Sprint changes terms, prices — in the middle of the contract
By STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN firstname.lastname@example.org April 19, 2012 5:16PM
THE FIXER HAS SAVED YOU
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:54AM
Dear Fixer: Sprint heavily marketed a program for unlimited 4G Internet service for $59.99 per month if you signed a two-year contract. It was by far the best deal at the time, so I signed up.
That was in December 2010. Things went well until this past December, when I got a bill for more than $400.
I called Sprint, and they claimed that they had changed the terms of the contract. They also claimed that by putting a notice in the October billing statement, they had fulfilled their legal obligation to notify consumers.
I have filed complaints with Illinois Attorney General, the Federal Communications Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to no avail. I believe Sprint’s actions amount to bait and switch. They are abusing consumers and not providing what they marketed.
Sprint should be held to its promise of unlimited 4G service until my two-year contract expires, just as I have agreed to make payments for the two years.
Can you please help me to get Sprint to honor a legal contract and to own up to their side of the contract — and can you please assist in getting consumers to understand that it is NOT fair for a company to change the terms of a contract halfway into it, when they have locked you into a two-year agreement.
Ken Loebel, Geneva
Dear Ken: You told The Fixer you were blown away by the increase in your monthly Sprint bills. You never saw it coming because you pay your bills over the phone through Sprint’s payment service and never saw the notice tucked into your October statement.
You felt that Sprint’s efforts to publicize this huge change in their terms paled in comparison to their marketing of that fabulous $59.99 price.
Before you came to The Fixer, you had complained to Sprint on more than one occasion and they responded by issuing you a couple of credits totaling $622.93. They also offered to let you out of the remaining year of your contract without having to pay the $200 early termination fee.
But you felt they should stick with the $59.99 price they had promised you. You told us you feel it’s dishonest for a company to entice a customer with one price and then offer to dump him after they find someone else who will pay a higher amount. You are not the only consumer who feels this way, judging by the pile of online gripes about this change in Sprint’s billing structure.
We tried to get Sprint to hold up their end of the bargain, with no luck. Sprint won’t go back to the $59.99 unlimited data price for you.
Spokeswoman Candace Johnson added: “Sprint makes every effort to ensure the satisfaction of our customers. In October, we changed our unlimited 4G mobile broadband plan to a capped plan. Customers were sent notices with their bills of the coming change to their plans. Customer satisfaction is a top priority at Sprint and we will continue to make every effort to listen to their concerns and take appropriate action.”
Johnson did say their offer still stands to let you out of the contract without paying an early termination fee, should you decide to drop them and find another carrier — but you still think this is morally wrong.
The Fixer had to squint to read the fine print in your original contract, which says “we may make changes to the terms of conditions ... from time to time and will provide you notice.” This reminds The Fixer of those credit card contracts which, also in the finest of fine print, would say something to the effect of: “We reserve the right to change your interest rate at any time, for any reason.”
It’s too bad the consumer never gets a loophole that big. Readers, what do you think Ken should do? Should he accept the offer to get out of his contract, or try to fight on? We’d love to hear your opinions; please email The Fixer at email@example.com.
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The Fixer will talk about how to avoid common rip-offs and save money from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Schaumburg Township District Library’s central location, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg. The program, funded through a financial education grant, is part of the library’s celebration of Money Smart Week. To register, go to stdl.org and click on “events” or call the library at (847) 985-4000 for more information.