No Sprint Service, Let Out Of Contract If I Surrender My New Phone

Vincent has been a Sprint customer for a long time, and it’s only just recently that his service really started to suck. He drops or misses calls, and can’t get a data connection. ONly after calling the Consumerist Hotline did he learn that the problem is systemic: their network is overloaded in his area, and there might be a solution at the end of this year. Sprint has made him an offer: they’ll let him out of his contact without an early termination fee, but only if he gives back his recently purchased smartphone. He says that he shelled out $400 for this phone, and would have sold it to another Sprint customer to recoup some of his losses. What should he do?

He writes:

For the past few months I have been having major issues with Sprint service, I am constantly seeing issues with dropped calls unable to receive phone calls or just plan use of data. A few months ago a went to a sprint store and they said my hardware was bad and i had to pay for a replacement phone. I received a replacement phone at a cost with no difference in service, After this my wife also started complaining about issues with missed phone calls and dropped calls. After calling support multiple and being escalated to a supervisor I found myself with no solution.

I decided to call the Consumerist Hotline. In which a very friendly person took my case and offered to help. After her logging a case with network engineers a few days later she got got back to me and confirmed there is a issue in my area that the network is overloaded. A fix is not expected until end of year.

She has offered me out of my contract with the caveat that I have to return my equipment [in lieu] of a ETF. Is this considered standard practice and why do i have to return equipment I payed well over $400 for without any sort of reimbursement?


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  1. headhot says:

    If you do have to return the phone, pop it in the microwave or hit it with a belt sander first. If you can’t have your money, they cant have theirs.

    • StarKillerX says:

      And when enough people do this and they no longer offer returning the phone as an alternative to a ETF I’m sure you wont have an issue with that.

      • MaryK says:

        But he shouldn’t have an ETF in the first place when it’s Sprint’s problem that he can’t get service.

        • StarKillerX says:

          He can get service, although it’s unreliable.

          I’m not saying it’s right, simply that because they do provide service in the area , even if it is poor, he couldn’t legally claim they aren’t providing him with the service.

          • Inglix_the_Mad says:

            I’ll sell you a service, one that doesn’t work all the time, and charge you full price for it. When you complain, I’ll let you leave but you have to pay me to do so. I’m delivering natural gas to your house, via pipeline of course.

            Your gas flow randomly cuts off so you can’t run you cooktop when you need it. (we’ll skip the logistics here, because what I’m describing would be extremely dangerous)

            You “have service”, but it’s unreliable. Sound fair? I didn’t think so either.

  2. crispyduck13 says:

    An aside: What is up with Sprint and being super shady about unlocking phones? Didn’t we just read another story about this?

    Anyway, it depends if OP got a discount on his phone by starting a new contract period. If so, well then you either have to pay the ETF or, apparently, give them the phone. Your choice would depend on the value of the discount or resale value vs. the size of the ETF.

    However, if you didn’t get a discount on your phone for getting into a contract with them (which seems likely at $400)…well then I don’t know why you are in a contract with them. You say you’ve been a customer for a long time, so I’m assuming there’s a good reason why you’re still under contract AND shelled out $400 for a phone.

    • frank64 says:

      I am usually of the opinion that the phone subsidy is the consumer’s responsibly, especially if the consumer moves to a place that doesn’t have good service. It wouldn’t be the providers fault that they moved.

      Here though the service deteriorated and he bought the phone based on them providing a service. I think they should refund his full purchase price on the phone and wave the ETF.

    • ninjustin says:

      It wouldn’t help even if it was unlocked. Sprint phones are CDMA and can’t just pick up and go to another carrier. Some AT&T and T-Mobile Phones can because they both use GSM radios that are also compatible with lots of prepaid companies and international companies.

      • tsume says:

        Sprint sells a lot of “world phones” with SIM card slots and combination CDMA/GSM radios. The iPhone is an example.

      • kpsi355 says:

        CDMA is also used by Verizon. And MetroPCS. And other VNOs. So really it’s not that hard to go to another carrier, especially with an Android phone (as so many phones now are)

    • Coffee says:

      I think he should be able to keep the phone. Why? Because there is a good chance that his previous phone’s problems were misdiagnosed by Sprint’s customer service, so he had to pay $400 out of pocket for a second phone when he didn’t have to. Now they want him to pay for their mistake (by returning a phone he never should have had to shell out for in the first place).

      As an aside, I would ask where that first phone is now…if he returned it to Sprint and they were able to resell/redistribute it, he’s already returned one phone to them. They should accept that and eat any difference because the bad service is their fault.

    • wastedlife says:

      He said he needed it replaced, at a cost to him. The $400 is probably the phone at $300 (iphone, perhaps?) plus the 100 dollar replacement cost through the insurance.

  3. 12341223 says:

    Aren’t they in violation of the contract if his service is not working properly? I would think if you pushed, you could be let out of your contract without an ETF because they are not providing you proper service.

    • thor79 says:

      I’m sure there’s language in there that allows them to nullify the contract if they cannot provide service…which means he doesn’t get the keep the phone. He got the phone for a partially subsidized price…which means he still has to pay it down…without an ability to provide service there’s no way he can pay it down…thus he can’t keep the phone.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      Nope, if you actually see the contracts it says that they don’t have to provide services. Now, they waive the etc many times as a courtesy or just to get rid of you.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      If you file a complaint with the FCC, there is a section that specifically references lack of signal as a problem. I imagine a complaint to the FCC might help get the resolution he wants.

  4. luxosaucer13 says:

    Easy solution: “Move” to a location that doesn’t offer Sprint service. Then call customer care to complain you have no service and are constantly roaming. That should catch their attention.

    Another option is, if the OP has an Android phone, is to root the phone and buy a “roam control” app from Google Play that forces the phone into roaming all the time. The OP would be using Verizon or US Cellular towers instead. Sprint will see that the OP is roaming all the time and cancel service themselves, sans ETF. OP gets to keep the equipment.

  5. thor79 says:

    @headhot Incredibly stupid idea…he’ll end up getting charged the full amount of the phone…which is no doubt something like $600-700. Being vindictive with them will get you nowhere.

    $400 sounds like an early upgrade price…not the full new customer or fully expired contract upgrade….but not full price either. The fact that you have an ETF that applies shows that you are on a contract of some sort, which is usually tied to a subsidized phone.

    This is why contracts suck. Return the phone to get out of your contract…buy a phone outright (paying full price which should have NO contract with it) and do what you want with it.

    I recently got out of my contract with Sprint by paying the ETF. I went to T-Mobile Prepaid after buying a Galaxy Nexus from Google…and I couldn’t be happier (and I’m paying much less for better service, though T-Mobile is pretty good around here).

  6. daemonaquila says:

    I’d go to small claims court over breach of warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. They are essentially claiming that they are providing service… by a technicality, even though it doesn’t actually do the customer any good when there is no connection most of the time. While it isn’t a surefire win depending on just how bad the service is, it does give some leverage in the negotiation and would be a great way to give them a black eye.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      They have in the contract that they don’t have to provide service. And it sounds like he did an early upgrade which is different than the normal situation. If he does go to court, the only way he’d win is if they basically don’t show up or decide dealing with it is not worth the trouble.

      • HSVhockey says:

        Stop saying this. You are wrong. It is a contract for service. They have to provide it. What it says in the contract is they don’t guarantee service inside a building. Which is understandable.

  7. ninjustin says:

    Shouldn’t your ETF be much less than the $400 you spent on the phone? Pay the ETF and Ebay the phone to cover the expense.

  8. VicMatson says:

    I think they meant to refund the phones cost, it’s just that the OP left that out for drama!

    • Tubal says:

      I agree.

      Sprint: Here. Let me give you $300 off your phone, and in exchange, you sign a contract for 2 years.

      Consumer: Sounds great.

      Consumer: Your service sucks. I demand that you let me out of the contract, and let me keep the $300 that you discounted off my phone.

      Sprint: No. We’ll let you out of your contract, but you need to return the phone for a refund, or pay full purchase price.

      Consumer: I’m telling consumerist.

  9. Steevo says:

    If he returns the phone they will owe him what he paid.

    He’ll return the phone for that refund.

    No, he doesn’t have to give back equipment he paid for free. It’s a return.

  10. pablohdez3 says:

    When the Palm Pre came out I got one then a month later Sprint started a $5 fee for every payment made online or check, as soon I realized about this I called customer service and demanded the termination of my contract without the penalty fee due to changes in Terms & Conditions in my contract, after 30 minuntes call they agree to let me go. But they never asked for the phone back and I sold the phone in ebay, with $300 profit.

  11. Heresy Of Truth says:

    They screwed us too. Same problem. Dropped calls, no texts half the time, and certainly no data. They would not let us out of our contract at all, despite 8 months of complaints. We eventually shelled out the $600 ETF just to get away from them.

    The kicker? Their own salesperson told us she was having the same problem, and we still couldn’t get out of the deal.

  12. scorched says:

    The same thing has occurred for me. Sprint is allowing me to return my phone because the service has been reduced in my area for the last 2 months.

    • scorched says:

      Well.. Sprint failed to document this in my account and now they claim they wont honor the agreement to return the phone for waving of the cancellation fee