Sprint's 'Unlimited' Messaging Package Charges You Per Message

Sprint offers an “Everything Messaging Family” package that promises “unlimited nationwide, text, picture and video messaging to anyone on any network.” The catch? Unlimited seems to mean “you have the capability to send messages, but you’ll still have to pay for each message you send.” Erica has called in twice to clear up the mistake, but the CSRs are telling her it’s not a mistake. Oh. Well then, is it a lie?

I have Sprint’s “Everything Messaging Family” plan, also called “Talk/Message Share Plan – 1500” on my bill. It’s Sprint’s unlimited text messaging and picture mail/picture messaging plan.

From Sprint’s website: http://www.nextel.com/en/stores/popups/talk_message_popup.shtml

I have saved a copy of that page, and its fine print, in case it should change.

It never occurred to me that “unlimited” may in fact mean “limited,” so I never thought to check the exclusions until recently. The exclusions don’t actually include anything unusual. It’s the standard surcharges stuff, to wit:

Rates & Fees: Monthly charges exclude taxes, Sprint Surcharges [incl. USF charge of up to 11.4% (varies quarterly), Administrative Charge (up to $1.99/line/mo.), Regulatory Charge ($0.20/line/mo.) & state/local fees by area]. Sprint Surcharges are not taxes or gov’t-required charges and are subject to change. Details: sprint.com/taxesandfees.

Nothing in there about my unlimited plan being limited or costing extra to actually use. However, that’s what’s happening. According to some Sprint representatives, the wording above (“Unlimited…picture and video messaging…”) means that you have the capability to send picture messages. It doesn’t mean you can actually send them. Unless, of course, you want to pay the extra data usage fees. That’s right, my unlimited picture messaging plan does not actually include picture messaging of any kind — it costs extra to use it. This month I have been billed $18.64 to use my “unlimited” picture messaging feature (for which I’m already paying $99/month).

I say “some Sprint representatives” because when I first called about this issue after my first bill in November, I was told it was a mistake to be billed for using picture messaging, that it was a new plan and they were still “working out the kinks.” I got an immediate credit of the data usage fees and an apology. All seemed good. Until this month, when I was billed over $18 extra for using the features of my “unlimited” plan.

I spoke with two levels of supervisor. The first level (Nicole – 4751) was extremely rude and stated quite bluntly “There will be NO refund, you used the feature, those are the fees for it.” I asked for another level and got someone who was very polite (Tracy – tr467794), but only offered to refund half the extra charge incurred by my “unlimited” picture messaging usage.

When we were done talking, I found that this is a common and known issue with Sprint’s unlimited messaging plans and that Sprint is well aware that they have very misleading advertising and messaging on these plans (http://forums.buzzaboutwireless.com/baw/board/message?board.id=OffTopicRantsandRaves&thread.id=6756&view=by_date_ascending&page=6). No one seems to be able to get their story straight at Sprint. Some people are able to get refunds, others are simply told to spend more to “upgrade.”

The bottom line is that the Unlimited text and picture messaging plan that Sprint advertises and sells doesn’t actually include unlimited picture messaging, or picture messaging of any kind. The “capability” to send picture mail is a function of one’s phone. To claim that’s what I’m paying for with their unlimited messaging plan and that I must actually pay extra to send those messages is disingenuous.