*Horrible* service from Sprint; receive text messages, risk getting signed up for additional billing.

Oct 31 2009 Published by under Rant

I noticed on my Sprint cellphone bill that there was an additional $10/month charge for some mobile alert thingy. I believe it's been there for a few months. This happened before, a year or so ago, and it lingered then; a different thing.

I called the Sprint service folks to get this removed and figure out what happened. Well, it turns out that if you receive a text message from one of these services, and you open it up, you might automatically get signed up for the service. Yes! That's just ridiculous. I asked if that could be blocked, and the guy told me he could block all text messages. It turns out that there is no way to receive text messages without risking being signed up for random third party services just by opening that text message. He tried to disclaim any responsibility for Sprint for this, because it's a third party, but of course Sprint is doing the billing for it (and I'm sure Sprint gets some cut for doing the billing). It's just crazy that Sprint isn't able to block this kind of crap without blocking out all text messages.

My wife and I hardly ever use text messages; our plan doesn't even include any free ones, as we only send a couple a month. Now, we'll be sending (and receiving) none....

This may be enough to make me eat the $400 fee it will take to terminate my Sprint service early, if I figure out that there's another cellphone service provider that doesn't have something stupid like this. Sprint did refund me for the last three months of billing for this service; I'll give them that much. But a service that lets you receive text messages which can get you signed up for additional billing just by opening that text message is an insecure service; I don't care how helpful any given customer service representative is, that's a broken company and a broken service.

ADDENDUM: Can you tell I don't use text messaging much? So there is this thing called "Premium Text Messaging", which is the cellphone equivalent of 1-900 numbers. Some legit, probably, the vast majority probably scams like the one we had. It seems that some mobile providers can block just premium text messages without blocking all text messages (i.e. messages from your friends). I cannot figure out if you can do that with Sprint, as they're very unclear on their website. The customer service guy I talked to certainly wasn't clear; he said he was blocking all text messages. When I asked if there was a way to avoid getting signed up for services without having to block all text messages, he said no. That implies to me, in retrospect, that there's no way to block all premium text messages without blocking text messages altogether; you'd think he'd have said something about it when I asked that question. My next task will be to figure out which companies are able to block all premium SMS without blocking all SMS.

4 responses so far

  • Kevin Fairchild says:

    We just this week switched from Sprint to Verizon, for different reasons, but we had to eat some $$$ to get out of the contract. It's amazing to me that Sprint has any customers left at all; they were just terrible with us.

  • Brandon says:

    AT&T has been absolutely stellar. Good coverage, relatively good prices, and you can use their phones out of the country. I wouldn't drop your contract, though. Screw principles, you're gonna pay $400 to avoid a $10/month surprise?

  • denise says:

    Yep, same thing happened to me with my minor's phone. one sprint representative told me the same thing, that the third party could be activated by just opening the text, ignoring it, or even responding by texting "stop" to a certain number. Now, another sprint rep just told me that is absolutely not true, basically called me a liar, and said there was no way to get this 3rd party service unless we signed up for it - NOT, my son received an unsolicited text. According to the spring rep, spring DOES INDEED get 50% of the monies collected from 3rd parties. I want to complain to the Better Business Bureau, but cannot do so without a physical address. The website igloomobile.com does not list an address and the phone # goes nowhere except to say the reps are all busy and to visit their web site. Emails also go unanswered. The BBB said that sprint should be able to give me a physical address of where they send the monies they collect for this 3rd party, but sprint told me they do not have anything at al...leads me to believe that the BBB was correct in telling me that Spring "might" have sold my info. All of this happened within one week of my son getting an upgrade to an Android phone. The first true rep I spoke with at sprint, after being forwarded numerous times, agreed to refund the 2 months, but only if I agreed to block premium SMS, which I did. This rep is the one who told me that the 3rd party can be activated by sending the text of "stop', oh and that some kids do this as a prank to their friends by entering their phone numbers into this site. No verification took place as he did not sign up for this service, he is a minor, and he is not the account holder; although the last sprint rep told me that he would have had to signed up. All one had to do was check the box saying they understood the terms. Really? So what recourse do we have as a consumer not to be charged/ripped off by these 3rd parties?

  • Ivan says:

    I had same problem with igloomobile.com -- those scammers subscribed me to their "services" without my consent, and started charges me $9.99 per month. All their "service" was limited to just sending me some stupid text messages once a month that I immediately deleted, thinking it was just a junk message.
    However, when I called Sprint, they were very helpful: refunded the last month $9.99 charge, and also added blocking of *any* third-party charges that could happen in the future.