Today I received a letter in the mail stating that I could either sign up for Automatic Payments, or Sprint would charge me $4.99 per month extra.

Now under many circumstances, Sprint imposes the Automatic Spending Limits when someone with less than good credit applies for an account. On the other hand, like in my case, I gave a 12 year old a phone with a data plan and text messaging for Christmas. I imposed the spending limit for my own fiscal safety.

I don’t so much mind putting his phone and my cellular modem, which are the only Sprint devices we have as my wife and I both use iPhones, on automatic payment. It’s the manner in which I feel I am being blackmailed to do so. How is “Give me access to take money out of your bank account or I’ll charge you another $5 per month” not blackmail? Do what they want, which I never agreed to, or they will raise my bill.

I wanted to see what the real deal was, so holding the letter in my hand, I signed on to Sprint Chat, and the conversation was so silly, I felt it was worth posting:

Your session ID is 8439091.
Time (Eastern) Details

01/12/2010 06:32:50PMSystem: “Please wait and the next available account specialist will be with you shortly.”

01/12/2010 06:32:56PMSession Started with Agent (Tiffany B)

01/12/2010 06:32:56PMSystem: “If you are chatting today for Technical Support, please call (888) 211-4727.”

01/12/2010 06:32:56PMJason Burns: “Letter about automatic payment fee.”

01/12/2010 06:32:57PMSystem: “Thank you for contacting Sprint. My name is Tiffany B. In order to better assist you; may I please have your first and last name?”

01/12/2010 06:33:04PMJason Burns: “Jason Burns”

01/12/2010 06:33:19PMAgent (Tiffany B): “Hello, Jason! I’ll be more than happy to assist you today. For account security and verification, may I please have the **********-********** digit PIN number on your account?”

01/12/2010 06:33:34PMJason Burns: “um, ****** I think”

01/12/2010 06:33:52PMAgent (Tiffany B): “Thank you for that information and how may I assist you today?”

1/12/2010 06:34:21PMJason Burns: “I received an disturbing letter in the mail today saying that Sprint is basically going to force me to use automatic payments or charge me not to.”

01/12/2010 06:34:36PMJason Burns: “I did not agree to that when I signed terms and conditions and I do not want to sign up for automatic payments.”

01/12/2010 06:35:00PMAgent (Tiffany B): “I will be happy to assist you with the ASL charge today. As of **********/**********/**********, each Sprint account with a spending limit will be charged a monthly Spending Limit program charge of $**********.**********. The fee is per account, not per line and applied automatically each month. This charge is to provide ASL customers with additional benefits and support to help monitor accounts and bills. This change will impact both new and existing Sprint accounts. The $**********.********** fee can be waived with enrollment in our Automatic Bill Pay system in your account. If the recurring automatic payments are removed from the account, the charge will be re-applied. Existing customers have a bill message in December ********** invoices, January ********** invoices and February ********** invoices. Additionally, our customers received a direct mail letter from Customer Finance Services in late December ********** explaining the new charge associated with the Spending Limit Program.

01/12/2010 06:35:23PMJason Burns: “thanks for pasting me the contents of the letter I have in my hand, that was really helpful.”

01/12/2010 06:35:30PMAgent (Tiffany B): “You are very welcome.”

01/12/2010 06:35:35PMJason Burns: “that was sarcastic.”

01/12/2010 06:36:02PMJason Burns: “perhaps I should have mentioned that in my witty retort.”

01/12/2010 06:36:17PMJason Burns: “The point is, don’t I have to agree to that up front? You can’t change the contract after I signed it.”

01/12/2010 06:36:22PMAgent (Tiffany B): “You are able to sign up for automatic payments to waive this fee, or you may choose not to sign up for automatic payments which would cause the $**********.**********/month fee.”

01/12/2010 06:36:25PMJason Burns: “I didn’t agree to a $********** fee if I don’t use automatic payments”

01/12/2010 06:36:32PMJason Burns: “that’s not how that works, that’s blackmail.”

01/12/2010 06:36:42PMAgent (Tiffany B): “This is not blackmail, sir.”

01/12/2010 06:36:53PMJason Burns: “I agreed to all the fees in the contract when I signed it”

01/12/2010 06:37:03PMJason Burns: “that fee was not in the contract, neither was requirement of automatic payments”

01/12/2010 06:37:12PMJason Burns: “I signed no contract agreeing to either.”

01/12/2010 06:37:22PMAgent (Tiffany B): “I do apologize, however there is not a way to waive the fee for ASL customers unless automatic payments are signed up for.”

01/12/2010 06:37:40PMJason Burns: “that’s fine. I’ll just cancel service”

01/12/2010 06:37:43PMJason Burns: “good call on your part.”

01/12/2010 06:37:58PMJason Burns: “You can’t add fees I did not agree to to my bill and force me to accept them”

01/12/2010 06:38:10PMAgent (Tiffany B): “I do apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. At this time, we would be unable to set up cancellation of services by chat. To set up a cancellation in the account, you would need to contact our Account Services department at **********-**********-**********-**********, Monday- Friday: **********:********** AM – **********:********** AM Saturday: **********:********** AM – **********:********** PM Sunday: **********:********** AM – **********:********** PM CST.

01/12/2010 06:38:15PMAgent (Tiffany B): “May I assist you with any other questions today, Jason?”

01/12/2010 06:38:23PMJason Burns: “you didn’t assist me with this one”

01/12/2010 06:38:27PMJason Burns: “thank you (sarcasm)”

01/12/2010 06:38:30PMSession Ended

She was obviously very helpful. My friend told me earlier that Nationwide Insurance is taking the same approach. How is it possibly legal to force a customer in a contract, to pay an additional fee they just made up if they don’t use a service they weren’t required to use yesterday?

The part that kills me is the part of her response that says:

This charge is to provide ASL customers with additional benefits and support to help monitor accounts and bills.

What additional support? I don’t need help, I just don’t want them drafting my bank account. Thoughts?

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