would want to do is stretch the truth.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @Charles Stovall: you obviously haven’t dealt with sprint before.

      i used to activate phones for sprint. let me tell you something – this guy got off light. usually they tag on a $200 ETF, regardless of whether or not you were still in contract, then fight you tooth & nail to remove it, then the tell you they can only offer you credit (which doesn’t help if you just canceled your service), then they say they’re cutting a check (but they don’t), then they say you cashed a check you never received & tell you to prove that you didn’t cash it…

      i know this all sounds ridiculous, but believe me, i’ve dealt with it more than once. their entire business model is based on bilking people out of money for dubious reasons.

  4. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    I gotta say, the FCC seems to be worthless. I filed a do-not-call violation against Sprint for constantly calling my cellphone for a survey after I’d explicitly told them verbally and via email to never ever call me. “But it’s a free call, sir.” Yeah, and I’m at work and don’t call me.

    Anyway, Sprint replied to the FCC complaint saying “oh gosh, we didn’t mean to upset him” and the FCC closed the case. Thanks for getting my input, there, FCC dudes.

    • Brontide says:

      @larrymac: If the call is not for commercial solicitation then most of the “DNC” rules go out the window.

      • carlogesualdo says:

        DNC has nothing to do with it. When you explicitly tell a specific company “do not contact me,” they’re not allowed to contact you. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the do-not-call list.

  5. private1111 says:

    I used to work for At&t wireless in the call centre. This type of scenario would happen more often than you would think. Probably every 8 or 10th call when you would answer at least 50 a day.
    The reps are taught to try and get the most $$ out of the customer. Reps would often lie when putting notes on an account or put customers on excessive holds while sitting there chatting to a neighbour. Oh the stories i could tell…….

  6. EllenRose says:

    “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

  7. wildhare says:

    Sorry to break it to every one of you consumers out there, but corporations and businesses LIE all the time! Most customer service reps are paid specifically to lie, dissuade, pervert and invert the truth in order to _continue_ doing business. It’s how business works. If they were selling an honest product they would never make any money. ***Not that I am justifying this.

    Pour example: if you think paying $4.99 or even $29.99 a month to send text messages on your phone is a worthwhile honest cost, you are lying to yourself and you know it.

    Sorry to have to do it.

    • adamczar says:

      @wildhare11: It’s okay, thanks for sacrificing yourself to tell us the truth. What’s with the apologies?

    • mac-phisto says:

      @wildhare11: the only thing i disagree with in your observation is that you can’t make money selling an honest product (or selling a product honestly). i think there’s plenty of people/companies that do it well.

      i think you’d be hard-pressed to find a cell company that doesn’t lie, cheat & steal, but i don’t think that’s indicative of business as a whole.

  8. JustThatGuy3 says:


    Also a bulletin for you – consumers lie all the time, incessantly, and constantly:
    “I totally sent that payment in (well, I will soon…)”
    “My laptop just stopped working (after I spilled diet coke into it)”
    “I never wore this dress (except for last night)”

    Also, who the heck are you to tell someone that a certain price for text messaging isn’t fair? That’s 110% their call! If a customer thinks that text messages are worth $1000/month, and pays that, it’s his call, not yours, anymore than it would be my right to tell you that a particular sexual position isn’t satisfying to you and your partner, even though you think it is.

    • SynMonger says:

      @JustThatGuy3: It’s just gravy for the wireless telcos too! Since SMS uses a control channel that is open to phones anyway, they found a way to monetize something that costs them nothing. Genius, give that engineer a raise!

      I also fail to see what sexual positions are satisfying has to do with buying consumer products. Unless you mean taking it from behind and liking it.

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @JustThatGuy3: So that makes it okay? The customer sticks it us all the time, so it’s okay for us (the businesses of the world) to stick to all of the customers (including the honest ones). Great policy.

  9. Anonymous says:

    @ JustThatGuy3 : the fcc has the right to tell the cell companies that the price isn’t fair if all of the companies are charging the same, vastly overinflated rates, which they are. Which is why they’re being investigated for price-fixing on it. The FCC has asked all of the big companies to reply with a justification for the fact that while the costs of text messages are going way down, prices are still going up.

  10. Nighthawke says:

    Whats the main rule when dealing with corporate giants? Document, Document, Document. You get the CSR’s badge # along with their name, date, time and ticket # that they open up for your problem. You be clear and concise as to what is your problem or what you want to do with your service with them. They don’t want to listen to you rant, it only makes things worse.

    Trying to get a sympathetic ear from a corporate drone that’s been at their desk for 10 hours without as much as a bathroom break is like trying to inspire a starter’s pistol to shoot live rounds when all it does is draw blanks.

  11. acwatts says:

    This stuff happens and it is annoying, but what would you have the FCC do? Even if everything this guys says happened exactly the way he said it did all that it really shows is that in one case, one service rep is either stupid or dishonest….(likely both) How would you feel if you found out that the FCC spent several thousand dollars of your taxpayer money investigating this matter? I don’t know about Sprints customer service record, but I think the FCC is more interested in addressing problematic business practices that impact the industry – not that Mr. X may or may not have gotten cheated out of $20 depending on who you believe….

    • SynMonger says:

      @acwatts: “How would you feel if you found out that the FCC spent several thousand dollars of your taxpayer money investigating this matter?”

      Like they were doing their job. This is what we give them our tax dollars for! To enforce the rules that they have set up. They’ve still got our tax dollars. They’ve still spent those thousands you’re speaking of, but we don’t have anything to show for it.

      • carlogesualdo says:

        @SynMonger: Even though this is just one story, you should read his book. According to him (and I’ve had enough experience with this that I’m willing to believe him), the cell phone companies do this sort of thing a lot. I’d be very happy if the FCC would spend some investigating this. I’m sure they’d find evidence of long-standing wrongdoing and not just to Mr. Sullivan.

  12. KyleOrton says:

    Too bad the Palm Pre will be exclusive to Sprint for at least a little while. That may be the worse decision Palm ever made because I think there are at big chunk of people unwilling to return or switch to Sprint. Even for a fancy schmancy phone.

    • Sam Wille says:

      @KyleOrton: That’s the very reason I decided to bite the bullet and upgrade while I’m on Verizon. If after a year or so its out on Verizon, I can do the annual upgrade thing. No worries – I don’t mind being under contract when the company is great to work with. I guess I have had a bit of excellent luck, though.

  13. Jfielder says:

    I will never, ever have an account with Sprint again. I had Sprint several years ago, and between the terrible reception that I got, and the horrifically bad customer service, I actually forked over the cash to terminate my contract. Then I switched to Nextel (which at the time was a seperate entity). I loved my Nextel. Fantastic CS, great reception… but then, Sprint bought Nextel and within a few months everything went to shit. At that point I couldn’t justify paying another ETF, so I toughed it out, and switched to Verizon the day my contract expired. I’ve been happy with my cell service ever since.

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @jfielder23: Unless you’re near the end of your contract, paying the ETF may be in your best interests. Otherwise, you’re just rewarding them by paying them even MORE money over the life of your contract. But frankly, if they’re not providing the service they agreed to in the contract, it seems like you should be able to cancel without paying the ETF. Make a reasoned argument with the right manager and you just might make it work.

  14. zentex says:

    The FCC USED to be a worthwhile and scary government entity. Back in the day (like when he was a boy in the early 60’s), my dad got a visit from the “Candy Man” (suits from the FCC). Anyways, the suits were all serious and acted like mobsters.

    Now? the FCC is like tits on bull in outer-space wearing a bikini.

  15. burnedout says:

    I have a copy of an IM conversation I had with a sales rep where I was asking about just this issue (billing for the full cycle). She kept trying to tell me that each bill was for the upcoming month because they always bill the full cycle. I kept asking where it says that on the bill because the “billing dates” listed were for the previous month. After a few back and forths where she essentially called me dumb for not being able to read the the darn bill she finally admitted that it doesn’t say anywhere on the bill that the billing cycle was the upcoming month, Sprint makes them say that, and she’d give me the prorated bill I was promised at the store. I wondered if I should file an FCC complaint – seemed like fraud…

  16. TEW says:

    The more people who hear about these stories the worse off Sprint will be. If it is true that their business model is to fleece as much money from their customers then it will fail. I work too hard to give the money to a shady business.

    • theboomboomcars says:

      @TEW: I guess they haven’t noticed the correlation of the more they upset their customers the less customers they have getting contracts.

  17. fatcop says:

    I live 10 miles from Sprints world headquarters and their service is virtually non-existant. I had to leave the house to make calls.

  18. hypochondriac says:

    I never had any major problems with sprint. Hopefully it says that way. I love my SERO plan and sprint would have to do something terrible for me to cancel.

  19. JustThatGuy3 says:


    I used sexual positions as an example of something about which a third party’s opinion is completely irrelevant. If you think the price you paid was fair, it was fair. If you like sexual position X, it’s a good position. In both cases, my opinion is completely irrelevant.

  20. aerick79 says:

    I bet the OP didn’t get that in writing that he closed the acct. Also if someone is going to throw the “Policy” in your face. They should send him a copy of the Term and Conditions, to make sure he’s rights are covered.

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @aerick79: The OP knows what he’s doing. I think this was actually fortuitous for him because it provided great fodder for a story for his blog on MSNBC.

  21. chemman says:

    Sprint did something similar to me. I switched to a new provider and ported my number, which went through one day after the billing cycle. They sent me a final bill saying I had a zero balance. I called and asked when I would received the refund for the month I paid in advance. They told me they don’t do that, that the account stays active until the end of the billing cycle, which makes no sense because if you called my number I was being billed for minutes by my new provider. They then changed the story to that I was not paying for the month in advance, even though I produced my contract showing I paid the first partial month and then a month forward, they told me that it wasn’t paying in advance but it was really a fee for opening the account. I mentioned that my contract said nothing about this “fee” and was hung up on. I had documented it all and filed a complaint with the BBB and low and behold I received a check about 10 days later for the full month, minus a day. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a BBB complaint work.

    • Brontide says:

      @chemman: Gotta love phone providers where “contract post-pay” is actually billed one month in advance making it “pre-pay” and we already have your money so good luck getting it back.

  22. cuchanu says:

    He notes that he paid the fee because he didn’t want anything bad on his credit report. This is where not giving a shit about your credit comes in handy. Every time any company that I owe money to tries to screw me I don’t pay. Sure my credit sucks but it feels good to not let companies get away with whatever they want.

    The only real downside is I’ll have to save up $300,000 if I want to buy a house.

  23. howie_in_az says:

    Due to AT&T/Cingular (whatever they’re calling themselves now) billing me for a credit I had with them, I now write certified letters to every company when canceling accounts. No more of this “we have no record of you ever canceling” bullshit. In the letter I state that as of my next billing date I will be canceling, so I get away from this full-billing-cycle shenanigans as well.

  24. Tedicles says:

    (sorry, the automated reply to comment was not working, just links back to the story)

    Usually the cell phone coverage to borders are accurate within a few feet; from my own experience anyway. For example, coming from China across to Hong Kong via foot, you switch networks and country code as you walk across the small river (maybe 20 yards wide). The US and Canada should be similar, even if a bit worse it should be correct to about 10 feet or so I would think.

  25. rolla says:

    i’m getting disgusted on how Sprint gets constantly crapped on in posts…yes, i have Sprint and no, i havent had any problems so far (been a customer for 10 yrs) and i pay a great price for what i’m getting (i should be paying somewhere near $70-80/month for internet, text, M2M, etc) but pay a fraction of that. I KNOW there are CS horror stories with the other carriers, but how come Comsumerist doesnt post them???? are you telling me that the other carriers are so perfect in their CS that there is at least 1 story analogous to the any of the stories posted about Sprint??

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @rolla: Sprint is probably by far the worst. You’ve been lucky. Congratulations and enjoy your good fortune. There are many others who have been as lucky, otherwise Sprint would have gone under many years ago.

      As for your question about other carriers, I have seen several stories about AT&T, and it seems like I’ve seen some about Verizon as well (heaven help me). You just notice the Sprint stories more because that’s your carrier.

  26. thespyde0808 says:

    I’m a sprint CSR myself, and if I have one thing to suggest, it’s to get an interaction number which is a number that we can search for in our system that pulls up the exact date and note that was left on the account and we also have to leave a note in order to give it to you. as for the lying, in the call center I work for we get written up for it.

  27. Crystal Wojcinski says:

    @Yankees368 How incredibly odd. When I travelled to Niagara, New York with my family I got charged At&T roaming international as well. I kept getting hooked up to another network while there (my phone kept showing a network named after a guy) and luckily made the bare mininum of calls out of fear something like this would happen. We lodged a complaint, they removed the charges, and we know better now. My only issue, and to quote my dad on this, how many people don’t notice that on their bill and pay? I felt it was a huge scam that they only take care of an issue when you complain with no real effort to correct the issue on a permanent basis. It’s like saying “You have to opt out of our mistakes or it is your mistake.”
    Saddest thing? So you got an issue with your cellular carrier, any carrier, what the hell do you do? Not like any one of them is any better.
    “Yeah, I’d like the company that sucks…..less”

  28. AhTrini says:

    Don’t they have a record of all those calls, or is that a scam too, to make you think your conversations are recorded but they’re actually not?

  29. Ronis says:

    We are disappointed in the Consumerist’s assumption that Sprint participated in deceptive practices. While we usually do not comment on customer issues for privacy reasons, we wanted to try to clear up several points of confusion raised by your post.

    First, with regard to the reporter’s complaint about Sprint requesting to discuss the cancellation via phone, if a customer requests to cancel via email or letter, we do need to speak with the customer directly before it will be cancelled. We prefer that requests to cancel accounts be made with a live representative by phone so that we can properly verify account information before making any changes. The rationale is to strive for customer privacy and security. While we do everything we can to address the customer’s concerns to avoid cancellation, we will deactivate service upon their request.

    Second, as with many companies it is Sprint’s policy not to prorate customer bills either in the beginning of a contract or upon cancellation at the end. When customers initially sign up for services we make it explicitly clear that we bill one month in advance for services, and we use programs like our Welcome Call to walk customers through their new services and set expectations up front. We encourage customers who are already out of contract and decide to cancel to do so at the end of their billing cycle or as close as possible to the end of their billing cycles. We educate the customer that their service will remain active until the last date of their billing cycle.

    Finally, we take every customer concern or issue brought to us by a third party such as the FCC seriously and we address each one of these requests. After thoroughly researching our documented conversations with customers and account information, we provide a response to these parties and send a copy to the customer as well. If for any reason the FCC does not feel we completely addressed or resolved a customer’s issue, they will, and have contacted us for additional information.

    Roni Singleton
    Sprint PR

  30. Anonymous says:

    The is letter has never been answered
    Dear Sprint
    Corporate Office January 2008

    When I ordered my cellular phone (October 2005) off the Sprint web site I agreed to a one year contract. The phones were received and activated – within a month I was calling Sprint’s customer service department with problems, either with the phones or services. In April of 2006, I called at least four times for phone problems. In June of 2006, I called concerning billing practices and phone services and also asked the date when my contract expired as I was unsatisfied with the service provided. I questioned when I would be able to switch phone service to another phone company and was told my contract would expire by November 2006. I asked numerous times over the next few months in July, August, September and October when calling in with questions, I was told repeatedly that my contract would expire November 2006.

    In November 2006, I had my number changed to a new cellular phone company. On November 22, 2006 I received a call from Sprint employee Darlene (employee no. DDEL0505) and explained my concerns with the Sprint Company – she was able to see by the notes on the account that I had called with question about my contract and the information I received about my contract expiration date. I agreed that I would pay the ending balance on the account less the discounting fee of $350.00. While speaking with her, I lost communication and tried to call back to the customer service department. I spoke with Joe (employee no. JTPT001) who was unable to transfer me to Darlene’s phone and agreed to help me with the arrangements I made with her. Joe informed me that the agreement with Darlene was fine and that I should receive a final bill stating the amount owed minus the early termination fee.

    As of this date I have not received the final billing showing the elimination of the termination fee but instead have been verbally harassed by a collection agency informing me that I still owe over $350.00. I fulfilled my contract term, contacted two Sprint employees, prior to transferring my telephone account and am now in jeopardy of having my credit tarnished – when can I expect to receive a written confirmation (to follow-up on the verbal conversations) showing my account is paid in full?

    Deborah P